The yawning emptiness of the ruins of La Fiesta Mall in San Roque village remains a constant attraction to locals and tourists.
The halls that once reverberated with music, laughter, and activities now stretch emptily, dumped with piles of broken glass, steel bars, and a hundred other debris. All remnants of what was once a flourishing mall that teemed with life and economic activity.
Pick your way among the debris-filled hallways and find traces of the once-largest shopping and entertainment center in the Marianas—peeling paint, shards of broken glass from the shattered windows, dangling plywood from the cracked ceilings, protruding electrical wires from the walls, and relics of the past.
Cloaked under the shadows when darkness falls, the abandoned buildings take on a different stance. Everything starts to spell ‘creepy.’
Somehow, in the deepening darkness and deafening silence, it was hard to imagine that just a few years back, the place bustled and throbbed with life.
Japan Air Lines which owns Nikko Hotel sold the Mall to a Japanese firm based in Guam in 2002. The Northern Marianas College bought a portion of the mall in 2003 with plans to expand, but the CNMI’s economic instability caused NMC to cancel.
When JAL pulled out of Saipan in 2005, tourism, the island’s prime economic engine, plummeted. It never recovered.
Store began closing one after another for lack of customers, bringing significant financial losses. Efforts like marking down a lot of their items didn’t help storeowners recoup their losses.
Restaurants followed suit, downsizing operations and reducing working hours. Until they were left with no option but to close shop. La Fiesta finally closed its doors in May 2004.
The abandoned mall now attracts locals and tourists to explore the ruins.
In late January 2012, a missing female bartender’s body was found at one of the buildings of La Fiesta Mall. This scared a lot of visitors but still, every now and then, a few brave souls still ventured out. Rarely at night, though.
On Sundays, a part of the mall is used by the Saipan Tactical Airsoft group for their shooting exercises.
Today, La Fiesta Mall is owned by the CNMI government and remains abandoned. Plans have been made and proposals have been presented to turn the mall into an entertainment district, government offices, and a string of other possibilities. But all the plans remain just that, plans. No action has been made yet.
Unless some investor steps forward, or the government tears the whole place down, the ruins of La Fiesta Mall will continue to be a silent testimony of Saipan’s heydays. If the walls could talk, imagine the stories they have to tell!