By Cheryl Higley
View a video interview with Lydell Newby at the bottom of the page.
Lydell Newby, senior manager of environmental services for the Mall of America, knows the mall inside and out and plowed the site for 15 years. While his duties now keep him out of the truck, he jokes, “I have keys to a truck and I know how to use it.”
The Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, isn’t your average shopping center. The nation’s largest retail and entertainment complex is the state’s largest tourist destination—and on any given day, the 4.2 million-sq.-ft. mall becomes the state’s third-largest city based on population.
More than 40 million visitors a year means a lot of cars and foot traffic, which can make snow & ice management for the mall’s snow team tricky.
Lydell Newby, senior manager of environmental services for the Mall of America (MOA) since 1998, doesn’t shy from the immense size of the site—he and his team tackle it head-on. In addition to snow, Newby oversees all year-round interior and exterior maintenance, including recycling, landscaping, pest control, concrete repair and more.
“We have the team and the equipment—and no one knows our property better than us,” Newby says, adding that keeping the work in-house saves maintenance and repairs to curbs, signs and landscaping. “My guys are hard chargers—they come in early, stay late, and we pride ourselves on always having our roadways and surfaces in better shape than anywhere else. Our success comes from having long-term dedicated team members that are not afraid of any weather conditions.”
Lydell Newby, senior manager of environmental services for Mall of America.
Parking decks get special attention
More than 90% of the MOA’s snow & ice management services are handled in-house. The only outsourced work is to a contractor who helps with plowing and snow removal from the parking garages. The seventh levels are exposed and must be windrowed after snowfalls of 4 inches or less. Anything over and the snow must be removed. The subcontractor helps push the snow to a chute that drops it to waiting dump trucks. The snow is then moved to an on-site storage area.
“When you consider the weight limitations put on a structure of our size, it’s just not feasible to push it over the top of the deck from 90 feet,” he says.
The Mall of America uses a chute system to remove snow from the parking garage rooftops.
The MOA “lives green” year-round—not always easy during winter in Bloomington, which averages 60 inches of snowfall. Newby says the MOA tries to use the least corrosive materials possible, and works hard to minimize damage to the landscaping. Sand is forbidden, he says, since it clogs drains, is hard to dispose of and makes for big cleanups. The MOA stores up to 80 tons of salt, pretreated with liquid magnesium chloride, on-site for roads and surface lots.
“We constantly try new materials, but, ultimately, the safety of our guests, tenants and employees is paramount. Every aspect is given due consideration in all MOA goals, but sometimes necessity is the mother of invention and we have to keep on top of things,” Newby says, adding that the crew shies away from liquids. “Our experience shows us that those materials are extremely slippery when applied on pavement markings, such as parking stall stripes, crosswalk lines, etc.”
As if battling a winter storm isn’t hard enough, Newby’s team has to contend with other challenges—namely the people they’re working to protect.
“Dealing with the folks that come out of the mall late at night is always challenging. We once had a guy try to jump into the back of a tandem that was underneath a snow chute. He said he wanted a ride … so we sent him home on a bus,” he says.
Otherwise, the challenges of managing snow & ice at the MOA is no different than any other—maintaining traffic flow during a daytime storm, finishing before the mall opens and working around cars, since some stores and restaurants are open late.
“We make sure all areas are taken care of in a systematic and professional manner,” Newby says, proudly stating that the mall has never closed because of a snowstorm. “We pride ourselves on keeping it open through any weather conditions. I am very humbled and proud to work with such fabulous, dedicated people—it’s what the Mall of America is made of.”
By the Numbers: Mall of America
The Mall of America is the nation’s largest retail and entertainment complex. At 4.2 million square feet, it is home to more than 520 shops, 50 restaurants, an indoor family amusement park, aquarium, miniature golf course and movie theater. More than 40 million people visit the mall each year. For Lydell Newby and his crew, their snow removal tasks include:
- 12,550 on-site parking spaces plus about 2,400 spots across the street. An expansion that is under way will add up to 8,000 additional parking spaces.
- 14 decks of parking ramps totaling a little more than 4 million square feet.
- 1.4 miles of double-to triple-lane roads surrounding the property.
- 6 surface lots
Newby learned to plow at an early age, growing up in rural central Wisconsin. “We had a driveway that was almost a half-mile long. My dad had two 1946 Willys M3 Jeeps. One had a 6-ft. plow you rotated by getting out, taking the pin out, and kicking it to whatever angle you wanted. The other had an old V-plow to cut the initial path through the drifts. And of course it had two engine blocks in the back to offset the weight of the plow!”
Every day his its own unique situations. None are more or less important. Balance is key, and I have a great perspective on life and why I am in it. I was put in this place at this time for a reason, so every day I do the best I can for the company that has put its trust in me.” - Lydell Newby, on how he balances the interior and exterior maintenance management of the massive Mall of America.