IT has welcomed thousands of customers through its doors and become a town centre landmark.

Now Eastleigh’s Swan Shopping Centre is celebrating a quarter of a century in business.

It will celebrate the anniversary today with a host of free activities.

Daily Echo:

Titan meets the Mayor of Eastleigh in 2010

Launched in 1989 the £37 million covered venue proved controversial at the time due to significant delays, with it opening a year later than originally planned. This led to criticism of the cost to taxpayers.

There was also concern about attracting a major anchor store and just days before it was due to throw open its doors firefighters had to deal with a blaze – luckily there was no damage.

On opening only six of its 21 stores were doing business with developers saying it was meant to be a low-key housewarming event.

Nevertheless more than 18,000 shoppers flocked to the centre in the first two days.

It eventually attracted other major high street brands and the town’s first floor library arrived in the early 1990s.

It has also seen its fair share of famous faces – England goalkeeper Peter Shilton opened a sports shop in 1989.

Daily Echo:

The opening day of the Swan Centre in June 1989

In 1990 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ visit led to massive crowds likened by police to a football match turnout at Southampton’s former ground The Dell, with queues stretching three-quarters of a mile.

Other iconic visitors include Darth Vader in 1994, Mr Blobby in 1997 and Bugs Bunny in 1998.

Hundreds turned out to meet Katie Price, formerly known as Jordan, who dropped in to sign copies of her book in 2011.

The centre now has 50 shops and 8.5 million visits each year.

But it has had to modernise, introducing an interactive Smart Rewards app launched earlier this year, which allows smartphone users to earn points when they visit.

Eastleigh Council leader Keith House said the centre had “stood the test of time well” and that the addition of the leisure scheme alongside ensured Eastleigh “more than punches its weight” as an alternative shopping centre to Winchester or Southampton.

A host of free activities between 11am and 4pm include an F1 simulator for free using Smart Reward points, a Lego maze, a reflex test machine, magic shows and balloon modelling with a children’s entertainer.

You can also Meet a Dalek from Doctor Who between 12pm and 2pm or take part in a charity spinathon at the Boswells cafe for a free drink.