Mall of America releases renderings for waterpark project
Mall of America and the City of Bloomington are ‘still interested’ in moving forward with plans for a massive waterpark, despite the project currently being on hold.
For the first time since planning began five years ago, the mall publicly shared renderings of the project, which they believe would be the largest indoor waterpark in the country.
“It was closely guarded for a long time, but as time has gone by, we really wanted people to share in the excitement with us,” said Chris Grap, vice president of experiential at Mall of America.
Grap, one of the designers, said the waterpark has been a possibility since the mall itself was first conceived in the 1980s.
In 2018, Bloomington City Council and Port Authority started work to find a way to make the waterpark a reality.
There have since been several ideas on how to finance the project, which is now estimated at $345 million.
In March of 2022, Bloomington City Council and Port Authority approved the use of tax increment financing (TIF) to support the development of the waterpark as part of a public-private partnership with the Mall of America.
According to the city, that would “provide the proposed project a subsidy in the form of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). TIF funds are property tax dollars generated by the project itself. The lion’s share of the TIF funding will go to public improvements that are traditionally funded by TIF, including items such as roads, infrastructure, and parking.”
A city spokesperson said there is $95 million in TIF approved in their spending plan but not yet committed to this project.
Mall of America told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it is continuing to determine the financial structure for the waterpark, noting, “The combination of higher interest rates, escalating construction costs, and lender credit tightening will require a restructuring of the waterpark financing. We are highly confident in the project, and we are actively exploring alternative financing solutions.”
Port Authority Administrator Holly Masek also provided this statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on the status of the project:
“At present, the project is paused in part due to challenges of higher interest rates and increased construction costs. The Mall of America, City of Bloomington, and Bloomington Port Authority are still interested in moving a financially feasible project forward and continue to discuss paths to achieve the project.”
The waterpark would be located near the north entrance of the mall, in a large space that is currently a parking lot between Nordstrom and Sears.
It would be called Mystery Cove, with a total area of 320,000 square feet.
Grap said it would be themed as a mystery island, where a plane disappeared and a ship ran aground, with a storytelling component throughout.
“The idea is it’s a place where travelers have been pulled to and we don’t know exactly why but that’s what we’re going to find out along the way,” Grap said. “We’re bringing some escape game principles and puzzles into play in the park as well. By doing that, you’re creating a space that inherently can offer something on multiple visits and that’s something that’s very important as well.”
The renderings shared with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS include a massive wave pool, children’s area, large slides, family raft towers and amusement park-style attractions.
“We really designed this like a theme park with water-based attractions,” Grap said. “This is a world-class destination this is something that will change people’s travel plans.”
Triple 5, the owners of Mall of America, also have a waterpark at their West Edmonton Mall in Canada.
The City of Bloomington estimates doing something similar here could bring in a million visitors every year.
Hospitality is the largest industry in Bloomington, bringing in more than 20% of the city’s revenues.
The city said it believes this waterpark would add to the entertainment mix in Bloomington and create new demand for hotel rooms.
The waterpark would be open to the public with discounted admission for Bloomington residents.
A spokesperson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS there is currently no timeline for when the project would break ground.
Grap added, “I’m comfortable saying in the not-too-distant future. I’m comfortable saying this is going to happen. There are just some things that need to click in place for us to be able to make that announcement as well.”
Construction, once started, is expected to take 27-30 months.