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IN-DEPTH: How a water park could keep Mall of America afloat

April 19, 2019 10:54 AM

The City of Bloomington is moving ahead with plans to build a giant water park next to Mall of America.

The 335,000 square-foot park would be built on what is now a parking lot north of MOA and just east of Ikea.

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At a meeting Wednesday night, the Bloomington City Council and Port Authority voted to spend $7.5 million to help design the project.

A massive water park is a big change from Mall of America's previous plan for expansion.

RELATED: Bloomington and MOA continue plans to build massive water park

In 2007, MOA announced "Phase II," which would have included upscale and popular stores including Bass Pro Shop.

But 12 years later, it's clear MOA wants less retail, not more.

In a frequently asked questions document released as part of the water park project, MOA's owner, Triple Five Group, said efforts to "diversify" the mall is a top priority.

Triple Five said MOA is "about 70% retail today," and its new projects are closer to a "50% non-retail component."

"They're intentionally trying to come up with something other than retail that's more experiential or fun to contiunue on the life of the Mall of America," said David Vang, a Professor in the Department of Finance at the University of St. Thomas.

RELATED: Bloomington considers building massive water park next to MOA

Vang said the struggles of brick and mortar stores, especially those in malls, likely has had a direct impact on Mall of America getting into the water park business.

It doesn't surprise me they're trying to seize something that could kind of extend the life of (MOA) into the future," Vang said.

A Mall of America spokesperson released the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

"With the unanimous vote last night by the Bloomington City Council and Port Authority, we are excited to move forward with our effort to create a world-class waterpark attraction at Mall of America. Since long before the Mall opened, the City of Bloomington has been an integral partner and supporter of the project. 

"More than 30 years ago city leaders and developers took a calculated risk to create the nation's largest retail and entertainment destination. Creating thousands of jobs, generating millions in tax revenue and boosting the hospitality industry has been the result. But we also know that the retail industry continues to change and faces challenges.

"As we have done in the past, Mall of America is prepared to lead the industry by creating new, innovative experiences – such as this waterpark – to ensure the continued success of the Mall as well as the positive economic impact it has on the entire region."

Triple Five Group would own and operate the water park. The money approved by Bloomington on Wednesday is only for the design phase.

Further decisions, including whether additional money from taxpayers will be needed, and final project approval, won't be made until a later date.

If the project clears all future hurdles, construction would begin in the first part of next year with a scheduled completion date sometime in 2022.

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Tim Vetscher and Lindsey Brown

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