If you build it, they will come – particularly if you’re The Mall of America, which has plans to create a large waterpark – possibly the biggest in the U.S., at a cost of more than $150 million dollars.
The Mall of America, which opened in 1992, is located in Bloomington, Minn., and is the largest mall in the U.S., comprising some 5.6 million square feet. And it could turn out to be number one in the state within the indoor waterpark world as well.
The mall contains more than just shops and restaurants: under its roof are Nickelodeon Universe, the nation’s largest indoor theme park; and SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, as well as attractions such as FlyOver America, The Escape Game, Crayola Experience and the large multiplex CMX Cinemas.
Mall of America owners Triple Five recently made a pitch to Bloomington’s Port Authority to ask if the city itself and its taxpayers would pay for the waterpark project.
Designed by the DLR group, the waterpark would be 225,000 square feet, which is approximately four times the size of a football field. In short: that’s a lot of water.
The proposal is that Triple Five would lease a section of the mall’s upcoming expansion to the city. In a quid pro quo arrangement, the city would lend Triple Five the money to build the park, and would also hire a group to operate it.
This somewhat innovative proposed public-private partnership was raised so that Triple Five could borrow the necessary cash for the project with low interest rates – low enough to allow the waterpark to be profitable. Cost of development is indicated as between $150 and $200 million.
The waterpark would be a part of the new addition to the mall located just to the east of the existing mall; it would include a hotel, or possibly several hotels, which would be financed and built separately.
Bloomington Port Authority Administrator Schane Rudling stressed that the venture is “in the very early stages” but added that work on the project could start “within a year.”
If the city accepts Triple Five’s plan and finances the construction of the park, the city would own the project and receive profits from its operation, which appears to be a win/win.
The waterpark itself would likely be well received by the general public – anyone would be allowed to enjoy it without being a hotel guest. The Bloomington area is home to several waterparks already, but they are each affiliated with hotel resorts.
By the same token, the waterpark would also draw guests to the hotels located at the Mall of America. The Port Authority believes that the proposed waterpark would help to fill hotel rooms when business travel and events do not keep them occupied.
Triple Five is also the owner of the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Canada, which is smaller than the Mall of America, but features a 215,000-square-foot water park there with the world’s largest indoor wave pool and 21 slides and play features. That park draws over 500,000 visitors annually.
The company is definitely having watery visions: along with the Bloomington project, Triple Five is planning to develop and open the biggest water park in North America, the 285,000-square-foot American Dream New Jersey in East Rutherford, N.J.
For the Bloomington project, the DLR Group has been chosen to create the design, the renderings for which indicate a design similar to that of Triple Five’s World Waterpark at the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada.
In Minnesota, the park would replace a current parking lot and feature a main building with a roundabout outside to lead to other parking. Curves are the architectural theme, from a glassy aircraft hangar set as the look of the main building to wrapped sky bridges that would connect the park to the rest of the mall’s complexes.
So, what comes next? A city feasibility study which will look at the long-term viability of the park as well as construction and finance. And, while the city of Bloomington considers the offer, Triple Five will proceed with the opening next year of their $1.2 billion American Dream Meadowlands in Rutherford, N.J.
Meanwhile, the Mall of America itself is offering some new summer attractions this year. The Paw Patrol immersive experience will open in late summer of this year at the mall’s Nickelodeon Universe theme park. The Paw Patrol attraction is based on Nickelodeon’s tot-popular pre-school series of the same name, and will feature an open-play experience inside the park’s Adventure Bay area.
“As we celebrate our 10-year partnership with Nickelodeon this year…we remain committed to creating immersive storytelling experiences,” says Jill Renslow, SVP of Business Development and Marketing for the mall.
The Paw Patrol story involves park guests assisting the Paw Patrol in endeavors throughout the Adventure Bay area, from rescue missions inside the park’s Lookout Tower, to climbing along the beach area to see if turtles or crabs need saving. Adding these themed adventures from the popular program coincides with the 10th anniversary of the park at The Mall of America. The attraction replaces the Jimmy Neutron’s Atomic Collider Ride, and is included with the all-day admission cost for the park, or available with an individual 6-point payment for guests paying per ride. There are 27 rides and attractions within the 7-acre park, which is located right in the center of Mall of America.
While nothing is set in stone yet, the prospect of adding a large waterpark to the mall’s many entertainment attractions is appealing, and could serve to fill hotel rooms and create sustainable interest in the overall concept of the mall for years to come.