Sep 8, 2021 - Real Estate

Bloomington rekindles Mall of America water park talks

A rendering of the water park next to MOA with a clear roof

Image: DLR Group via City of Bloomington

Bloomington officials on Wednesday will discuss a proposal that's been in the works for years to bring a massive water park to Mall of America.

Why it matters: Traditional retail doesn't drive people to shopping centers the way it used to.

  • MOA and city officials hope the water park can keep the complex, a major driver of Twin Cities tourism, relevant. But some question if the city should get so tangled up in a deal with the mall.

Driving the news: Following an 18-month pause driven by the pandemic, Bloomington Port Authority Administrator Schane Rudlang will present the agency and City Council with three options for what to do with the project:

  1. Push forward with the original concept.
  2. Pursue a simpler financing structure that's heavier on public subsidies.
  3. Or, keep the project on hold.

Catch up quick: The MOA water park, proposed in 2018, is spectacular, with 250,000 square feet of space, a transparent roof and enormous wave pool. Price tag: $230 million-$250 million.

  • The proposal had made significant progress in 2019, with the city and MOA officials agreeing on a complicated financing arrangement using a non-profit model, tax-exempt bonds and a last-resort mechanism that would levy a sales tax on mall retailers if the water park didn't perform.
  • The city would've used tax increment financing (TIF) to pay for $45 million to $55 million worth of parking infrastructure.

On the table: Another option officials will consider is having MOA owner Triple Five own the water park privately.

  • The city would still provide the parking money, but could sweeten the deal for MOA with $30 million more from TIF.

Of note: Mall of America traffic levels this summer rebounded to 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels, according to a Bloomington staff report.


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