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:
- Push forward with the original concept.
- Pursue a simpler financing structure that's heavier on public subsidies.
- 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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