Mar 25, 2024 - Business

Mall of America water park plan is back, with smaller size and retractable roof

A rendering showing an indoor water park with pools, trees and slides

A new image of what the Mall of America water park would look like. Rendering via city of Bloomington

Stalled plans to build a massive water park at Mall of America are back on as Bloomington officials and mall owners have negotiated the outline of a new public subsidy package.

Why it matters: The water park, mall and city leaders say, will be a major tourist draw and help keep MOA competitive.

Catch up quick: First COVID, then high interest rates, put the project on the back burner for the past four years. The new plans call for a smaller water park — 143,000 square feet, compared to the original 250,000-square-foot proposal.

Between the lines: Bloomington council members will get an update Thursday on a new financing proposal for the $250 million water park and $75 million parking ramp.

  • The city would provide an $85 million subsidy for the water park through tax-increment financing (TIF) and another $75 million in TIF for the parking ramp. TIF is an economic development tool in which cities use the additional property tax revenue from a project to pay for development costs.
  • Bloomington would collect profits from the water park after mall owner Triple 5's debt payments to a private lender. The city would collect at least $100 million and could use the money for affordable housing and other development in the area.

Zoom in: Called Mystery Cove, new renderings of the water park show it still having a clear roof, but now it would be retractable and could open on warm days, reducing energy costs, according to the staff memo.

  • It would be connected by skyway to the megamall, and MOA eventually plans to build an attached hotel.

What they're saying: Bloomington Port Authority Administrator Holly Masek told Axios that the mall has been shifting from heavily retail to a mix that includes more entertainment.

  • "This is part of a grander plan that they are undertaking to really make sure that the mall remains relevant and can continue to capture and attract visitors," she said.
  • In a statement, MOA confirmed it's moving forward with the project.

What's next: Council members and port authority board members will hear a project update Thursday night and could direct staff to move forward with a term sheet for future consideration.

  • Pending financing, staff anticipates design and planning approvals happening in 2024 with construction starting in 2025. That would mean a 2027 opening.
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