Reporting Bill Hudson
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) - Building the nation’s biggest mall began with patriotic shovels full of dirt back in June 1989. Music played as dignitaries and city leaders dug into the ground of the former Metropolitan Stadium parking lot.
Three years later, on August 11, 1992, Minnesota-born actor Peter Graves cut the ribbon to a flood of delirious shoppers waiting to get inside.
20 years later, the fanfare might be less, but the attraction to the nation’s biggest retail mall has not waned. Bloomington’s Mall of America continues to attract more and more shoppers and expand with more and more stores.
Back when it first opened for business, the Mall had 270 stores and was 82 percent leased. In 2012, it boasts some 520 stores and is 96 percent occupied.
Mall spokesman Dan Jasper says while the Mall attracts many of the world’s most desired celebrities, it is still the shopping which draws most of the 42 million visitors a year.
“When the Mall was first proposed and constructed began, there was doubt out there. Happily, 20 years later, we can say it exceeded all expectations,” said Jasper.
That’s captured in the reactions from first time shoppers like Laurie Masten.
“I’m in awe – it’s like, where do I go first?” asked Masten.
Others, like Roxanne Gilje, were here from the start. She says it’s an attraction that never gets old.
“It’s an overall value for the whole day and I can accomplish a lot, in one spot which is great,” said Gilje.
And that’s just as the Ghermezians promised from the very start. Saturday is the culmination of a week-long birthday bash. Buddy Valastro of TV’s “Cake Boss” has prepared a three-tiered birthday cake for guests at 2 p.m.
Shoppers will enjoy 20 percent off sales throughout the mall, and the big Twin Cities Beer Fest in the North lot.
While it’s not technically the largest in the world, the Mall of America is about to get a whole lot bigger.
Plans are in the works to expand the mall by another 5.6 million square feet, bring the total square footage to just less than 10 million.
And while a couple malls in Asia are technically larger, they only have around 7 percent of that space leased out.