MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s interesting to think about the amount of impact a relatively small piece of real estate has had on the Twin Cities community over the years.

With the Vikings and Twins at Metropolitan Stadium, and our beloved North Stars at the Met Center, this piece of ground in Bloomington was the focal point for Minnesota professional sports.

But change is inevitable, and when the Vikes and Twins moved to downtown Minneapolis, while the Stars packed their bags for Dallas, some thought this property’s heyday was over.

But a group of investors came up with a plan to build a shopping mall. Not just any shopping mall, but the biggest in the country.

“A lot of people were naysayers and [said], ‘Who’s going to come to Minnesota to shop? Like, from around the world, how is this going to work?'” said Jill Renslow of Mall of America.

(credit: CBS)

They broke ground in 1989 to build what many doubters called the “Mega Mall.” But on August 11, 1992, with its 300 stores, indoor theme park and nearly 10,000 new employees, this great experiment called the “Mall of America” opened its doors.

“We’re going to be 27 years old this summer and we continue to invite 40 million visitors every single year from around the country and across the globe,” Renslow said.

To put it into perspective, 40 million annual visitors is more than Disney World and Disney Land combined. Yet with the “online onslaught” threatening brick and mortar’s existence, how are they doing this?

“Mall is in our name, but we are so much more than a mall. We are an entertainment destination, and the key to our success is staying fresh,” Renslow said. “Always having something new and exciting. So when visitors come back, they know that there will be something for them to experience that they haven’t before. Whether it’s a new retailer or a new restaurant or dining.”

No doubt, the large anchor stores are a big draw for the mall, but it’s the small specialty shops, like Michael Sedlacek’s “Worker Bee” that help round out the shopping experience.

“They see it, they walk in and go, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen a bee store, or a honey counter, or this is an unusual skin care product, tell me more,'” Sedlacek said.

It’s truly is a destination. With the vast array of dining opportunities, attractions and activities, this place can be an awe-inspiring visit for anyone coming to the region.

“The best part about working here is seeing their faces for the very first time, and when they walk inside the mall, and especially inside Nickelodeon Universe, and they just have that sense of awe and excitement,” Renslow said.

Those 40 million visitors help generate nearly $2 billion in revenue for the state of Minnesota each year.

Chris Shaffer

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