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Mall of America owners want to build a giant waterpark in Bloomington

But it wants the taxpayer to fund it.
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What's happening?

The owners of the Mall of America want to build one of the largest indoor waterparks in North America.

The Triple 5 Group has submitted a proposal to the Bloomington Port Authority and City Council that reveals it wants to build a giant complex to the east of the megamall in a project that would cost $150-200 million.

At 225,000 square feet it would be bigger than the waterpark attached to the West Edmonton Mall in Canada (which is also owned by Triple 5) and would dwarf the 75,000 square foot Great Wolf Lodge waterpark nearby (which used to be the Waterpark of America).

More about the waterpark

Unlike the Great Wolf Lodge, the waterpark would be open to the public, so you wouldn't have to pay for a hotel room to use it.

The city's wider plans for the land east of the Mall of America (known as "The Adjoining Lands") would also make room for a hotel or hotels, performance space, meeting space and sports areas as well as the waterpark.

The waterpark would therefore act as another attraction for tourists, filling up hotel rooms when they're not being filled by business travelers or for events, with the city document saying it would be like the Kalahari resort in the Wisconsin Dells.

It would likely be modeled after the West Edmonton Mall waterpark, which has slides, rides and a large wave pool that hosts beach parties and surfing leagues all-year round.

Why is it doing this?

Malls across the continent are facing new challenges from the rise of online retail and are having to diversify their offerings to attract more visitors.

This has already lead the MOA to increase the amount of food and entertainment options it has in Bloomington, while the Triple 5 group says that new malls it's building have about 50 entertainment components.

The MOA is currently about 70 percent retail, and has wanted a waterpark "for years," according to council documents, as it looks for "new traffic generators" to diversify its holding, with hotels and office space also a part of that strategy.

But wait, it also wants the public to pay for it

There had to be a catch, right?

Triple 5 wants the complex to attract more visitors to the MOA and the other facilities it owns in Bloomington, but is looking for the City of Bloomington to pay for it.

That's because if it ended up funding the $150-200 million project itself, it would actually end up costing Triple 5 money. It says the interest rates in the private market would create debt payments "higher than the projected revenue."

If Bloomington paid for it however, it says the city could borrow at much lower interest rates, while the City/Port Authority has "financing sources that can be used to backstop debt in case the project does not perform as projected.

In other words, if the waterpark's a failure, the taxpayer can eat the cost rather than a private company.

It projects the city would be able to generate $1-2 million a year after debt repayments.

Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead said in a meeting on Tuesday he doesn't want the taxpayer to be on the hook should things to south, KSTP reports.

"This has been something that's been brought to our attention, it's something we will look at and analyze and see if it's the best way to go," he added. 

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