Mallstalgia: The Evolution of a (Very!) Big Idea

VirtuesArt
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This article is part of a series by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine celebrating MOA’s 30th birthday. Join us as we ride through some of our favorite memories of the last 30 years.

In the Beginning

It all started with a giant plot of land and a wild idea. In 1982, when the Twins and the Vikings relocated from the Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington to the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, there was an unprecedented amount of prime real estate up for grabs—78 acres, to be exact.

The Bloomington Port Authority purchased the stadium site, and the ideas started rolling in. Proposals for the coveted space boiled down to four options: a new convention and visitor center, offices, residential developments, or a retail and entertainment complex. Mall of America (now lovingly known as MOA) was presented by the Ghermezian brothers, known for opening the world’s largest retail center in Alberta, Canada. The Bloomington Port Authority bought in on the fun and took a chance on their proposal, which included more than four miles of shopping- and entertainment-filled corridors and the novel idea of an amusement park smack in the center. While some were skeptical—a rollercoaster in a mall definitely falls under the auspices of having to see it to believe it—construction began in June 1989. By the time it was set to open, the highly anticipated shopping and entertainment destination spanned 4.2 million square feet in Bloomington and cost more than $650 million to build.

See If You Can Spot It

Next time you visit MOA, try for a home run! Or at least see if you can find the plaque in Nickelodeon Universe that commemorates the former location of the Metropolitan’s home plate.

A Big Impression

You can imagine the uncertainty that executives felt the morning of August 11, 1992, before the doors were set to open. But the resoundingly positive reception from the public was instantaneous. Anxious faces pressed against the glass doors awaiting entry, with more than 150,000 visitors reported on opening day, and more than a million within the first week. At the time, Mall of America held 330 stores and supported more than 10,000 employees. Stores like Nordstrom, Sears, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s anchored each of MOA’s four corridors, while the theme park, Knott’s Camp Snoopy, burst with life at its center. Its notability skyrocketed, so much so that MOA even had its own theme song—a fun little ditty about having it all at the mall—and it was featured in a 1992 commercial.

A Mighty Experience

Fast forward 30 years and Mall of America has starred in far more than a commercial. (We’re looking at you, Mighty Ducks.) It’s been home to countless concerts, celebrity appearances, fashion shows, charity drives, holiday spectacles, and more. MOA’s notoriety has been so widespread, it brings roughly 40 million visitors each year from around the world and generates nearly $3.8 billion annually in economic impact for the state.

In an era where some would say the average mall is dying, how has MOA not only survived, but thrived? Part has to do with its commitment to the community—Mall of America helps nonprofits raise awareness and more than $12 million annually thanks to its many charitable events—but most recognize that MOA is more than just a shopping endeavor.

The onslaught of online retailing hurt many of America’s traditional mall molds, but MOA cultivated a recipe for success from Day One: Make it fun. Make it an experience. Make it memorable. By opening as an experiential destination rather than a shopping center, Mall of America distinguished itself as more than just a place to shop from the beginning. And now, 30 years later, it’s still not just a mall. It’s a mecca of entertainment, eating, shopping, and enjoyment. It’s a success story. And it’s ours.





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