BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Despite all the fanfare not everyone bought into the concept of a Minnesota mega-mall.
On August 11, 1992, the Mall of America also opened its doors to a great deal of doubt.
"We thought it would be successful, we were positive, but we had no idea just how many people - 150,000 people showed up on opening day," remembers Maureen Bausch, Executive Vice President of Business Development at MOA.
She was there before any of them, hired back in the hard hat phase in 1990 before the mall opened, with the task to convince people the Mall could be a destination.
"That is what it was built to do. To draw people from all over the world, and it has," said Bausch. "What the industry has said about us, we changed the definition of entertainment retailing."
She says every year the Mall brings 40 million visitors from around the globe, 17 million from out of town, and the crowds pump two billion dollars into our state.
This week the attraction drew tourists like the Stacey family, who came from St. Louis. A week's vacation at the mall, with more than a ten hour drive, is what their daughter wanted for her sweet 16.
"Shopping, the amusement park, the water park, there is just so much here," said Marissa Stacy.
In two decades, Camp Snoopy became Nickelodeon Universe. Bloomingdale's moved out, but MOA opened with 333 stores and now has 520 stores.
That's a remarkable feat according to Dave Brennan. He's a retail marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas, and Co-Director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence.
"It's an exciting and interesting story. It opened up in a recession, and two of the department stores had to get court clearance to even build here, Macys and Bloomingdales, because their parent company was in bankruptcy," he said.
Brennan says while many of the "Dales" dealt with a shift in demographics, the mall stood apart by changing with the times.
"They are all wrong, it has proven its sustainability, it has that special attraction that people from around the US and around the world come here to shop, because of the great variety, because there is no sales tax on clothing, which makes it even more attractive, particularly for Canadians who venture southward," said Brennan.
He says the only aspect that hasn't lived up to its fanfare is the adult entertainment level, which fell on hard times.
But big picture, Brennan says the project put Bloomington the map after the city lost Met Stadium.
The mall quickly became a bigger player, bringing in around 100-thousand people a day, more visitors than two home games.
"We live in Tampa now. When we come back we make it a point to come to the Mall," said Andrew Stenberg, who remembers the opening festivities as a child.
That continued lure has now launched Phase Two construction, the beginnings of the new Radisson Blu hotel.
"We finally after 20 years are getting around to having one, but it is absolutely necessary. Bloomington has a great selection of hotels but we can always use more," said Bausch.
She says the project also brings thousands more jobs to the already 13,000 or so employees already in the mall workforce.
Bausch remembers the skeptics during the first round of construction, but today believes the mall's greatest success belongs to all of us.
"It might be Mall of America, but it's Minnesota's mall. It really is," she said.
In the US, the most mall visitors come from Chicago. In the world, it's Canada, England, Japan and Scandinavian countries. MOA staff says overall the mall generates more than $1 billion in annual sales and has seen nearly 800 million visitors since its doors opened in 1992.
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