The mall's concept was designed by the Triple Five Group, owned by the Ghermezian brothers, who also own the largest shopping mall in North America, the West Edmonton Mall. Mall of America is located on the site of the former Metropolitan Stadium, where the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins played until the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome opened in 1982. A plaque in the amusement park commemorates the former location of home plate, and one seat from Met Stadium was placed in Mall of America at the exact location it occupied in the stadium, commemorating a 520-foot (160 m) home run hit by hall-of-famer Harmon Killebrew on June 3, 1967.
In 1986, the Bloomington Port Authority signed an agreement with the Ghermezian organization. Groundbreaking for the mall took place on June 14, 1989. Organizations involved include Melvin Simon and Associates, Teachers Insurance and Annuity (a.k.a. TIAA), the Triple Five Group, and the office of architect Jon Jerde.
In 1987, the Ghermezian brothers also met with Niagara Falls, New York officials with regard to building a similar "mega mall" in that city. Discussions lasted for several months but a suitable economic package could not be put together by New York officials.
Mall of America opened its doors to the public on August 11, 1992. Even before opening, the mall had earned several nicknames, including "The Megamall", "Sprawl of America", "Hugedale"—in reference to the four major "dale" shopping malls within the Twin Cities: Rosedale, Southdale, Ridgedale, and (defunct as of 2010) Brookdale—and simply, "The Mall".
Mall of America became the largest shopping mall in total area and largest in total store vendors in the United States when it opened. The Mall of America's 42 million annual visitors equal roughly eight times the population of the state of Minnesota. The mall employs over 11,000 workers year-round and 13,000 during peak seasons.
During its run as an all-encompassing entertainment and retail venue, certain aspects, particularly its bars, have come under scrutiny. In early-2000 a Mardi Gras-themed bar, Fat Tuesday, shut its doors due to indecent exposure and alcohol-related offenses.
In 2003, after a protracted six-year legal battle between Simon Property Group, the managing general partner of the property, and the Ghermezian brothers/Triple Five Group, over majority ownership of the site, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Ghermezians, effectively transferring control and planning authority of the mall back to the creator of the concept. The dispute stemmed from a 1999 purchase of Teacher's Insurance's 27.5% equity stake by Simon Properties, giving them majority ownership. The Ghermezians claimed they were never told of the deal and sued Simon, citing fiduciary responsibility.
On November 3, 2006, the Ghermezians gained full control of Mall of America by spending US$1 billion.
In 2007, there was an expansion plan called "Phase II". It will develop a large empty parcel of land (the site of the former Met Center indoor arena) north of the mall, and integrate an IKEA store built on a portion of the property in 2004. The project will also include a dinner theatre, ice rink, three hotels, and a waterpark, similar in design to the West Edmonton Mall. The cost of expansion was $2.1 billion and will double the mall's size with a 5,200,000-square-foot (480,000 m2) extension. Mall of America has signed contracts to bring in Great Wolf Resorts as the waterpark operator, as well as Bass Pro Shops and a Kimpton Hotel. The expansion section will connect to the mall on all four levels, and the adjacent IKEA store via a second level bridge. There will be fine art exhibits and an NHL-size ice rink for public and private skating. A new parking structure will be included, adding 8,000 spaces to the complex and two upscale department stores. Another considered plan would have seen fashion, architecture, and restaurants based on European styles.
On May 18, 2008, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a bill granting the City of Bloomington the right to use $34 million in tax-increment-financing to pay for public infrastructure to support the MoA expansion. In early 2011, construction began on an expansion of the south side of the mall near Killebrew Drive, where the 506-room Radisson Blu hotel opened in March 2013. The addition of this hotel was for the purposes of increasing accessibility to the park and making the Mall of America a destination location for anyone. The addition of the lightrail between the airport and the Mall of America also enabled people with layovers in Minneapolis to spend a convenient afternoon at the Mall of America.
On November 29, 2011 Google announced indoor maps for Mall of America along with several other places like airports, parks and public spaces.
On March 24, 2012, the Triple Five Group announced the start of a $200 million expansion that would build into the north parking lot of the mall. Rather than the long planned Phase II expansion, this would be a step in building this expansion. The plans call for an additional hotel and an additional 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) of retail space. In March 2014, ground was broken on the mall's north side for the $104 million, 14 storey JW Marriott hotel, owned and financed by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
In winter 2012–2013, Mall of America hosted a 40 feet (12 m) tall ice castle made of icicles formed from 4 million gallons of water and then fused together. The castle joined 50 large ice towers together to create a series of shimmering archways, tunnels, walls and caverns.
The Mall of America has a gross area of 4,870,000 sq ft (452,000 m2) or 96.4 acres (390,000 m2), enough to fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside, with 2,500,000 sq ft (230,000 m2) available as retail space. The mall is nearly symmetric, with a roughly rectangular floor plan. More than 530 stores are arranged along three levels of pedestrian walkways on the sides of the rectangle, with a fourth level on the east side. Four anchor department stores are located at the corners. The mall is organized into four different zones, each of those zones had its own decorative style until a series of renovations from 2010 to 2015 led to a unified and more luxurious style, as well as to coincide with the mall's first major expansion.
Despite Minnesota's cold winters, only the mall's entrances and some below ground areas are heated. Heat is allowed in through skylights above the central amusement park area. The majority of the heat is produced by lighting fixtures, other electric devices, and people in the mall. In fact, even during the winter, air conditioning systems may still be in use during peak hours to ensure a comfortable shopping environment. Although the common areas are unheated, the individual stores do have heating systems.
Two nearly identical seven-story parking ramps on the east and west sides of the mall provide 12,287 parking spaces. Overflow parking north of the building provides an additional 1,200–1,500 spaces, and 1,407 spaces are provided by IKEA (1,407 spaces) that is part of the Phase II expansion of the mall which is under construction.
Level One is the location of Nickelodeon Universe amusement park (formerly Camp Snoopy), Sea Life Minnesota (underground), Hard Rock Cafe, Lego, American Girl Doll store, Apple Store and Microsoft store, which are directly across from each other, and first level of general retail. Level Two features restaurants, shopping, memory moments, and the first Verizon Destination Store. Level Three has two food courts with more than 20 fast food and full service restaurants, mini-golf, and Crayola Experience. Level Four is the entertainment level with the Hooters restaurant, Cantina #1 restaurant, Rick Bronson's House of Comedy, Dick's Last Resort, Sky Deck Sports Grille and Lane, and the first U.S. location of SMAAASH, a virtual reality sports entertainment center.
The Theatres at Mall of America (Initially run by General Cinemas, then AMC Theatres, and finally operated by mall management) occupied the south side of the fourth floor through December 2016, when it closed permanently. It is to be replaced by Cinemex subsidiary CMX in fall 2017. For many years the 4th floor was considered a ghost town but has surged in popularity and is 70% occupied. Planet Hollywood, at the height of its success, was once a very popular restaurant on the fourth floor, but closed in 2003. This space is now occupied by Dick's Last Resort.
The mall was in negotiations with Dave and Buster's for several years, which failed to re-open the location. In 2011, new owners were brought back in and relaunched the restaurant and lanes under Sky Deck Grill and Lanes. In order to keep the fourth floor from failing as it did in the early 2000s, the mall has strategically leased to several different corporations, rather than leasing several spaces to one corporation. The bankruptcy of Jillian's in 2004 led to the lowest vacancy rate of the 4th floor, at 41%. The original Level Four had a comedy club, Hooters, bowling alley, arcade, and Planet Hollywood. Due to the structure of the building, Level Four only exists on the East and South side of the mall.
The Mall of America appeared in the 1996 Christmas movie Jingle All the Way.
Nickelodeon Universe is an indoor theme park in the center of the mall. The park features roller coasters, among numerous other rides and attractions, and is the largest indoor theme park in the United States. Unlike many indoor amusement parks, Nickelodeon Universe has a great deal of natural foliage in and about the park, and its floor has a wide variance in height – the highest ground level in the park is 15 feet (4.6 m) above the lowest. The rides include the roller coasters SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge and Avatar Airbender, and a thrill ride called BrainSurge. The latter roller coaster bills itself as a "rather peculiar" ride. It also has a miniature golfing section called Moose Mountain. This miniature golf course features eighteen holes and a relatively fast astroturf surface.
At the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, guests travel through a 300-foot-long (91 m) curved tunnel through 14 feet (4.3 m) of water to view over 4,500 sea creatures including sharks, turtles, stingrays, and many more. Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium offers special events such as sleepovers, scuba diving, snorkeling, and birthday parties.
The Mall recently added Crayola Experience and FlyOver America to the list of family attractions.Macy's
A stadium seat commemorating the longest home run at Metropolitan Stadium, hit by Minnesota Twins player Harmon Killebrew on June 3, 1967. The seat is painted red and bolted to a wall to mark the exact height and position at which the ball landed in the upper-deck seats.
A plaque embedded in the floor of Nickelodeon Universe, marking the exact spot of home plate at Metropolitan Stadium.
United Airlines Flight 93 memorial, for those who died aboard during the September 11, 2001 attacks—the bust of Tom Burnett (who was born and raised in Bloomington) is on the west side of the first floor, next to the fountain in front of Nordstrom.
Race for the Cure, held at Mall of America on Mother's Day.
Held the very first broadcast of WCW Monday Nitro on September 4, 1995.
In the lower level of the eastern parking ramp is the Mall of America Transit Station, the busiest transit hub in Minnesota with services to and from many destinations in the Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan area.
The Transit Station contains two stops on the Metro transit network: the southern terminus of the METRO Blue Line (light rail) to Downtown Minneapolis via MSP Airport and Hiawatha Avenue (operated by Metro Transit), and the northern terminus of the METRO Red Line (BRT) to Lakeville (operated by the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority). Both agencies also operate many local bus services to the Transit Station, and many area hotels along with the Mystic Lake Casino offer free shuttles to their establishments.
The mall is not a park and ride facility, and overnight parking is banned to prevent passengers taking the train to the airport. Commuters are encouraged to use the nearby 28th Avenue Station's parking ramp.
The Mall of America Transit Station is undergoing a study to increase efficiency and capacities, and to provide a better experience for its users. Estimates for the upgrade are approximately $20 million.
The Mall of America's security program is unique and in many ways the first of its kind. Michael Rozin, who used to be employed as the mall's Special Operations Security Captain, developed and implemented a behavior detection unit specifically focused on mitigating the threat of terrorism and enhancing counter-terrorism capabilities. Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) are trained extensively in Israel, each one going through at least 240 hours of training that includes communication techniques, first aid, defensive tactics, crisis intervention, terrorism awareness, and rapid response. As Doug Reynolds, the Security Director at the mall, noted in a congressional testimony in 2008, BDOs are taught to "look for intent, rather than means. The objective is to focus on suspicious indicators in three categories: People, vehicles and unattended items like backpacks, shopping bags, suitcases.” This methodology has prepared the mall for a variety of threats, both from terrorists and everyday criminals.
The mall's private security personnel were featured in 2010 TLC series Mall Cops: Mall of America.
In 2011, NPR's All Things Considered and Morning Edition and PBS's Newshour both aired programs documenting security abuses by the mall's security personnel.
In February 2015, the Al-Shabaab militant group also released a propaganda video calling for attacks on the Mall of America and other Western shopping centers. Although the group had never launched attacks in North America, security at the mall was tightened in response and Homeland Security issued a one-day alert to shoppers to remain vigilant.
During the first decade of MOA's existence, demonstrators protested animal cruelty and sweatshop conditions. In 1994, protesters confronted actor Charlton Heston at a mall restaurant over his campaigning efforts on behalf of a Republican U.S. Senate candidate. In 1996, two people were arrested after they locked themselves to Macy’s doors in the spirit of the annual Fur-Free Friday demonstration. The Minnesota Supreme Court decided in 1999 that because the mall is private property, constitutional free speech protections do not apply.
People inside the mall have been questioned or detained for operating video cameras, using notebooks, or other perceived suspicious behaviors. As of 2010, Michael Rozin, the former Special Operations Security Captain and founder of the mall's behavior detection unit instructed its members that "suspicious behavior" constitutes "photographing such things as air-conditioning ducts or signs that a shopper might have something to hide." Commander Jim Ryan of the Bloomington Police Department commented that the mall's security methods may "infringe on some freedoms, unfortunately."
On December 31, 2013, members from the First Nations protest movement Idle No More attempted to repeat a successful Native-American round dance held at the mall in 2012, but failed after being stopped by mall security, who refused to allow Idle No More to hold their dance. Organizers of the dance, Patricia Shepard and Reyna Crow from Duluth were arrested on site for trespassing.
On December 21, 2014, thousands of protesters attended an unauthorized demonstration organized by Black Lives Matter in the mall's rotunda. The demonstration was in response to the Michael Brown fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the then recent jury decision not to prosecute the white officer in that case, as well as the death of Eric Garner of New York. In response to the demonstration, the Mall of America closed the areas of the mall around the rotunda. Police arrested 25 demonstrators. The Bloomington City Attorney, Sandra Johnson, is pursuing charges against the organizers, ranging "from disorderly conduct and trespassing to inciting a riot". The city is seeking thousands of dollars in compensatory damages from some of the organizers for out-of-pocket costs the city incurred while paying overtime for additional security. In response to these charges, demonstrators have called for a boycott of the mall.
Plans for another Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Mall of America on December 23, 2015 prompted Mall officials to file a restraining order against the movement's activists. Eight individual activists were sued in Hennepin County District Court. The mall's lawsuit would prohibit the defendants from demonstrating and require them to delete all of their posts to social media pertaining to the demonstration. The lawsuit additionally asked that the court jail Black Lives Matter activists unless they publicly announce that the demonstration is cancelled on their social media accounts. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota called the mall's lawsuit an "improper prior restraint on speech" and an unconstitutional overreach. Leaders of the demonstration indicated that the demonstration would go ahead as scheduled.
Word of Mall of America's expansion has been stirring since the mid 1990s, however the first confirmation of an expansion occurred in 2005 when Triple 5 announces Mall of America Phase 2, a project that would expand the Mall of America to the north, crossing Lindau Lane and occupying the former site of Met Center.
However, this expansion was delayed due to the tightening of the credit market. Eventually this was broken into four major projects: 1b, 1c, 2b, 2c.
Status of Phase 2 completion:
1B: Radisson Blu
South expansion complete 2013
1C: luxury retail, restaurant, office and J.W. Marriott
North expansion complete 2016
2B: 2-3 story luxury retail expansion including connection over Lindau Lane, luxury hotel, addition parking ramp.
North Expansion on site of Met Center, Plan submitted to Bloomington Fall 2016, Construction 2017, Open 2018-2019
2C: 3 story retail plus additional hotel, entertainment venue located north of 2B with connections to Ikea and American Blvd
Shown on approved PDP from 2015 submission for 2B, but schedule dependent on 2B completion.