Heinzmann: Mall of America’s existence linked to stadium battles
Now that everyone has had a piece of the 20th anniversary Mall of America cake, here’s something to chew on.
The decision to build the Mall of America in Bloomington was largely influenced by Minneapolis business leaders who successfully led a campaign to build the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Bloomington, once the sports capitol of Minnesota, had been the home of the Minnesota Vikings, the Minnesota Twins, the Minnesota Kicks and the Minnesota North Stars.
Today it is the retail capitol of Minnesota.
You see, back in the 1980s, Minneapolis business leaders became envious of Bloomington having the baseball-football stadium and the next door Met Sports Center ice arena on a neutral site. The site was chosen because it was midway from Minneapolis and St. Paul, close to the airport and on a major highway.
But having a Bloomington dateline on all the sports stories, particularly when there was a World Series, was more than the Minneapolis Athletic Club crowd could stand.
Metropolitan Stadium, built in 1956 as a home for the minor league Minneapolis Millers, needed to be modernized, and so the campaign for building the Metrodome in Minneapolis began. The Vikings and Twins put down roots there in 1961 and the Kicks, the professional soccer team, called it home from 1976 to 1981.
Bloomington leaders also made a counter proposal to move forward with a remodeled Metropolitan Baseball Stadium and to construct a new open air football stadium. The Stadium Commission, stacked with Minneapolis appointees, had to choose.
The story goes that on the morning of the selection, a key Minnesota Vikings executive called one stadium commission member and said if the vote goes against building the Metrodome in Minneapolis, the Vikings would leave Minnesota. Who knows if that story is true?
On the morning following the decision against Bloomington’s proposal, Bloomington leaders gathered at a prominent hotel where then Mayor Jim Lindau predicted that some day there would be something BIG built on that site. I’m sure he had in mind a complex of office buildings, restaurants and apartments.
All the infrastructure, roads, the oversized sewer lines on a site, so close to the airport and Interstate 494, lured the Ghermezian family to build the Mall of America.
Today it serves more than 40 million shoppers a year. It is the largest shopping mall in the country.
Now there are plans for a major expansion of the Mall of America.
Retail concerns in downtown Minneapolis never recovered from having the mall in Bloomington.
That’s all behind us. Minneapolis and Bloomington are good neighbors.
Lindau had it right that gloomy morning when he predicted, “Someday something BIG will be built on that site.”
Don Heinzman is a columnist and editorial writer for ECM Publishers, Inc.