The expansion would include three or four hotels, totaling 1,500 rooms.

The Mall of America would double in size and include a huge casino as well as new hotels, department stores and a concert hall under a plan unveiled this week by the mall’s managing partners to city officials. The proposed $1-billion expansion, just north of the mall, would encompass four million sf, according to officials with Triple Five of Minnesota, the managing partner of Mall of America.

The expansion would include three or four hotels, totaling 1,500 rooms. One hotel would have a family-oriented theme with an igloo room, a train room and a Hawaiian room. Other features of the expansion: an NHL-sized ice rink, a 14-screen cinema, a tram to transport customers from the light-rail station to the center of the expansion, and an Italian canal with gondolas surrounded by dancing fountains.

“Combined with world class gaming, the mall will draw even more tourists from around the world,” says Nader Ghermezian of Triple Five. “We plan to fulfill our original vision by giving Bloomington and Minnesota the number one tourist destination in the US.”

The Mall of America is one of the best sites in the country for a casino, and is twice as good a site as any other in the Twin Cities, according to proponents. The expansion could make Bloomington and the Twin Cities an international convention center, and would increase by 50% the 40 million people a year that visit the mall.

But such an expansion puts the mall’s owners into the ongoing legislative debate over a state-licensed casino because it would depend on the mall winning state approval for the casino. While the size of the proposal, the profits it would produce and its economic impact may make it attractive to lawmakers who do not oppose gambling in principal, Bloomington legislators and city officials object to building a casino at the mall.

Triple Five officials say profits from a casino are necessary for the plan, as they would subsidize other elements of the expansion. Without a casino, the developers might seek a government subsidy.
Construction could start within the year and open in late 2007, mall officials say. Mall of America is the largest retail and entertainment complex at 4.2 million sf in the US.

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