The biggest mall in America — which many predicted would fail — is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Friday and is still going strong.
Everyone is invited to the birthday party for Mall of America in Bloomington. At 1 p.m., customers will be treated to party hats and cupcakes. There’s a catch: You have to decorate the cupcake. In what’s become a tradition of sorts at MOA, there are Guinness World Records to be set on the milestone for the most people wearing the conical birthday hats and the most people decorating cupcakes at the same time.
Actually, the world record attempts and other events are part of what sets MOA apart from struggling malls across the United States: It has truly become a public square and an entertainment destination for people. More people visit the Mall of America each year than Disney World in Florida, and it continues to produce $2 billion in economic activity each year.
Chain Store Guide in July named it the top retail experience in America.
“As we look ahead beyond our 25th birthday, we expect to include more entertainment in our retail mix, and continue to integrate digital tools to help enhance the guest’s stay,” said MOA spokeswoman Greta Anderson. “We’ve succeeded in leading the retail and entertainment space for 25 years, and it’s been a great ride.”
Customers on Friday also will be treated to cupcakes and a one-of-a-kind cake from Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro, whose Carlo’s Bakery of “Cake Boss” fame is opening a location at the mall before the end of the year.
Here’s some quick MOA facts from the mall, the city of Bloomington and other retail sources:
• Guinness World Records already set at the mall range from the largest number of people playing in a handbell choir (664) and the most Ninja Turtles in one place (836) to the largest pizza crust spun in two minutes (33.2 inches diameter), the highest pizza dough toss (21 feet, 5 inches) and the most people tying their shoes at the same time (252).
• MOA’s 5.6 million square feet could hold nine Yankee Stadiums, 43 Boeing 747s or 347 Statues of Liberty.
• More than 40 million people visit each year, and more than 1 million board the Metro Blue Line light rail at MOA.
• The mall does not use a central heating system. Instead, 1.2 miles of skylights provide passive solar energy, MOA says. Add that to residual heat from light fixtures and body heat from more than 40 million annual shoppers, and it stays 70 degrees even on the coldest winter days.
• The mall holds more than 4,000 events such as the “World of Dance Live” on Thursday, including dance-a-thons and tribute concerts, as well as celebrity appearances. Some of those events are fundraisers. Between in-kind support, donations from MOA or its retailers and money raised at the events, $12 million goes to the nonprofits annually.
• The mall has a social service center. After having trouble keeping workers and noticing homeless people at the mall, MOA struck a partnership with Oasis for Youth to provide social services and support for employees.
• MOA has always had an amusement park and aquarium. In recent years, though, more of the space has been taken by entertainment options from Crayola Experience to Smaaash go-kart and entertainment center.
• Opening later this year, Anderson said, is the upscale CMX Theater, whose movie theater in Miami includes a sports bar and an upscale bar, plus the ability to order food and drinks from your recliner chair through an app.
• The Dutchmen’s Deck attraction includes the longest indoor zip line in the United States. Likewise, the Amazing Mirror Maze on the third floor is one of the largest attractions of its kind.
• More than 8,700 weddings have been performed at the Mall of America.
• MOA is built on the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium. As a nod to the site’s past, the old home plate is located on the floor of Nickelodeon Universe near the entrance to SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge. The red chair from the stadium that commemorates Harmon Killebrew’s 522-foot home run is on the wall above the Log Chute.
• When the mall opened 25 years ago, it had 330 stores. It now has more than 520.
• The mall generates $2 billion in economic activity each year through its retail activity and new development. It added an office tower this year that attracted Cray supercomputing as its first tenant.
• The Mall of America has two hotels itself. More than 40 are in Bloomington, with the city’s revenue from the hotels increasing 40 percent in 2016.
• With more than 11,000 employees, it contributes to Bloomington having more jobs per capita than Minneapolis or St. Paul and a rate that is 52 percent higher than an average city.
• Newer stores include Zara, the fast-fashion Spanish chain, plus the first brick-and-mortar presence for Kate Hudson’s Fabletics. Another online retailer, Untuckit men’s shirt company, is opening later this year.
• It also has picked up on social enterprise trends. Debut: Shop for Kindness is a pop-up shop that has 14 brands that raise money for charitable causes. Altar’d State also is dedicated to giving to both local and international causes.