Throughout 2017, Minnesota Public Radio will celebrate 50 years on the air by sharing highlights from our archives, connecting Minnesota's past to its present. | This story originally aired on July 3, 1985.
The Mall of America is impressive, as it stands: 5.6 million square feet. More than 500 stores. Forty million visitors a year. It remains the largest mall in the country, 25 years after it was built.
But in 1985, when the Triple Five Corporation made its first pitch for the project, it was even bigger. And it was so much more than a mall.
It was the Minnesota International Center.
The pitch called for 800 stores, an entertainment park called Fantasy World, a 1-million-square-foot convention and trade center, two office towers and an 18-story hotel.
All of that — the towers, the convention center, the amusement park — was supposed to be enclosed in one complex.
And that wasn't all.
As MPR News reporter Stephen Smith detailed at the time, the plans called for a 12-story roller coaster (the highest at the mall today, according to the Roller Coaster Database, is 74.5 feet — about 7.5 stories), landscaped gardens, an 18-hole golf course, an ice rink, night clubs, theaters and a giant indoor lake filled with exotic sea life that you could tour in a submarine.
According to Nader Ghermezian, one of the family members behind the Triple Five Corporation, it would be the world's largest indoor lake. At 360 feet wide, with six-foot-high waves, visitors would be able to surf and water ski on it.
"Can you imagine, in January, you walk out of your house and you come and do surfing? This is what we're proposing for you today," Ghermezian said in 1985.
The Bloomington Port Authority voted unanimously to accept Triple Five's pitch for the International Center. Then came the paring-down. The final design — which was less than half the size of the original pitch — opened in 1992.
The sea life wasn't completely lost in the process, though. The mall today includes a 300-foot tunnel through an aquarium, complete with sharks — but the surfing and the submarine ride never materialized.