Politics and Government

Minnesota bids for world’s attention with expo pitch

A mockup of the world expo in Minnesota
A mockup of the World Expo 2027 if it were held in Minnesota.
Courtesy of Minnesota USA Expo 2027

Minnesota civic and political leaders ushered an international delegation around the Twin Cities this week, hoping to bolster Bloomington’s chance of landing a 2027 world expo after billing the region as battle-tested in major events.

A scouting mission that began Sunday and ended Wednesday showcased landmarks, cuisine and culture as Minnesota bids for the specialized expo on behalf of the United States. It would be centered on a site near the Mall of America, where renderings show swooping architecture amid trees, flower gardens and water features.

Argentina, Thailand, Serbia and Spain are the other countries angling to hold the expo that could draw millions to the host city. Japan is hosting the 2025 World Expo.

“We know that Minnesota can do big things. We did the Super Bowl, and that was in the middle of the winter. We have hosted major, major national championships and major conventions,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was among the tour guides and has been working toward the venture for years.

If picked, planners expect the more than $2 billion cost to be borne largely through ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and other private investment. But they haven’t ruled out seeking some kind of public financial support.

The U.S. last hosted the event, sometimes dubbed the World’s Fair, in 1984.

Minnesota’s organizing committee will travel to Paris next month to make the final case before the Bureau International des Expositions general assembly. Word should come by next June.

The Minnesota USA Expo 2027 says the three-month showcase — May to August — would be built around the theme “Healthy People, Healthy Planet.”

“I think after an absence of over 40 years, it's time to bring the expo back to the United States,” said Gov. Tim Walz.

The Minnesota effort has come with bipartisan political backing, the passage of new federal laws and the support of three presidential administrations, including the current one.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, the BIE’s secretary general, said the delegation saw civic pride during its Minnesota visit.

“This is something that builds the soul and spirit of an expo, the buildings and the infrastructure form only one small part of what this event means,” Kerkentzes said at a Capitol news conference with Gov. Tim Walz, Klobuchar and others. “The true meaning of this event is what is left behind and how it touches the population that hosts it and how they form part of this event.” 

The officials spent time in Bloomington. They also toured U.S. Bank Stadium, the State Capitol, the Minneapolis riverfront, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and other places emblematic of the state. They also witnessed a tribal dance ceremony.

But mostly, the team was in town to assess the Minnesota bid’s viability.

John Stanoch, who is in charge of the local effort, said the delegation asked specific questions about hotel accommodations, convention space and ease of travel to and around the area.

“When we talk about expo-ready, we mean we've got some work to do to build out the site, no doubt. But we have the infrastructure in place to make it happen,” he said. 

Stanoch said one delegation official pressed him on Minnesota’s musical icons.

“We've talked a little bit about Bob Dylan, we talked about Prince and we had a conversation coming over to St. Paul this morning where she said to me, ‘Well, it's beyond that, you know, you had Soul Asylum and The Replacements’ and I'm like, ‘Whoa,’” Stanoch said. 

According to a research estimate by the Minnesota bid committee, the expo could draw as many as 14.3 million visitors.

Nearly half would probably come from Minnesota and other parts of the Upper Midwest, or within a day’s car drive, Stanoch said. Another 6 million in its forecast would arrive from other parts of the country and about 1 million from abroad.

But officials said the small portion of international visitors shouldn’t be discounted. 

“They are mighty in terms of what they're going to spend in our state,” Klobuchar said.

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