Travel Scene: Megamall eyes 10-year expansion plan
The recently announced mega-expansion project at Bloomington's Mall of America — which, when completed, will likely propel the mall to the No. 1 visitor destination in the country — has gotten a financial shot in the arm from the Native American-owned Mystic Lake Casino.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino at Prior Lake — the most profitable of the 18 Indian-owned gambling venues in Minnesota — will fund and own a 330-room hotel that will be one of the cornerstones of the mall's $2.5 billion expansion. The cost of the hotel, likely to be branded as a super-luxury JW Marriott property, is estimated at $105 million.
The long-term plan for the mall will stretch over 10 years and roughly would double its existing size. The project involves a new anchor store to replace the recently closed Bloomingdale's as well as a new Bass Pro shop. The expansion will add perhaps some 50 new stores, an atrium for public events, an exhibition facility as well as an office tower.
Owners of the mall, Triple Five Worldwide, say even more changes are on the drawing board. The mall already is No. 2 in the U.S. as a visitor destination — drawing heavily from out-of-state and foreign countries. It attracts some 42 million visitors a year, owners say, a figure second only to Disney's Florida properties which, according to Amusement Business rankings, draw some 50 million visitors annually.
Triple Five spokesmen told Twin Cities publications the mall ultimately will attract some 20 million more visitors when the project is completed, which would make it the country's top visitor site.
Allegiant Airlines, which operates flights out of Rochester International Airport to Phoenix, has been awarded a top citation from Aviation Week, one of the nation's leading aviation publications. Allegiant has been named the Overall Top-Performing Airline in the World as well as the top performer in the Small Carrier category.
The award recognizes the carrier's financial strength and its ability to successfully grow its "hometown airline" business model to increase its net profit and for capitalizing on anciliary revenue. The Top-Performing Airline study is based primarily on financial results from the last fiscal year.
New Vegas ride
U.S. Thrill Rides has submitted plans to the Federal Aviation Administration to build a 650-foot-tall roller coaster on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip.
Travel Weekly reports that the ride, which is being called Polercoaster, combines an observation tower with a roller coaster that travels all the way up to the viewing platform and back down again. If built at that height, it would be the tallest in the world, according to U.S. Thrill Riders.
Due to the Polercoaster's height and proposed location — near the Tropicana resort/casino — the FAA must evaluate whether the attraction would pose any problems for McCarran Airport, which is located nearby.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has released its 2012 report on international visitation to the United States, noting that a new record was set last year. The U.S. welcomed 67 million international visitors in 2012, 4 million more than the year before. This was a 7 percent increase.
In 2012, the top inbound markets continued to be Canada and Mexico, and five inbound overseas regional markets— Asia, South America, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, all posted record levels of visits to this country.