On this day in 1992, the Mall of America (MOA) opened its doors to shoppers for the first time. In those 17 years, some 650 million people—almost half of them tourists—have visited the sprawling mall.
Here are a few stats, from the MOA website:
• The mall has 520 stores and 50 restaurants
• Inside the mall are 400 live trees (the tallest measures 35 feet)
• The mall employs 11,000 people year-round
Although it’s all very impressive, the MOA isn’t really my thing. I’ve been there only a handful of times, usually with out-of-town relatives.
I do have some fond memories from those visits. The most unlikely involves riding the water slide with my dad. Neither of us is much into rides, so I’m still trying to reconstruct the chain of events that led to our watery plunge.
And I especially treasure the memory of meeting my uncle Arturo there for dinner. A longtime pilot for Mexicana, he used to come to Minnesota every so often to conduct training for Northwest Airlines. That Tex-Mex dinner at the mall was the last we shared; Arturo died last year.
When the plans for the MOA were first announced, I was horrified at the concept of a “mega-mall.” It seemed to me the epitome of mindless materialism. Weren’t there already enough Gap and Express stores? Why wrap our greed in red, white and blue?
Over the years my distaste has become less pronounced. Maybe the MOA no longer seems so extravagant. Probably I’ve moved on to more pressing concerns. But I still can’t get over the fact that someone would come here to go to a mall.