More than five years have passed since the owners of the Mall of America pitched a massive water park, but another summer will pass without any construction.
The water park's developer is still trying to figure out financing as construction and borrowing costs rise, even after Bloomington moved to make more than $95 million in subsidies available.
The city's Port Authority administrator said this week that the project is in a "holding pattern."
"There is still interest in this project from both Mall of America and the City of Bloomington," said Port Authority Administrator Holly Masek in an email. "As of this time we have no firm updates but may know more by fall."
A Mall of America spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the mall remains confident in the project but is "exploring alternative financing solutions."
"The combination of higher interest rates, escalating construction costs, and lender credit tightening will require a restructuring of the waterpark financing," the statement read.
Last March, Bloomington's City Council and Port Authority approved $55.2 million for the water park in tax-increment financing, meaning the city would forgo several years of future tax revenue from the water park, directing the funds toward the mall's construction instead of city services.
In the summer of 2022, the Mall of America hoped construction could start in the fall, but it said the construction market was challenging.
Bloomington added $40 million to the available tax increment financing pool in December 2022.
The estimated cost of the water park has ballooned. In early 2023, the cost was estimated at $345 million. When the park was first proposed in 2018, its cost was estimated to be just north of $200 million.
Costs to bring water, sewer and other utilities to the site, which is now a parking lot, could add tens of millions to the cost.
While construction financing is uncertain, design and branding efforts are moving ahead. According to an interview in amusement park trade publication Blooloop, the park's designers are developing the "Mystery Cove" theme around a story of a missing aircraft, rather than recognizable characters from television or movies.
Mall representatives have said new attractions and new features are needed to keep drawing people to malls. An ice rink or other sports spaces and live-entertainment venues have at times been part of the Mall of America expansion proposal, along with more hotels.
Bloomington's City Council has supported the water park, in large part because the city leans heavily on the Mall of America and hotel taxes for city revenue. The city has estimated as much as one-fifth of Bloomington's annual revenue comes from a combination of hospitality and the mall.