The Twin Cities were on display this week as Minnesota bids to host the 2027 Specialised Expo in Bloomington, an event officials estimated would have a roughly $2.5 billion economic impact.
Leaders of the organization that oversees expos across the world toured the proposed event site next to the airport and Mall of America, as well as Minneapolis and St. Paul, to assess whether it would be feasible to host the three-month gathering here.
The event, often referred to as the World's Fair, is estimated to draw more than 14 million visitors. The expo brings together innovations from across the globe. Minnesota's theme would center on the idea of "Healthy People, Healthy Planet."
"That commitment to innovation, that commitment to care, that commitment to highlighting of what we can do together, is part of what this Expo does. It brings the world together around common themes," Gov. Tim Walz said during a news conference Wednesday with international officials. "We've shown that Minnesota is Expo-ready. Minnesota has been working on this for about 10 years."
Minnesota is competing with locations in Argentina, Serbia, Spain and Thailand to host the Expo. The winner will not be decided until June.
Officials from the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) were visiting the Twin Cities this week and were headed to Washington, D.C. They aimed to verify that there is support for the event and to examine logistical details around organizing the expo, Alain Berger, president of the BIE executive committee, said through a translator.
"I can say, upon completion of our review, we had very constructive dialogue with the organizing team, and we are completely satisfied with the very dense and informative meetings that we have had with them," Berger said. He noted they have seen "unanimous" support for the event in Minnesota.
The last U.S. city to host an expo was New Orleans in 1984.
The event would cost $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion, said Ted Johnson, a senior adviser for Minnesota's Expo bid. That includes adding a mix of temporary and permanent buildings at the Bloomington site, he said, noting that often about half the buildings at an event are permanent. If Minnesota's bid wins, there would be a long-term plan by the time the Expo closes for future development at the site, which he said is envisioned to be a "health and wellness type of campus. What exactly? Hard to say."
The event would be funded through a public-private partnership, said John Stanoch, president and CEO of Minnesota USA Expo 2027. The bulk of the revenue would come from ticket sales, which could cost, on average, around $53, he said. They will also bring in large sponsors and sell merchandise, he said.
State and international officials had in-depth conversations Wednesday about their revenue plan and will continue to have conversations about how to support the expenses of the event, he said.
"This will result in net economic benefit to our state, our region," Stanoch said.
The majority of the visitors to the summertime event would come from the Upper Midwest, within a one-day drive, organizers projected. But there would also be people traveling to the event from other countries.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar noted that each international visitor to the state spends about $5,000, on average.
"That is a very big benefit of this for us," Klobuchar said, adding that it could prompt return visits to Minnesota, and that international tourism is a long-term reason to support the event. "The actual, big long-term reason is to get our ideas out there on health care and innovation and the planet. But when it comes to economics, we feel very good about this proposal."