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Jaden

Mall of America starts Phase II

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Phase II of MoA will make it the largest in the world.....even bigger than West Edmonton.

Mall of America rides into next phase

Tim Harlow, Star Tribune

The Mall of America will look and feel like the 1950s on Sunday, with Chubby Checker crooning and thrill-seekers twisting and shouting on Camp Snoopy's newest roller coaster. The "pre-grand opening" of the Timberland Twister is the first part of a three-pronged effort to usher the nation's largest shopping center into the 21st century.

Within a few months of the debut of Camp Snoopy's first major addition in six years, the megamall will add a 10,000-square-foot skateboard park and the sleek furnishings store Ikea.

When it opens in July, Ikea will be the first tenant in an entertainment and retail complex on the site of the former Metropolitan Sports Center, with a skyway connection to the mall. The skateboard park will be in the second- and third-floor space formerly occupied by Cereal Adventures.

The focus Sunday will be on Timberland Twister, a ride aimed at providing something for teens and parents to do together said mall spokeswoman Kelly Olson. "For a teenager, it's like if I can possibly get my parent to throw up when they get off this, I've scored."

The $5 million coaster spins riders clockwise and counter-clockwise over and over while whisking them four at a time along a quarter-mile steel track of hairpin turns and plummeting spirals at speeds of 31 miles per hour.

It's the only roller coaster of its kind in the United States, said Craig Freeman, vice president and general manager for Camp Snoopy. Each German-built, bright pink and yellow car spins on its own axis, much like a Tilt-A-Whirl, as it makes its way along a track that rises five stories almost to the mall's glass ceiling, then through a series of tightly twisting turns, before it loops around the Kite Eating Tree and dives under the Rip Saw roller coaster.

The trip lasts about 75 seconds, but "because the vehicle spins it will be a different ride every time," Freeman said.

The first 100 people to arrive for Sunday's 1 p.m. ceremony get a free ride on the roller coaster. Other Mall visitors can use Camp Snoopy points to ride the Twister on Sunday. A ribbon-cutting will be held at 10 a.m. Monday to inaugurate the park's 21st ride.

The glitzy coaster is the focal point of an ambitious marketing campaign that includes magazine advertisements, television ad spots, coupon books and tourism literature designed to draw two coveted demographic groups: summer tourists and families with children in their early teens.

Freeman said Camp Snoopy had more than 2.5 million guests who took 8.3 million rides last year. But both park and mall officials say that they are not drawing families with middle-school-age kids and that the new coaster should help broaden the demographic reach.

"It's important that every amusement park add new rides and attractions to maintain market appeal" Freeman said. "We needed something for the 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-year old who is part of a family outing. We can't do the highest or the fastest or a lot of the extreme things that outdoor amusement parks can do because we have space restrictions, height restrictions and noise issues. So we had to find something that was unique."

Since 1996, teens under 16 aren't allowed in the Mall of America after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays unless they are accompanied by an adult.

More changes are coming to the state's largest tourist attraction in the coming months. Anchor stores Nordstrom and Bloomingdale are adding new departments, and Nordstrom has a new cafe. The mall also has several new stores, and others are expanding, said Maureen Bausch, the mall's vice president of business development.

The skateboard area "doesn't even have a name yet," said Lindsay Brown, 44, who is developing the site with business partner David Gigerich, but "it will have an urban feel to it," he said.

Set to open in midsummer, it will rent skateboards and equipment, have video games and a retail shop with skateboarding, BMX biking, snowboarding, and other action-sports merchandise. About the same time, Ikea should be ready to open its two-floor store featuring more than 9,000 products as part of the mall's Phase II project, which will include more retail and entertainment offerings, and possibly a hotel and performing-arts center.

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Places like MoA and West Ed are not your normal malls. They were never meant to be. They are tourist attractions more than anything else. You wouldn't compare DisneyLand to the local country fair, or even a state fair....therefor I don't think you can draw any logical comparisons between a suburban mall and a themed mall, like MOA or WE.

And, condos ARE part of Phase II.

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