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Big things planned at already big Mall of America

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — How do you supersize a megamall already brimming with more than 500 stores, 50 restaurants and its own theme park? Add much more glitz.

Construction at Minnesota's Mall of America will result initially in 50 new shops, more eateries, another luxury hotel and an office tower. An NHL-sized skating rink and world class water park are on the drawing board, too.

It's part of a $2.5 billion expansion aided by a $250 million tax break approved this spring by the Legislature. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday that when the expansion runs its course the mall will have nearly doubled in size. Construction is occurring in phases, with another major element planned for fall.

Mall officials say the renovations keep the destination enticing.

"The overarching goal is to always keep the attraction fresh and continue to enhance it," said Maureen Bausch, Mall of America's executive vice president. "That's what Disney and all the great attractions do. You never keep it the same."

The mall attracts 42 million visitors annually — many from other states or countries — and the expansion could lure 20 million more each year.

"I'm constantly amazed as I travel overseas how many people associate Mall of America with Minneapolis and say they've been there," said Jim McComb, a Twin Cities retail analyst. "They're looking to build on that strength and build on that draw."

The mall's developers say big things are in store for one of the nation's biggest shopping and entertainment complexes.

"I can foresee us probably opening a new development every year for the next 10 years," said Kurt Hagen, senior vice president of development for Triple Five Worldwide, the mall's owners.

One feature of the current construction phase will be a meeting space dubbed The Atrium." It will be larger than the current Rotunda, which is home to concerts, competitions and celebrity book signings. Several floors up will be a permanent exhibition space to host traveling exhibits, like one on Princess Diana.

Other amenities include a second luxury hotel to go along with one that recently opened. There's also a medical office building and two levels of underground parking.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.