by Dan Rafter
Minneapolis residents looking for even more entertainment than the Twin Cities proper can provide will soon plenty of kid- and adult-friendly fun about 30 miles northwest of Minneapolis. That’s where Benson-Orth General Contractors is ready to start overseeing the construction of an indoor water park, indoor amusement park based on movies from Sony Pictures and two major hotels.
Sony Consumer Products – a division of Sony Pictures — and Black Forest LLC, a partnership between Casey Darkenwald, Robert Kelly, Kevin Hanson and iP2 Entertainment, is developing the Mall of Entertainment project in the Minnesota community of Albertville.
Construction has yet to start, but Benson-Orth president Mike Monson says that he expects his company to break ground on the development in July or August of this year and to deliver it by the time the NFL’s Super Bowl comes to Minneapolis, an event scheduled for Feb. 4, 2018.
Monson said that the location for the new project makes perfect sense.
“It’s right between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud. And it’s adjacent to the Albertville Premium Outlets. Those folks have changed what they are looking for in their relationships to the adjoining and adjacent businesses,” Monson said. “Right now there are very few restaurants up there. There is little else to do while you are at the mall and shopping. The outlet malls are the biggest attraction now. There is also a lack of hotels in the area.”
The Mall of Entertainment project will change this, Monson said, and should bring plenty of new visitors to the area.
“This will be right off the freeway,” Monson said. “This project will make this area a good destination location. You will see folks coming here from Fargo and St. Cloud, in addition to people coming from the Twin Cities.”
A big project
The Mall of Entertainment is no small project. The $115 million project will include an indoor waterpark with interactive features a Sony Pictures Entertainment back-lot amusement park that will include rides and interactive features based on the company’s movies and a 275-room Marriott Hotel and convention center.
The amusement park will cover 50,000 square feet, as will the indoor water park. The land is already owned by Black Forest and has been rezoned for the entertainment use. iP2 Entertainment, one of the partners involved in the development, has already debuted similar entertainment centers in Indonesia and the Philippines. The company is involved in three new entertainment-center developments, including the one to be built in Albertville.
Monson said that Black Forest chose Benson-Orth as its general contractor on this project because of Benson-Orth’s long history of development in the Twin Cities area. The company has been in business in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for 40 years.
Benson-Orth is now interviewing subcontractors, searching for the right firms to handle this major project.
“This is going to be a truly design-build effort,” Monson said. “We are in the process of interviewing mechanical and electrical subcontractors right now to make up the balance of our design-build team.”
According to Black Forest, the new development will feature interactive movie-making and game-based adventures that include themes and characters from classic and new Sony movie franchises. The total facility, including the new Marriott hotel, will be more than 300,000 square feet sitting on 18 acres.
“Our mission is to create exciting and memorable experiences for families and friends that can also be educational,” Darkenwald said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more happy about the opportunity for our team, and, perhaps more importantly in the broader scheme, what this can do t help the local and business community in Minnesota.”
Monson said that the project should provide a boost to the Albertville area.
“I am certain it will drive some major development adjacent to it,” Monson said. “I’ve already talked to a company that wants to put a nice-sized bank on the site. Developers have talked about putting a large medical clinic up there. We are talking to other people about other types of uses in the area. I wouldn’t be surprised if new restaurants or a brew pub popped up there.”