Minnesota makes pitch to host 2027 World’s Fair

Here’s the Minnesota pitch: people from across the world will share health and wellbeing innovations, bolster trade ties and consider global challenges at an “Expo district” composed of modern, nature-inspired architecture next to the Mall of America.

Officials presented flashy renderings of that scene and emphasized the state’s strong medical industry in Paris on Monday as they made their bid to host the Specialised Expo in 2027, also known as the World’s Fair, a sprawling 93-day event that could attract an estimated 140,000 visitors a day.

“We have a compact, sustainable site that is ready to welcome guests from around the world,” Minnesota USA Expo President John Stanoch told the general assembly of the Bureau International des Exposition. “We have a relevant theme, ‘Healthy People, Healthy Planet,’ that touches all people and nations across the globe and is even more compelling in the aftermath of the COVID global pandemic.”

But the state and its four competitors must wait until next June to learn their fate.

Minnesota is up against Thailand’s island of Phuket, Serbia’s capital city of Belgrade, Spain’s southern coastal city of Málaga and Bariloche in the foothills of the Andes in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

Each competitor highlighted its natural, cultural and economic assets, from Phuket’s turquoise waters to flamenco dancers and paella in Málaga to Bariloche’s alternative energy production. They made their case for why they are best positioned to host the event, which brings tourism and attention to a region and could lead to future economic connections.

Minnesota was the final presenter in the lineup, following images of snow-capped peaks and the alpine lakes district of Bariloche.

Against a soundtrack featuring Bob Dylan and Lizzo, U.S. officials showcased images including the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Mall of America. Their presentation offered comparatively few of the dramatic sweeping vistas that other countries showed, focusing more on the state’s health care industry and the Bloomington site planned to host the Expo.

Officials envision the event running throughout much of the summer of 2027, with the theme of “Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Wellness and Well-Being for All,” which is based on a United Nations’ sustainability goal. They stressed that there’s a strong public-private partnership to execute the event and said choosing Minnesota would lead to more commercial connections between the Midwest and the rest of the world.

“Hospitality is Bloomington’s number one industry,” said Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse. He pointed to the area’s plethora of hotels and light rail connections to the airport and downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“The infrastructure is in place to accommodate a major event such as the Expo,” Busse said.

But at this point officials only have renderings of their plan for an Expo district. They showed mock-ups of an elevated pedestrian and bicycle path, similar to New York’s High Line, which would connect north and south Expo sites.

Images of those sites depict a soaring column of water with a glowing image of a person who appears to be floating inside. They show a swirling circular “host pavilion” surrounded by international pavilions located in modern, wavy white buildings that are low to the ground and have green space on their roofs. The district will have stages for entertainment and spots for food and beverages, said David Loehr, an architect with DLR Group that designed the Expo site.

After the Expo ends the area would have a conference center, urban park, additional mass transit, new mixed-use development, a “global health innovation district” and “sports and healthy living facilities,” Loehr said.

The 13-week event would focus on health and wellbeing for the individual, for broader populations — particularly underserved communities — and for the planet, University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Jakub Tolar said.

“We see these weeks as extraordinary opportunities to invite leadership from around the world to share learnings, ideas, innovations and challenges, coming together to explore what is possible,” Tolar said. “Because we strive to see the Expo create a legacy of real progress.”

Specialised Expos are aimed at responding to a challenge facing humanity. The theme of the last Expo, in Kazakhstan in 2017, was “Future Energy.”

Monday’s presentations were one step in a long process for the destinations competing for the event. Bureau International des Exposition officials will visit Minnesota in October to evaluate the bid, and the state must make more presentations this year and next ahead of a June 2023 vote to decide the winner.

This isn’t the first time Minnesota has attempted to host the event. Officials lost their bid for the 2023 Expo to Buenos Aires.

The United States has a long history with the World’s Fair, having hosted numerous times at various spots across the country. But if Minnesota secures this Expo, it would be the first time the country has hosted in more than 40 years.

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