With the help of the University of Minnesota, the 2023 world’s fair could come to the state.
The three-month event could bring 12 million foreign visitors and $4 billion in tourism spending to Minnesota, according to proponents. The occasion would add to a growing list of high-profile events scheduled for the Twin Cities, including the 2018 Super Bowl and 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
The Minneapolis City Council officially endorsed Expo 2023 — the official effort to bring the world’s fair to Minnesota — earlier this month, and University faculty members and administrators have helped the planning process get off the ground.
London held the first world’s fair in 1851. The first city illuminated by electricity, the first television broadcast, the Space Shuttle and the world’s first picture phone were all presented at world’s fairs held in the United States. The U.S. hasn’t hosted a world’s fair since New York in 1964.
“When a city hosts a world’s fair, it’s sending itself off to college,” said Urso Chappell, a world expo consultant. “It’s a transformative event. It’s an education. It’s fun. When a city hosts, [it comes] out seeing itself anew.”
The fair would cover a 60-acre site and feature pavilions from more than 100 countries, corporations and civic groups. A specific host site hasn’t been selected, said Mark Ritchie, president of the event’s bid committee and former Minnesota secretary of state.
The fair’s theme, “Wellness and Well-Being for All: Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” makes the University’s Academic Health Center “ground zero,” he said, adding that the University’s advancements in clinical and medical technology research would be a focal point of the fair.
Many groups within the University have been involved in the planning and consulting process, Ritchie said. Thomas Fisher, dean of the University’s College of Design, has been the “main visionary” on design ideas, he said, and faculty members in the Carlson School of Management have helped with initial consulting and analysis.
It’s important to think about how fairs are changing today, Fisher said.
“In the digital age, where you can get information and images in the palm of your hand, the old way to go to the fair to see things is changing,” he said.
Modern fairs have to be more engaging, with fairgoers producing as well as consuming ideas, Fisher said.
University Board of Regents member Patricia Simmons was part of one of the four delegations that recently traveled to Italy to study its fair, Ritchie said.
Minnesota’s globally minded and welcoming atmosphere makes it an ideal location for the fair, he said.
“When the world visits Minneapolis, it will experience the way we embrace the outdoors during every season and witness the way we value infrastructure that encourages healthy behaviors,” Ward 4 City Councilwoman Barb Johnson said in a letter last month to the committee working to bring the fair to Minnesota.
Ritchie said the official bid will be submitted in May. The project will be a public-private partnership with no requests for government funding, according to the bid committee.
Ward 3 City Councilman Jacob Frey said Minneapolis is deserving of recognition on a global scale and that it’s time the city shares its health and holistic thinking with the rest of the world.
“A city can never quite know what it will become after hosting an expo,” Chappell said. “But it’s a safe bet it will never be the same again and they’ll forever cherish that time.