Bloomington, with an estimated population of 81,264 residents, is a southern suburb of Minneapolis. Located in Hennepin County, Minnesota, it is the largest Twin Cities suburb and the fifth largest city in the state. It is the home of the United States' largest, and the world's most visited shopping center, the Mall of America. Bloomington's modern history can be traced back to the days before Minnesota was officially a state of the union when in 1843, Peter and Louisa Quinn were sent by the U.S. Government to teach farming methods to the local Dakota and Ojibwa communities. Six years later the Bloomington Ferry and, soon after, the Bloomington Ferry Bridge was opened, giving access to commerce and population growth. Bloomington officially became a city in 1960.
Local higher education facilities include Normandale Community College; Northwestern Health Sciences University, which focuses on natural health care and patient research in the areas of chiropractic acupuncture, oriental medicine, and massage; and Bethany College of Missions, a small Christian school focused on missionary preparation.
The building of the famous Mall of America was made possible when the Bloomington Port Authority purchased the 86-acre Met Stadium site for the mall which, after years of planning and construction, opened to the public in 1992. Today, the combined tenants of the Mall of America make it the largest private sector employer in Bloomington. In 2004, an IKEA store opened on the west end of the former Met Center site. The remainder of the property is scheduled to be the site for Mall of America Phase II. In May 2006 the Water Park of America opened for business. It is located just west of IKEA and Mall of America, on the other side of State Highway 77, and is advertised as the largest indoor water park in the country.