Merlin Entertainments Group to open LEGOLAND® Florida
Jan 22, 2010 12:30 am
by Joe Meno
Winter Haven, FL (January 21st 2010) - Merlin Entertainments ("Merlin"), Europe's No 1 and the world's second largest visitor attraction operator, announced today a multi-million dollar investment in the biggest family tourist centre in the world with the planned opening of LEGOLAND® Florida.
Merlin has purchased the historical Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven Florida from property investment company Land South Group and will open LEGOLAND Florida on the site at the end of 2011. The deal to buy the 145-acre site includes the freehold on the current theme park and waterpark as well as an operating lease in perpetuity on the historic botanical gardens. Merlin plans a significant multi-million dollar investment over a number of years, up to and beyond opening, in what will be the biggest LEGOLAND to date. In line with the group’s “resort” strategy for its theme parks this is likely to include both accommodation and the addition of further branded attractions from the Merlin portfolio. This will build on the $100m invested over the last few years in improved infrastructure on the site.
A proven concept
The Florida development will be Merlin’s second LEGOLAND Park in North America and will play an important role in the group’s continued growth in the US. It will provide a full-day, year round, theme park experience geared towards families with children between the ages of two and 12. Its design will mirror the successful concept of the four existing LEGOLAND Parks in Denmark, Germany, UK and California. However, as with the other four, it will also have its own unique “twist” reflecting its stunning location and adding a Florida flavour.
The decision to open a LEGOLAND Park in Florida follows considerable research in the area by Merlin over a number of years. This indicated a high recognition of the LEGOLAND Park brand and a 90%+ intention to visit by families in this target market. The issue therefore has been to find the ideal site. Cypress Gardens has long been a popular location for millions of visitors. Merlin believes its central Florida location, approx 30 minutes from Orlando and also close to Tampa, is the perfect site for a leisure brand as powerful and compelling as LEGOLAND.
The development follows the outstanding success of LEGOLAND® California which opened in 1999. LEGOLAND California was recently voted the country’s best children’s theme park by Amusement Today for the sixth year running. It is also recognised as the fastest growing theme park in the US, enjoying an increase in visitor numbers year-on-year, including 6% in 2009.
LEGOLAND Florida will be the biggest LEGOLAND Park ever opened and will offer a unique mix of more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, including spectacular LEGO models and other interactive elements for the whole family to enjoy together.
The Park is expected to create more than 1,000 new jobs by opening; as well as boosting the Florida economy through the use of local contractors for development.
Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin Entertainments, said:
“LEGOLAND Florida will be one of the most exciting and important projects Merlin has ever developed. It is a unique opportunity for us; Florida is the biggest family tourist centre in the world. We have been looking for the right site there for some time and in Winter Haven we plan to create one of the best and certainly most beautiful, theme parks in the world. LEGOLAND California has already proven how much US families love the unique LEGOLAND concept. Now we are bringing that fun and experience to a much wider audience - the millions of US and international visitors who come to Florida every year.”
John Jakobsen, Managing Director of Merlin’s LEGOLAND Parks Operating Group,said:
“LEGOLAND Parks are based on the universally popular LEGO Toy products and offer families the opportunity to let their imaginations run free and become completely involved in LEGO Experiences. A LEGOLAND Park is the ultimate platform to showcase the LEGO Values and the endless possibilities of the LEGO idea. LEGOLAND Florida will add a completely unique, exciting dimension and experience for families visiting the area.”
Charlie Crist, Florida Governor, said:
“We are delighted at this news. We are extremely happy that the future of Cypress Gardens is secure. LEGOLAND is one of the most exciting names in family attractions and a welcome new addition to Florida.”
Bob English, Chairman of Polk County Commissioners, said:
”We are looking forward to working closely with Merlin. Their record speaks for itself. All of us at both local and State level really welcome their exciting plans for the site, the jobs this project will create and their commitment to the County long term.”
Merlin Entertainments is firmly establishing itself in the important US market. When it opens, LEGOLAND Florida will be the company’s thirteenth attraction here. It joins LEGOLAND California; SEA LIFE Carlsbad; Madame Tussauds' New York, Hollywood, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.; LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Chicago; and the Underwater Adventures Aquarium in Minneapolis, all of which are already successfully operating. Four more attractions are also in development - SEA LIFE Phoenix; LEGOLAND Discovery Centres in Dallas Fort Worth and New Jersey and the Pepsi Globe observation wheel in New Jersey.