Today Merlin Entertainments announced a multi-million dollar investment for its biggest family tourist center in the world with the planned opening of Legoland Florida.
Merlin purchased the historical Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Fla. 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 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 $100 million invested over the last few years in improved infrastructure on the site.
The Florida development will be Merlin’s second Legoland Park in North America. 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, U.K. 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 percent plus intention to visit by families in this target market. The issue 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, approximately 50 minutes from Orlando and also close to Tampa, is the perfect site for Legoland.
The development follows the 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 recognized as the fastest growing theme park in the U.S., enjoying an increase in visitor numbers year-on-year, including six percent 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.