Merlin Entertainment’s second LEGOLAND park in North America, LEGOLAND Florida is set to open in fall 2011. The 150-acre interactive theme park on the site of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven Florida will be the biggest LEGOLAND to date with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions.
Chad Emerson catches up with Adrian Jones, General Manager of LEGOLAND (right).
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Emerson: Share with us how you got started in the amusement industry and some of the more interesting projects that you’ve worked on prior to joining the Legoland team in Florida.
Adrian Jones: I got my start in the attractions industry as an ice cream cart attendant at Alton Towers nearly 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve served as Divisional Director of Midway Attractions in the Western United States, where I was responsible for LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, Madame Tussauds Las Vegas and Madame Tussauds Hollywood. I was extremely fortunate to be a part of the opening team in Hollywood where we built the first Madame Tussauds attraction ever to be built from the ground up in the museum’s 250-year history.
Emerson: Renovating an existing facility instead of building a new one from scratch presents some benefits and challenges. What are some the benefits in taking this approach?
Jones: Cultural significance, speed, and price. This location includes the botanical gardens and the mature trees which give the park a sense of soul that just can’t be found in a new build. By converting an existing property we are shaving nearly a year off the typical “green space” construction timeline. With a majority of the infrastructure already in place, we’re able to focus on developing the property to our standards instead of laying pipes and cables. We also can’t overlook the cost savings we benefited from by buying a property with so much of the infrastructure already in place.
Emerson: Along those lines, what about challenges?
Jones: Some of the main challenges is not knowing what lays underground until you start excavation. Some of the infrastructure (buildings, pipelines) is very old, and we’ve had to totally renovate several buildings. We’ve been fortunate on this site not to run into any major issues, but there is always risk with any existing facility.
Emerson: Share with us what will be some of the unique innovations that this new park brings to the industry.
Jones: LEGOLAND Florida will have several elements that can’t be found at any other LEGOLAND park. One element includes the historical botanical gardens, which will make this park one of the most beautiful theme parks in the world. We’ll also have a pirate-themed water stunt show and the first wooden coaster in a LEGOLAND Park.
Emerson: While you are located in Central Florida, the new park is somewhat between the Tampa and Orlando metro areas. Do you anticipate more of a local audience or do you see this as more of a destination resort?
Jones: We anticipate our guests will be broad mix of both locals and overnight guests. By selecting a location situated centrally between Tampa and Orlando, we know that a great number of our guests will be from the surrounding 2 hour radius. Any new park in Central Florida becomes the new “must see” for residents and Floridians, but with time, the importance of overnight tourists increases which places more emphasis on our resort positioning.
Images: Kind courtesy LEGOLAND Florida