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Merlin Entertainments announces plans for $12 million Legoland Discovery Center in Atlanta’s Phipps Plaza

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Global leisure giant Merlin Entertainments (Merlin), the world’s second biggest visitor attraction operator, announced today conditional plans to build a $12m LEGOLAND Discovery Center (LDC) in Atlanta Georgia.  It will open in Spring 2012 at the Phipps Plaza, one of the Southeast’s premier shopping destinations.

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Merlin’s newest attraction concept, the LEGOLAND Discovery Center will offer a fun, highly interactive and educational two to three-hour indoor experience ideal for families with children 3-10 years old.  Based on the ever popular LEGO brick, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers provide a range of interactive play areas including 4D cinema; master classes from the LEGO Master Model Builder; exciting LEGO rides; special party rooms for birthdays and other celebrations; as well as the popular MINILAND exhibit designed to reflect the iconic buildings and skyline of each individual attraction’s location.   
 
The Atlanta attraction at Phipps Plaza also underlines Merlin’s aggressive growth plan, rolling out 6/7 new sites for its exciting brands around the world every year; and continuing to invest in new experiences and improved customer service across its existing portfolio of 70 attractions. 

Merlin currently has nine other attractions in the USA including the LEGOLAND California theme park with its exciting new Water Park opened in 2010 – and voted the best children’s park 2004-9 by Amusement Today;  Madame Tussauds wax attractions in New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Hollywood; a LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Chicago; and SEA LIFE aquariums in Phoenix, Arizona, the Mall of America in Minneapolis, and alongside LEGOLAND California – underlining the company’s position as the world’s biggest global aquarium operator.    Three more Merlin attractions are also already scheduled to open in the USA in 2011 – a SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Dallas/ Fort Worth; and LEGOLAND Florida – a major new theme park opening in Winter Haven, Florida in October – the second in the USA and fifth in the world.
 
Commenting Glenn Earlam, Managing Director of Merlin’s Midway Attractions Operating Group, which includes the LDCs, said:   “The LDC concept is already successful in both Europe and elsewhere in the USA, and I know people will love it here.  North America is a very important development market for Merlin; and we believe that Atlanta, and particularly Phipps Plaza, is a great location for us.     Our experience has also shown that bringing together an exciting mix of retail, catering, and quality leisure attractions like the LDC creates a whole new element to a family shopping day, delivering significant incremental business to both the mall – and to the area as a whole.     Such projects play an important part in Merlin’s future growth strategy for our ‘midway’ or indoor City Center attractions.”
 
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both Simon Property Group, with whom we are already working very successfully on a number of projects in the US including this one in Atlanta; and the city of Atlanta for its support.  The enthusiasm with which we have been greeted in Atlanta was a key factor in our decision to come here, and we hope that this may be just the start of Merlin’s relationship with the city.   We are aware that our plans have been the subject of much speculation over recent months; and it is true that we have looked at a number of sites not just for this project, but also for some of our other attractions.     However getting the LEGOLAND Discovery Center built and operational is our primary focus at the moment, and I believe that Phipps Plaza, which is already a popular ‘destination’ for family visitors, is exactly the right location for it. “   
 
"A unique addition to Atlanta’s visitor appeal."

“The decision by Merlin Entertainments to build a LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Phipps Plaza, already one of our city’s premier shopping and dining centers, is another example of how Atlanta continues to lead as a tourism and convention destination, ” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “The city is pleased to partner with Merlin Entertainments and Simon Property Group and welcome this exciting new attraction to our growing list of cultural, historical and family-oriented leisure activities for residents and visitors alike.”

The Atlanta Development Authority was also involved in successfully bringing the project to the city, coordinating meetings that helped streamline the planning and permitting process.  Ensuring this concept would be feasible at Phipps required close coordination with both Merlin’s architects and city of Atlanta’s bureau of buildings.

“Atlanta is already a very popular destination city for visitors from all over the USA and even further afield, and we are proud of the wide range of quality attractions that we are able to offer them. Clearly Merlin Entertainments is one of the best visitor attraction companies in the world, and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center will be welcomed as a unique addition to Atlanta’s visitor appeal.” said Tisha Maley, assistant vice president of leasing for Simon Property Group.

"Given its history in the city of Atlanta, as well as the variety of exclusive-to-market stores and popular dining establishments, Phipps Plaza has long been considered one of the premier shopping destinations in the Southeast. The addition of an entertainment component such as a LEGOLAND Discovery Center certainly enhances its position in the market and sets it apart as an outstanding family destination in the US. We are also excited to be working again with Merlin on this project.”
 
Plans and designs are already being drawn up for the site, and construction is expected to begin in July, with the LEGOLAND Discovery Center due to open in March 2012.  Models for Atlanta will be made in Merlin’s specialist studios around the world and shipped in during construction.
 
Merlin Entertainments contact  Sally Ann Wilkinson/Penny Roberts     
Tel:                         + 44 (0) 20 8899 6110 / + 44 (0) 20 8948 4225
Mobile:               + 44 (0) 7774 415372/ + 44 (0)7887 542490
Home:                   + 44 (0)20 8948 3725 (Sally Ann Wilkinson)
Email:                     saw@thefirmcomms.com/par@thefirmcomms.com
  
MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP is the leading name in location based, family entertainment, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last five years.   Europe’s No 1 and the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin has 64 attractions, 6 hotels and two holiday villages in 14 countries, across 3 continents.   The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 40 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and 15000 employees. 
 
Merlin Entertainments’ attractions include – SEA LIFE – the world’s biggest aquarium brand, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, The London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, THORPE PARK, Chessington World of Adventures & Zoo, Heide Park, and Earth Explorer.  All brands which are distinctive, challenging and innovative – and which have great potential for growth in the future. Visit www.merlinentertainments.biz for more information.

PHIPPS PLAZA, which is located in Atlanta’s prestigious Buckhead area, is the Southeast’s premier upscale shopping mall. The three-level mall is known for its diverse exclusive store mix and is anchored by Nordstrom, Belk and Saks Fifth Avenue. Phipps Plaza is home to signature shops including Tiffany and Co., Gucci, Versace, Jeffrey, Valentino, Tommy Bahama, Barneys New York CO-Op and Giorgio Armani. Phipps Plaza’s other major attractions include a 14-screen AMC Theatre, three white-tablecloth restaurants, a wine bar and the Veranda food court.  For more information, visit www.simon.com.

SIMON PROPERTY GROUP INC is an S&P 500 company and the largest real estate company in the U.S. The Company currently owns or has an interest in 393 retail real estate properties comprising 264 million square feet of gross leasable area in North America, Europe and Asia. Simon Property Group is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and employs more than 5, 000 people worldwide. The Company’s common stock is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol SPG. For further information, visit the Simon Property Group website at www.simon.com.

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