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Merlin Entertainments Announces Plans for Second Attraction at Kansas City’s Crown Center – $15 million Legoland Discovery Center


Global leisure giant Merlin Entertainments (Merlin), the world’s second biggest visitor attraction operator, has announced plans to bring a second of its global visitor attraction brands to Crown Center, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc. in Kansas City, Mo.  The $15 million LEGOLAND Discovery Center (LDC), with a shop and café, will be the fourth to open in the USA.   Located adjacent to Merlin’s planned SEA LIFE aquarium, announced in February, it will in fact open just ahead of it, in May 2012, underlining Crown Center’s position as one of the city’s premier leisure destinations.

Related:  Interview with Mark Fisher, MD Theme parks at Merlin Entertainments / An interview with Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin

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 a 4D cinema; master classes from the LEGO Master Model Builder; an exciting LEGO ride; 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 company is currently researching this element to ensure it reflects the very best of Kansas City and the surrounding area.   A shop selling LEGO toy product and other LDC items; and a cafe where parents can have a coffee or buy light snacks will also be available.  Pricing for the attraction has not yet been finalized.

The decision to locate a second attraction in Kansas City reflects the potential the company sees for their kind of unique entertainment in the Midwest.  Merlin believes Kansas City is the ideal regional destination from which the company can truly exploit this potential especially when positioned as part of the exceptional package deals offered by Crown Center’s two hotels.  Indeed, Crown Center’s whole strategy is to be the natural destination for Midwest families with young children to enjoy a day out together.  Merlin will also benefit from the economies of scale of having two attractions located close together, both through developing joint ticket offers and incentives, and employing a single senior management team to oversee both operations.
As the company said in February, this development is very much in line with Merlin’s aggressive global growth plan, particularly in North America.    Since February the company has already announced three entirely new US developments in Orlando; and opened a second US LDC in Dallas/ Fort Worth, where a SEA LIFE aquarium will also open in June.  Anticipation is also building for the opening of LEGOLAND Florida – a major new theme park opening in Winter Haven, Florida in October – the second in the USA and fifth in the world.

With 74 attractions worldwide Merlin currently has nine other attractions in the USA in addition to these,   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; 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; and of course the original US LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Chicago.    A third US LEGOLAND Discovery Center will open in Spring 2012, in Atlanta, Georgia; just ahead of Kansas City.  

Commenting Glenn Earlam, Managing Director of Merlin’s Midway Attractions Operating Group, which includes the LDCs, said:   “The LEGOLAND Discovery Center 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 Kansas City, and particularly Crown Center, is a great location for us.  Our experience has shown that bringing together an exciting mix of retail, restaurants, and quality leisure attractions like SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Center – as Crown Center is doing – provides a whole new element to a family shopping day, delivering significant incremental business to both the mall – and to the city as a whole.”    
It is also particularly exciting when we can bring together more than one attraction as we are here.  That owes a great deal to the support and foresight of Crown Center however – our partners and landlords – and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank them.  The enthusiasm with which we have been greeted in Kansas City, and the talent and commitment we are already seeing was a key factor in our decision to bring the LDC here, and my colleagues and I cannot wait to see the project progress!”
“Clearly Merlin Entertainments is one of the best visitor attraction companies in the world, and we are proud to be working with them.  The LEGOLAND Discovery Center is completely unique and there is certainly nothing like it in the Midwest.  I know both it, and the fascinating underwater world which is SEA LIFE, will be welcomed by Kansas City parents.  Crown Center will be the place for Mom and Dad to have fun with the kids – whatever the weather!”  Bill Lucas, President, Crown Center Redevelopment, commented.    
“We believe that without question by 2012 Crown Center will  offer the city’s widest range of quality family attractions, retail, and restaurant  options  – and all under one roof.  Certainly, the addition of an entertainment component such as a LEGOLAND Discovery Center enhances our position in the market generally and sets us apart from the rest.” 
SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Center will occupy the first two floors of Halls department store. To accommodate the attractions, Halls’ mens department relocated to the third level of the Crown Center Shops, and opened May 1 as Halls’ The Store For Men. The Hallmark Cards product department within Halls has been consolidated into the Halllmark store at Crown Center. Halls’ third floor departments (women’s apparel, shoes and accessories) will not be affected by the two attractions.

Plans are being drawn up for the site with construction expected to begin on both attractions in May this year.   Models for Kansas City LEGOLAND Discovery Center will be made in Merlin’s specialist studios around the world and shipped in during construction.  Admission prices will be released closer to opening in 2012.

Further information:

Merlin Entertainments

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)

Merlin Entertainments’ Real Estate Enquiries in North America contact:
Howard J. Samuels
Samuels & Company, Inc.
14011 Ventura Blvd., Suite 209 East
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Tel:  (818) 817-9500


Crown Center
Chris Ronan/Rick Brown
Communications Manager/Manager of Marketing Programs
Tel: (816) 274-8374/(816) 274-5524

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