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Theme parks: Merlin Entertainments Group opens fifth LEGOLAND® Park

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Less than two years after announcing the purchase of the Cypress Gardens site in Winter Haven, Florida, this weekend Merlin Entertainments (“Merlin”), is relaunching it as LEGOLAND® Florida – the fifth LEGOLAND in the world, second in the USA, and first to open since Merlin acquired the Parks in 2005…..Merlin also believes it is the most beautiful theme park in the world!
 
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Europe’s No 1 and the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, LEGOLAND Florida is the 8th new attraction Merlin has opened this year alone, and the company’s biggest development project to date.   The stunning 150 acre Park has more than 50 rides and attractions in 10 exciting themed zones; as well as breathtaking colourful botanical gardens; a lake – the centre of some of LEGOLAND’s best and most exciting shows ever; and even a 70 year old spreading banyan tree at its very heart.
 
Based on the globally popular LEGO brick the unique LEGOLAND concept is not just another theme park – it is designed specifically to meet the needs of families with younger children – 2-12 – offering exciting opportunities for children and adults to play together in every area of the Park.   A much anticipated addition to the Florida entertainment scene, advance sales of tickets and annual passes have been very strong underlining its unique positioning.  Merlin is also confident that once visitors see what is actually on offer word of mouth will build numbers very fast – both from the USA, and amongst the vast number of international visitors Florida welcomes every year.
 
A unique concept already proven very successful in the USA as well as Europe (LEGOLAND California has been voted top family theme park 6 years in a row), and a multi-million dollar investment in the biggest family tourist centre in the world, LEGOLAND Florida opens with many advantages.   The botanical gardens have long been a popular location for millions of visitors, and its central Florida location is approx 45 minutes from both Orlando and Tampa.   Merlin has also taken advantage of significant investment in infrastructure on the site by the previous owners as well as its own proven track record and development expertise to open this major theme park in half the time, and at a significant lower cost, than any other.
 
The Park is also already proving a significant catalyst for other investment into the Central Florida area creating more than 1, 000 new jobs directly, as well as boosting the Florida economy through the use of local contractors and suppliers. 
   
In line with its resort growth strategy for all its theme parks (with LEGOLAND Florida that makes 11 to date), Merlin also has a continuous investment programme planned for the Park – with a waterpark scheduled to open in 2012, and the addition of accommodation and other second gate attractions from the Merlin portfolio over time.
 
This can be seen in action at the other LEGOLAND Parks – in California Merlin has opened a SEA LIFE aquarium and a waterpark alongside the main theme park in the last two years, and a hotel is due to open in 2013.  In the UK a hotel will open at LEGOLAND Windsor in time for the Olympics next year; Atlantis (a £5m ride development opened this year), allows visitors to explore the wonders of SEA LIFE from a ‘deep sea’ LEGO yellow submarine;    LEGOLAND Billund in Denmark boasts a wonderful themed hotel, its own take on SEA LIFE and has just announced its biggest development ever…involving penguins and a ground breaking ‘pink knuckle’ ride…..; while in LEGOLAND Germany, Merlin has built not a hotel but a themed holiday village offering the kind of accommodation German visitors love with a very special LEGOLAND twist!    
 
Also in 2012, Merlin will be opening its 6th LEGOLAND Park – LEGOLAND® Malaysia – well under development and scheduled to open in just under 12 months.  Projects are also under discussion in Dubai, Korea and at least two other major new markets for the Group.
 
 Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin Entertainments, said:
 
“LEGOLAND Florida is one of the most exciting and important projects Merlin has ever developed.  It provides a unique opportunity for us; Florida is the biggest family tourist centre in the world; and as a result of this project we have already agreed to be part of a major new retail/leisure plan for Orlando bringing 3 more of our ‘midway’ brands to the area.    Having spent some time here over the last few months I have witnessed the hard work and enthusiasm of everyone working on the Park, and I know the team here is as proud of what has been achieved as I am.   It is a stunning Park – beautiful, exotic, colourful and above all fun!   I have no doubt that visitors are going to be knocked out by what they see – I know I am!  “
 
 LEGOLAND Florida is Merlin’s twelth attraction to open in the USA – with three more already in development for 2012.

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