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Who wins, and who loses, with Legoland in Florida?

By Robert Niles
Published: January 21, 2010 at 2:28 PM
Today's announcement that Legoland Florida will open in late 2011 should get Central Florida theme park officials and fans thinking about how a new park in the area will play out for existing theme park attractions.

Legoland Florida announcement
Legoland's John Jakobsen at today's press conference, as the park's first 100,000 Lego bricks are dropped to the ground. Photo courtesy Legoland Florida.

Is this a net "win" for evereyone? Or will Legoland Florida change visitation patterns, potentially siphoning visitors from other theme parks?

Let's start with Busch Gardens Tampa. Will having a new theme park south of the Orlando area encourage more visitors to make the drive down on I-4, potentially drawing more toward Busch Gardens' Tampa location? Or will visitors who would have been okay anyway with driving down simply choose Legoland instead of Busch Gardens on their next trip, instead of devoting an extra day for south-of-Orlando parks?

Walt Disney World's worked hard at creating ticket and hotel packages that encourage visitors to spend their entire week at Disney. If those visitors can "sneak away" to other parks only for a day or two - will Legoland take traffic away from Universal Orlando or SeaWorld?

Or... will Legoland entice more families with elementary-age kids to visit Orlando, increasing the overall market for Disney, as well as Universal and the SeaWorld parks?

I dunno. That's why I'm kicking all these questions to you. Let's hear your thoughts about how Legoland Florida will affect other Central Florida theme parks, in the comments.

Update: For what it's worth, the backdrop behind the lectern at today's press conference included images of these attractions:

  • Aquazone Wave Racers
  • A Clutch Powers 4-D Adventure
  • The Dragon
  • Driving School
  • Fun Town Fire Academy
  • Lost Kingdom Adventure
  • Miniland
  • Technic Coaster

(You can find write-ups and reviews of these rides on our Legoland California page.)

Legoland Florida has not yet announced an attraction line-up, but I'll presume that these are on the initial list.

Readers' Opinions

From 162.119.68.249 on January 21, 2010 at 2:43 PM
Should have built in Orlando. When I went to Disney World as a child, Cypress Gardens had one of those hotel brochures, that looked cool, but ultimately got tossed away because it was no where near where we were staying in Orlando. I just don't think they'll get the traffic necessary to sustain it in the longrun.
From Jack Curley on January 21, 2010 at 2:47 PM
For the first couple of years Legoland might draw visitors away from some of the other parks, but over time, that probably won't be the case. Once the novelty of a new park wear off, everything will balance out. I think there's more than enough room for another park in the area. It's just another draw to bring people to Central Florida, and in the end, that's good for everyone's business.
From 205.188.116.67 on January 21, 2010 at 2:58 PM
I myself am looking forward to Legoland as I plan on taking my child there. I also believe it will help on getting better deals on the other parks in florida.
From TH Creative on January 21, 2010 at 3:14 PM
The wonderful thing about the announcement is that everyone is a winner. The people of Winter Haven -- who will enjoy the windfall of jobs and the benfit of having an internationally known brand set-up operations in their community. The Merlin/Blackstone parks (Sea World, Aquatica and Busch Gardens) that will reap revenues from bundled ticket packages and cooperative marketing strategies. Disney and Universal -- who will get a windfall from another draw to the region. And the state of Florida, which will garner millions in tax revenues from a new, large-scale business opweration.

This is wonderful news for Central Florida.

From TH Creative on January 21, 2010 at 3:15 PM
Oh yeah and Robert wins too because he will no doubt ink a six-figure advertising deal with Merlin Entertainment to pimp the park on TPI.
From James Rao on January 21, 2010 at 4:41 PM
Companies are building and expanding again which is good news. A new theme park means more jobs, more entertainment options, more attention for the theme park industry. Plus more competition to push those deep pocketed Disney Imagineers which in turn pushes everyone else (Universal, SeaWorld, Busch, Cedar Fair, Six Flags) to try harder so they can keep pace.

Legoland Florida is a huge win-win for all of us theme park geeks.

From Robert Niles on January 21, 2010 at 5:12 PM
If only Blackstone would hire TH as a media buying consultant. Sigh....
From David Graham on January 21, 2010 at 5:20 PM
TH covered it all so really all I can say is I 2nd everything he said... ditto including on Robert lol
From 76.26.184.25 on January 21, 2010 at 5:52 PM
If Blackstone had any interest in creating a SeaWorld and Legoland bundle they would have already done so in California. I wouldn't hold my breath for a season pass that gets you into SeaWorld, Busch, Aquatica, Adventure Island, and Legoland.
From Robert Niles on January 21, 2010 at 6:00 PM
No, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a CityPass-style option at some point that included those parks for visitors.
From Mike K on January 21, 2010 at 6:08 PM
I would think Legoland would add itself to the Orlando Flex Ticket, which already includes Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Wet N Wild, SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens. If the companies would really push OFT into the US and not just the UK, it could really help "south of orlando" parks and be beneficial with a "Harry Potter multi-park multi-day ticket"
From 205.188.116.67 on January 21, 2010 at 6:39 PM
EVERYBODY WILL WIN!!!!!
From TH Creative on January 21, 2010 at 7:38 PM
By the way, that photo has a bulldozer dumping like ... a zillion dollars worth or Legos.

Back me up parents ... Legos ain't cheap!

From Anthony Murphy on January 22, 2010 at 5:45 AM
I think the area will be in a bit of a win because it will bring jobs, but still, I really can't see competing with Disney and Universal, especially Disney. Which makes me wonder, does this mean the end of the Lego Store at Downtown Disney? I would like to see those sculptures stay.

But I still think that Cypress Gardens was killed more by location than anything else. I just think its plain too far away from Disney/Universal/Sea World on or near I-4


To do well, Legoland needs to draw the locals in.

From Tiffany Alfonso on January 22, 2010 at 10:26 AM
I have somewhat mixed feelings on the new Legoland because I went to Cypress Gardens just once as a two-year-old (in 1991, before the rides were annexed) and remembered that trip. But I'm mostly happy with the concept. Some people who cherished (and remembered going to it) the former theme park will somewhat lose, but for the most part, it's more of a win-win. If the thrill rides of Legoland proved to be as popular as the park and very lucrative, more or less likely it would draw the attention of turismos (Argentinean youth herds and Brazilian tour groups), if people over 12 enjoy it as much as the kids.
From 206.125.131.7 on January 22, 2010 at 12:16 PM
I worked at Legoland California from 99 to late 03 and was there before the park opened installing the rides. It was a great experience. I saw how the park changed and adjusted to the market. At first it drew lots of people from outside the area but it began to settle in and become a favorite for the locals. It got to where we only opened five days a week in the off season. That was great for the maintenance team but not so much for revenue. but they have done well in a niche market.
I'm happy to hear they are finally going to build the park in Florida, they have been talking about it for years. I think they will do just fine, they have a completely different following than the other parks in the area. Maybe I can get a job on the opening team again? Hmmmmmm.
From Joe Schwartz on January 22, 2010 at 1:03 PM
I think it is a win. It will bring back a park that has been down on it,s luck for to long. With a good management group in place. When my family visits the Orlando area. We always visit Busch Gardens Tampa and Silver Springs. This will be another stop, possibly cuting short a visit to Universal. When we visit Disney. We stay there. To me this is great news and I am looking forward to Legoland.
From TH Creative on January 22, 2010 at 4:39 PM
To my dear friend Anthony: No other attraction "competes" with Disney in the Central Florida market. Rather, knowing that Disney draws arount 40 million visitors a year, theme park designers and operators try and offer an alternative type of entertainment to attract people to check out other attractions as well as the WDW parks.

And (once again) Legoland's model does not require attendance beyond a couple of million guests (about 5,000 a day) in order to succeed.

From Larry Zimmerman on January 22, 2010 at 8:20 PM
I wonder how this will affect the Lego Store in Downtown Disney Marketplace... will they lose the franchise, preferring to put a megastore at the licensed attraction over DTD? Or will Disney's clout (and DTD's huge traffic numbers) keep the store right where it is?
From 24.46.190.96 on January 23, 2010 at 6:16 AM
It should work out, but perhaps there should be hotels and restaurants nearby to accomodate the visitors who don't want to drive back to Tampa or Orlando for the night.

I have not been to the LL park in CA but I would imagine that it might attract a younger crowd than Busch Gardens or Universal. WDW still has the Magic Kingdom, of course, and so I don't foresee too many young visitors (and their older escorts) being siphoned from there.

I have been to Cypress Gardens within the last five yrs and although they added some "rides" my two sons were completely bored. LL might be just what the area needs, IF they are looking to attract visitors, of course.

From 70.119.37.184 on January 23, 2010 at 8:31 AM
Initial hoopla and fanfare, then "meh". LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION and Legoland isnt going to have it. As far as pulling people away from Disney's package deals for a day or two for a trip to Legoland, keep dreaming.

There will be an initial increase in employment which is a BIG plus and their business model suggests they only need 5000 visitors per day to do well, but I am willing to bet a bucket of legos that in the end it's not going to work as planned.

WDW and USF offer something for EVERYBODY. Legoland will offer Legos (I know there will be more to it than that,so no sarcastic replies please, but you get what I mean).

I just think the culture of the Orlando area is getting more mature and WDW and USF has both kiddies and adults covered. In my humble opinion what Orlando needs is a kickass gigacoaster park. The biggest exciting news lately were for Manta and Rip Ride Rocket. People want these exciting and cutting edge attractions.

I have nothing against legos. I had tons as a kid learned new and adventurous language when my parents stepped on them in their bare feet (ultimately reducing my inventory of Legos).

I hope they are very sucessful and will def visit the park once.

From 98.228.248.164 on January 23, 2010 at 11:53 PM
Legoland Florida will not compete with any of the Orlando parks any more than Legoland California competes with the San Diego/Anaheim/LA parks. Legoland markets to kids, aged 2-12. It could care less about teenagers and young adults w/o kids. It corners that one niche market; no other theme parks target this particular age group to such an extent.

Additionally, Merlin has loads of cash and experience to make it work. As long as LL-Florida is ran as competently as LL-California, it is a guaranteed success. It'll draw tons of locals and siphon off enough tourists from Orlando to do around 2 million guests, which is plenty enough for it to make a profit.

Also, LL-Florida has little to do with the Lego store in Downtown Disney. LL is part of Merlin while the stores are part of Lego. Two completely different companies (although the family behind Lego does own a minority share in Merlin).

From 64.12.116.67 on January 24, 2010 at 8:43 AM
I am so excited about Legoland coming to Winter Haven. I work for all the Attractions. I sell tickets to everything in Central Florida and have been in the tourist business for 12 years. I am tired of people thinking that there is not life outside of Disney World. The parks at Disney need a major overhaul and Universal is more for the teens. I bet on an average of a week, I give directions to Downtown Disney because of the Lego store. Trust me we need this attraction. All of Florida, Georgia, and the whole South are looking forward to this opening. Glad you are coming.
From Crystal A on January 25, 2010 at 7:00 AM
It seems that the "proposed" High Speed Railway between Tampa and Orlando may effect Legoland and will definetely impact BG. I don't understand all the details and I am not sure if the train will make actual stops between Tampa and Orlando but it seems that if it did and the stop was in Winter Haven that tourists could just hope the train and go down to LL fairly quickly for the day. The train is supposed to travel at speeds exceeding 120 mph which will for sure beat traffic on I-4.

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