E-mails to public officials in Florida are public records, so The Ledger newspaper in Lakeland (just up the road from Cypress Gardens) got a copy:
Helpful Facts: Confidential until Thursday.
1. LEGOLAND Florida will be the fifth LEGOLAND attraction worldwide (CA, Denmark, England, and Germany).
2. Merlin is the second largest attraction company in the world, second only behind Disney.
3. Merlin's massive research in the area already indicated that; the LEGOLAND brand already has high recognition and a 90% intention to visit by families in their target market.
4. LEGOLAND, CA, is the fastest growing theme park in the U.S., realizing an astounding 6% growth in 2009. The park was also recognized by Amusement Today as the country's best theme park for children for the sixth consecutive year.
5. Check out Merlin's website (www.merlinentertainments.biz.) for a broad overview of their operations.
Okay, let's break this down. Will Legoland Florida succeed in a location where so many other park management teams and concepts have failed?
Let's hear your thoughts in the comments.
Update: Reminder to new Theme Park Insider readers that you can visit our Legoland California page to get a feel for what types of attractions might be coming to Legoland Florida.
Update 2, Jan. 21: Live coverage of the press conference, in the comments. Photos to come.
Update 3: Who wins, and who loses, with Legoland in Florida?Tweet
Winter Haven is located several miles off Interstate 4, and the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas are nowhere near as large as LA and San Diego.
Only a powerful brand name could pull visitors to this site, which has seen multiple efforts fail in the past.
All that said, Legoland is such a powerful brand. Parents of elementary-aged kids who visit Legoland tend to become fiercely loyal to it. The park does provide a unique experience - one that might pull many visitors down I-4 to try it.
Merlin faces immense design challenges with this site, however. The gardens will have to be retained. Is there enough room for a water park and a SeaLife aquarium and a hotel, as Legoland has or will build in California? Can existing roads and local infrastructure handle the crowds during peak seasons? Will too many people try to visit when the park opens, leaving them with a bad experience and leading to bad worth-of-mouth? (Legoland is not designed to handle well more than 20,000 visitors a day, IMO. That's a *very* light day at the big Disney parks.)
Merlin must overcome the design challenge and open the park in the dead of the offseason (to minimize initial crowds). But I'm betting - again, with hestitation - that it can and Legoland Florida will succeed, though at attendance levels far below other Central Florida theme parks.
There's plenty of room on the Cypress Gardens site; the question is positioning the various elements of a Legoland Resort in way that doesn't become a logistical hassle for visitors. I think it can be done, though. I'll be interested to hear what they shoot for as an opening date.
By the way, Central Florida Legoland fans should be sending a huge thank-you to the elected officials in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois who passed on hosting this park in their communities.
That said, as long as Merlin creates a beautiful attraction (which they will) and a business model that does not require annual attendance numbers that must reach eight figures the park should be a great success.
And remember, while the park's location is a bit off of I-4, the exit on Highway 27 sits right in between Sea World and Busch Gardens -- making ticket packages for all the Merlin properties a promising marketing opportunity.
This idea has BIG WIN written all over it.
All the best for Legoland, but its really nowhere near Orlando/Disney/Universal. Then again, Busch Gardens is further so who knows....
As for brand name, I find it hard for it to compete with Disney's and Universal's giant superthemed parks. One advantage in CA is that Universal Studios and Disneyland/DCA is not exactly the largest parks and usually are a side trip on a bigger CA trip. When people go to Orlando, its likely they are going to WDW or USO
Put me down as failure because of it not being that close to Orlando (as much as Disney or Universal)
It's got a lot going against it, especially when it comes to location. Will it prove too far for visitors to the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas to travel? Who knows.
Of course Lego is a huge brand and the name alone will attract guests but if the attendance figures will be enough to make the park economically viable is a different question.
If I was Merlin I'd be seriously considering trying to get Legoland added to the FlexTicket. By doing so guest purchasing the ticket due to the Orlando and Tampa based attraction would be much more inclined to visit Legoland as they've paid for it.
If Merlin creates a business model that requires an annual attendance of just 2 million people (about 5,500 a day) ... GAME OVER. It is a success. Period!
And (again) Merlin can package tickets (annual passes, etc.) with Sea World, Busch Gardens, Aquatica, etc.)
As far as this 30 year old that got over his Lego obsession when he was about 5 goes, call it a fail.
Of course, I may not be their target market . . . although I do have annual passes to just about every park around here.
Legoland needs a steady stream of 5,000-15,000 visitors daily, which works very well when you are drawing from a pool of local parents of kids ages 3-11. I have no idea how Legoland would do when it is pulling from a pool of out-of-market visitors. How do they market to that, without drawing too large of a crowd?
Selfishly, I'm hoping that they decide to market through online advertising placed on theme park news and trip planning websites, but that's just my idea of what would work well for them... ;-)
Ultimately, Legoland needs to find a way to hit those numbers. The out-of-the-way placement in Winter Haven might help keep them down in range, but if the numbers fall off too much (and the relatively small local markets don't help), then the park would be in trouble.
Besides, we still have Gatorland after all these years and it's not right next door to any of the parks, but yes it's still closer that L.L.C.G. will be.
Frankly, Orlando needs a child's park. When Frommer's interviewed young children regarding their favorite thing about their Disney vacation, the majority voted in favor of their hotel pool.
Face it - I never see children having as good a time at theme parks as adults. They become overstimulated and overwhelmed, which leads to crankiness, which leads to fights, which leads to unhappy families.
Regardless, Merlin should up their game for the move. I'm talking revolutionary attractions. It can survive in California, sure, but Disney only has two parks there, and the other chains have one. Disney, Universal, and Anheuser-Busch all upped their game when they moved to Orlando.
(1) Merlin Entertainment. They run successful attractions all over the world. They KNOW how to run a park -- including multiple (successful) Legoland franchises as well as theme parks in Orlando. They KNOW the market and the product.
(2) The Legoland business model (as Robert [I almost wrote "Mr. Niles"] has reported [on multiple occasions]) does not require annual attendance numbers that reach a zillion-billion-kajillion people. They don't need Disney numbers to be a success.
(3) Bundling ticket promotions. Merlin's parent company also owns Aquatica, Sea World Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa. They will create multi-park passes -- including annual passes -- that combine admissions to all three parks. They will maximize their marketing buck by promoting all three parks in advertisements. They already do this for Busch Gardens and Sea World.
(4) The Lego brand is recognized internationally. While Cypress Gardens is a theme park classic, it never, never, never had the name recognition with families that Lego has.
I Respond: Yeah, well considering that Governor Crist will be attending tomorrow's announcement, I would say that such considerations will be (or already have been) "worked out."
Joshua, sometimes you really are my hero! =)
I feel FL is a different environment than CA. In CA, most of the parks are more of a Day trip with Disneyland being sorta two. Sure you go to Disneyland, but you are likely to see the Chinese Theater, Universal Studios, maybe catch a live show, etc.
In FL, if you are going to Disney, you are doing everything at Disney for the most part.
Lego is very popular brand, but will that be enough?
Intelligent analysis often comes with halfway decent spelling my friend. On the other hand, your idea about Legoland putting down at Coney Island isn't half bad. In theory it could be a success because it's New York City and there's only one decent amusement park (Rye Playland) around. In reality, the Coney Island redevelopment site is only about 15 acres and is tied up in city politics, land leases, historic landmarks, and disgruntled landowners/developers/citizens. They're better off at the Cypress Gardens site.
The issue with Cypress Gardens was that it was a small amusement park in a giant theme park market. There simply wasn't enough there to compete with the big guys. Legoland is not Cypress Gardens. Will it draw tourists from around the world like Disney? Probably not. Will it lure tourists away from the beach or their Disney shanty for the day? On some level it will. Will it draw Florida residents and the regional market? Absolutely. I see locals passing up Disney and it's crowds and cost in favor of something new for the kids, and then I see them coming back.
They ignore this point made in the email that broke the story: "LEGOLAND, CA, is the fastest growing theme park in the U.S., realizing an astounding 6% growth in 2009. The park was also recognized by Amusement Today as the country's best theme park for children for the sixth consecutive year." The product sells.
They ignore the fact that the Legoland business model does not require the parks to garner thermonuclear attendance numbers (a la Disney and Universal) -- a fact which causes no less a source than Robert Niles to write: "Ironically, I think the biggest danger facing this park is getting too many visitors initially."
They ignore the symbiotic relationship the park will have with Sea World, Aquatica and Busch Gardens -- creating opportunities for bundled ticket media and marketing campaigns.
But even more significant than these considerations they ignore the experience of Merlin Entertainments -- who operate more than 50 attractions worldwide. To imply that they have not sussed out the impact of competing attractions and/or the park's location off of I-4 just seems naive.
I also think it will be a bigger hit with FL residents in the region. I hear more griping about Disney from locals, and I think they'll be happy to have a 'new' park to go to. I welcome another venue for some thrill rides, too.
(This coming from someone who has never visited a Legoland park....)
In response to TH Creative
"1) Merlin Entertainment. They run successful attractions all over the world. They KNOW how to run a park -- including multiple (successful) Legoland franchises as well as theme parks in Orlando. They KNOW the market and the product."
Um... what theme park does Merlin operate in Orlando?
I would also like to point out that you (TH) are making one VERY big assumption that simply because Blackstone owns the SeaWorld parks, and a majority of Merlin that the two will run in conjunction. I admit there is a possibility (mostly in the Flex Ticket) but beyond that I think it is unlikely.
AND just because Mr. Gonzales does not agree with your opinion does not make their post the worst ever! Simmer down and stop being such a bully!
That drive to Winter Haven is terrible terrible terrible! I think the park might do ok for a while, but without a better (faster) road system the longevity of the park is questionable.
The park, which is planned for the former site of the historic Cypress Gardens, is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs. The historical gardens will stay intact, according to Nick Varney, Merlin's chief executive officer.
Varney announced the details of Florida's newest theme park at a news conference attended by government and tourism officials, including Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Varney kicked off the event by calling Legoland Florida's "worst-kept secret," referring to the fact that details of today's announcement leaked out Wednesday, after an email surfaced confirming that it was indeed Legoland that was coming to Polk County.
I live in miami,fl. I've been to orlando an average of 3 time a year for 20 years. I'm going to try the park atleast once, but i just dont see young adults and old people going to the best CHILDRENS theme park more than once or twice. I agree that it has alot going for it in terms of leadership and expectations being low; and maybe 5 years is underestimating, but i have seen so much fail in the kissimmee area that it makes me a little weary for legoland's future.
side note- what will happen to the lego store at downtown disney?
R.I.P (splendid china, holyland)
WORD TO YOUR MOTHER!!!!!!!!!
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