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Legoland on its way to Florida

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Source: The Orlando Sentinel


Legoland owner buys Cypress Gardens

By Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel


4:25 p.m. EST, January 15, 2010




Lindsay Wilmouth, Angela Yauchler and Catherine Ciccarello slalom at Cypress Gardens in the ski show Monday, December 27, 2005. (ED SACKETT, ORLANDO SENTINEL / December 27, 2005)


The owner of Legoland has purchased Cypress Gardens, the venerable Polk County attraction that shut down last fall.


A spokeswoman for the buyer, British amusements operator Merlin Entertainments Group, said Friday the purchase includes the current Cypress Gardens theme park, the Splash Island water park and the adjacent botanical gardens.


The sale closed Jan. 7. The price was not disclosed.


Merlin is the second busiest amusement company in the world. Its holdings include Legoland theme parks, Madame Tussaud's wax museums and the London Eye.


Rumors have been circulating for months that Merlin would like to open a Legoland in Florida, which would be its second U.S. location. The company currently operates four parks themed around the toy building blocks in Carlsbad, Calif.; Germany; Denmark; and England.


Spokeswoman Julie Estrada said Merlin has been working with Polk County and Florida officials on new business plans for Cypress Gardens. Details are expected to be unveiled at a news conference Merlin has scheduled for Thursday.


The acquisition expands the presence of private-equity colossus The Blackstone Group in Central Florida's theme-park industry. Blackstone, which last fall purchased SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment for about $2.5 billion and co-owns Universal Orlando with General Electric Co., holds a majority stake in Merlin.


Once famed for its botanical gardens and Southern Belles, Cypress Gardens has struggled over the last decade, enduring multiple closures and a bankruptcy.


The 73-year-old Winter Haven attraction has been unable to compete with Orlando's much larger, more modern theme parks.


Cypress Gardens' current owner, Land South Adventures, spent $17 million to buy the park at a bankruptcy auction in 2007, betting it could revitalize the park through a combination of scaled-back attractions and cheaper tickets.


The bet failed, and Land South abruptly shuttered Cypress Gardens in September, saying it could find no way "to keep the park running in its traditional form."


A representative for Land South on Friday referred all questions to Merlin.


Jason Garcia can be reached at jrgarcia@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5414.


I mentioned this on a different thread several months ago, Cypress Gardens has the perfect layout and terrain for a Legoland park!

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And, with Merlin's involvement with Blackstone it could make them a lot more viable despite the location a little further off the beaten path. I could see the Blackstone associated parks offering great ticket deals that would offer as much as (if not more than) Disney does between Universal/IOA/SeaWorld/Aquatica/Wet-N-Wild/BGT and the addition of a Legoland. Between Legoland and the new Harry Potter area, that could be a HUGE draw for European tourists who make up a significant portion of Orlando visitors at this point.

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I'm very excited about the park opening again. I just bought a house and moved to Polk County, just a few miles from the park, a month after it closed.


I have serious doubts, however, that anyone can make it work due to it's space limitations, location, and competition.


I'll keep my fingers crossed.

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Source: The Ledger.com


E-Mail Reveals Legoland Is Coming to Winter Haven

By Gary White




Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 12:13 p.m.

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.

( page of 2 )


BARTOW | LEGOLAND is coming to Polk County


The word leaked out Wednesday in an e-mail from a county tourism official to county commissioners in advance of Thursday's scheduled press conference at Cypress Gardens.


Merlin Entertainments Group purchased the Winter Haven theme park earlier this month. Merlin, the world's second-largest owner of tourist atttractions, currently operates four Legoland parks, three in Europle and one in California.


The company will transform Cypress Gardens into LEGOLAND Florida, Polk County's director of tourism and sports marketing disclosed in his memo Tuesday to county commissioners invited to Thursday's announcement by the company. All e-mails to county commissioners are available under Florida's public-records laws.


Mark Jackson's e-mail, marked “confidential until Thursday,” contained suggested talking points for local officials. Jackson's memo emphasized Merlin's stature in the tourism market and the commercial success of LEGOLAND California.


A spokeswoman from Merlin Entertainments Group last Friday confirmed the acquisition of Cypress Gardens but offered no details on the company's plans, saying more would be revealed at Thursday's news conference. The Ledger had learned of the purchase through documents filed with the Polk County Clerk of the Courts.


Those records indicated a sale price of $22.3 million.


Merlin's announcement Friday followed months of speculation that the company was negotiating with the owners, Brian Philpot and Rob Harper of Mulberry's Land South Holdings.


A Merlin spokeswoman said Florida Gov. Charlie Crist would join Merlin CEO Nick Varney at Thursday's press conference, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Jackson's memo said many other politicians are scheduled to attend, including Florida's Senate President Mike Haridopolos; state Speaker of the House Dean Cannon; and Congressman Adam Putnam, R-Bartow.


In his memo, Jackson urged officials at the press conference to be positive in talking to media members. “Please avoid any comments about past ownership and/or problems at the park,” Jackson wrote.


Cypress Gardens, one of Florida's oldest existing tourist attractions, evolved from water-skiing shows staged by Dick and Julie Pope in the 1930s. Once among the state's dominant tourism draws, it was eclipsed in recent decades by Walt Disney World and other Orlando-area theme parks and has been in financial distress for years.


Cypress Gardens has gone through several changes of owners since the 1980s. Philpot and Harper acquired the park at a bankruptcy auction in 2007.

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Sounds interesting, I never went to Cypress Gardens the few years it was open as a ride park because as much as I wanted to add some coasters to my coaster count, it didn't seem worth it to take a day out of the trip and an hour of driving each way just to ride some off the shelf Vekoma family coasters, a spinning mouse and a small wooden coaster (before Starliner).


Even though I am out of the target age range, Legoland in California looks like a cool park and maybe I'd stop at the park at some point on a future Orlando trip (I still need to get to IOA first!)

Edited by Yoshi
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  • 1 month later...

It's Great to hear another Lego land is coming to the US. As much as I would like to go to CA I doubt I will get there any time soon. FL is much more practical.

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