Merlin Entertainment Group, a division of Blackstone Group (owner of SeaWorld and co-owner of Universal Orlando), was just uncovered by Screamscape as the purchases of Cypress Gardens. Merlin Entertainment owns the Legoland theme park brand and it has been rumored to be considering the Winter Haven historical park for some time, even before it closed last year.
I really hope that this works out. The park’s location has a lot of problems. But Legoland has made stand alone theme parks work before and Cypress Gardens does have a lot going for it that makes it a good prospect for a Legoland.
Below the jump I’ve placed a few ideas on what sort of change I think the property needs to work going forward, no matter what is built there.
Solving the Cypress Gardens problem is going to require some out of the box thinking.
Unfortunately, under-capitalization by earlier owners resulted in some neighboring property either being sold off or not purchased when it was for sale. So the first thing Merlin needs to do is to buy up as much adjoining property as possible. That will give them a little room to breathe as they attempt to redevelop this into a world class destination.
There are a few areas of the property that will probably have to remain where and how they are. Section 1 is the water park. I think it’s already been expanded a bit since this satellite picture was snapped. The cost of moving a water park is prohibitive (although it has been done before).
Sections 2-a and 2-b are the historical garden sections of Cypress Gardens. I believe those have to remain untouched based on county code. Plus you really do want to keep some of the old park with the new. That includes section 3 as well, the water skiing stadium.
Section 4 is the old plantation house and its gardens. It too is a historical landmark. But I think this area is ripe for some change. I’m thinking it should be integrated with a new large resort element that will draw people to the attraction.
Section 5 is the animal exhibit area. All the animals are long gone and this can now be safely converted into a new resort.
Sections 6-a and 6-b are what has recently been the ‘Main Street’ and entrance plaza of the park. Section 7 is the concert stage and lawn.
Sections 8-a and 8-b are the parking lot and overflow paring areas (as well as staff parking).
Sections 9 and 10 were the main attractions areas of the park. It is unknown how many of the attractions were successfully sold off and how many were purchased as part of the deal by Merlin. I assume they will try and sell or work in whatever attractions remain.
Section 10 actually contains an area where an old parking structure used to be before it was converted into an amusmement park. Section 11 is shopping and support structure for the park.
Here’s where I’m going to make a few suggestions on how a new Legoland should fit on this property:
Sections 10 and as much of 9 as they need should be converted into parking structures. I know that’s expensive, hopefully they can get some government help with that. This will solve one of the major problems with the current layout. Guests of the water park have to park all they way on the other end of the park and walk the whole length of the property to enjoy the day. Then at the end of the day when they’re tired, they have to walk all the way back. That’s not a happy ending to the day, trust me.
I would move the stage and lawn of Section 7 to take advantage of the park in section 2-b and 4. Put the back of the stage against the water. This will give more of a bowl effect. In fact, you could even put in seats and make a Hollywood Bowl east. Fireworks could be launced from the water area for holidays.
They should then raze sections 6-a, and 6-b. Use those two sections, sections 7 and the two parking lots to build the new Legoland. Helena road would be rerouted a bit.
Having this whole swath of land to plan an actual working themepark layout would go a long way to making Legoland worth visiting, even if the drive is an hour and a half from Disney World.