Florida’s oldest tourist attraction is about to become its newest. Merlin Entertainment will be building a new Legoland theme park at Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, FL. Winter Haven is about a 45 minute drive from the Orlando attractions area, assuming light traffic. But that shouldn’t hamper Legoland which will add another family friendly destination to Central Florida, something that Cypress Gardens was never quite able to accomplish.
Okay, technically this announcement won’t be made until tomorrow. However, Merlin did Polk County a favor and gave them a heads up via email. Since in Florida all emails are public record, The Lakeland Ledger requested a copy and Merlin’s plans were unveiled.
Legoland operates four parks around the world, San Diego, Denmark, Germany and England. Merlin Entertainment, along with its owner the Blackstone Group, is the second largest owner of amusement and theme park properties in the world. The first being The Walt Disney Company.
I was actually at the opening day for the Carlsbad (San Diego) Legoland. Hopefully I’ll be able to repeat that her in Central Florida. I wonder when it will be.
Cypress Gardens grew out of the famous water ski stunt show and a world class collection of botanical gardens. In 2004, after falling on hard times, the location was purchased and converted into an amusement park. Sadly after insurance losses related to the triple hurricanes that hit Central Florida in 2004, management had to sell the park. After an unsuccessful relaunch, those owners closed the park for good in 2009.
Or so we thought. Rumors of a Legoland being build in Central Florida have been fairly strong for the last year or so. But it was thought that it would go to another community first. Alas, those communities voted against having Legoland in their backyards, so Cypress Gardens is now the best candidate. The purchase price? $22 million. I hear that $17 million of that is debt.
I wrote last week about some suggestions for reworking the Cypress Gardens property to work with a new themepark like Legoland. I also want to emphasize that the gardens won’t be going away. They’re actually owned by Polk County and just leased out to whomever is running the Cypress Gardens Location.
Now the only question is what will they announce the name of the park as? Legoland: Winter Haven, Legoland: Orlando, … or my favorite Legoland: Cypress Gardens.