Legoland officials look ahead to Winter Haven resort

By Charles Gonzalez
News Chief staff
Published: Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 4:01 a.m.

BARTOW - The opening of Legoland Florida on the former Cypress Gardens site in Winter Haven is still at least 15 months away, but already the owner of the new theme park has plans for a second phase of development.

Merlin Entertainments Group, which announced its plans for Legoland Florida in January, wants to follow a fall 2011 opening of the family theme park with the addition of a resort and convention center on the eastern shore of Lake Eloise, a Polk County tourism official said.

Mark Jackson, executive director of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing, spoke about the resort plans Wednesday during a report to the Polk County Commission. Jackson talked about his early-May business trip to London to meet Merlin officials and view the Legoland Windsor operation.

Jackson said the Legoland resort and convention center in Winter Haven will be similar to the ones at Merlin's Legoland Denmark park.

The convention center and resort will be built after Legoland Florida begins business operations, Jackson said.

"The hotels will be overlooking the water on the site of Legoland Florida," Jackson told commissioners. "The hotel rooms are theme oriented for children, with princess rooms for girls and dinosaur rooms for boys."

In Denmark, Merlin has 700 vacation rental homes, shops and restaurants across the street from the Legoland theme park, Jackson said.

"The resort and convention center in Denmark is just an incredible place to stay," added Tom Patton, the executive director of the Central Florida Development Council. "It's hard to describe in words just how remarkable this resort is."

Patton also was part of the local business mission to London and joined Jackson in the presentation to county commissioners.

Jackson said the planned resort and convention center in Winter Haven will be marketed to businesses near and far for their meetings.

"This can be a family business retreat for any kind of business wanting to hold meetings here," Jackson said. "That has become more of a trend for many businesses, allowing employees to bring family along on business meetings."

Merlin's target market for its Legoland parks are children ages 2 to 12 and their families.

A theme park, convention center and resort on one site will provide the "perfect" mix of work and pleasure for business meetings, Jackson said.

With some preliminary work already under way at the former Cypress Gardens site, major construction on Legoland Florida will begin at the end of June or in early July, Jackson said.

Jackson said Merlin Entertainments Group has given Polk County Tourism and Marketing and the Central Florida Development Council permission to hire as many qualified local firms as possible to assist with Legoland construction.


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