|By Sara K. Clarke and Dewayne Bevil, The
Orlando Sentinel, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 14, 2011--Legoland Florida announced plans today to open a water park and a themed hotel at the Polk County theme park, which officially opens Saturday.
Legoland officials said the water park will open in May, just seven months after the official debut of Legoland Florida. It will feature Lego elements, including the ability to build your own Lego raft and float down a river.
"It will be totally awesome and it will be totally Lego," said Nick Varney, chief executive officer of Merlin Entertainments Group, the company behind Legoland Florida.
The water park will be an add-on cost to the standard Legoland admission.
Varney said the company aims to add a Lego-themed hotel, though he did not provide details or an opening date.
There had been speculation that a water park and hotel were in Merlin's plans since Legoland began building its theme park on the former site of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven. The property already includes a water park, which was operated by Cypress Gardens but it currently closed to the public.
Legoland's only other U.S. resort, in California, includes both a hotel and a waterpark.
The Florida water park is in the master-planning stage now, company officials said, with no final decisions yet about the attraction's design.
Varney said the hotel will open in 2014 or 2015. Land-use specifications for the site entitle Merlin to construct as many as 500 rooms of lodging.
Although Legoland plans to rely largely on day-trip visitors during its first 12 to 18 months of operation, company officials said they plan to turn the park into a resort offering multi-day stays.
Legoland has already accepted about a dozen existing hotels into its "Bed and Brick" partner-hotel program, but some of those properties are as far away as Metro Orlando. Varney is hoping a Legoland hotel at the theme park will spur the development of other lodging nearby.
"There's not as much hotel stock here as we would like," he said. "We'd like others to build hotels here, but certainly a Legoland hotel would be a priming mechanism for that."
(c)2011 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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