Legoland park moves closer to completion
WINTER HAVEN - Construction vehicles are the only rides rolling through Legoland Florida right now. But with hundreds of workers storming castle walls, it's starting to look more like a theme park than the construction site it has been since January 2010, when state and local officials joined Legoland in announcing Florida's first new theme park in years. Brick by brick, construction manager Craig Riebel said, crews are bringing Legos to life. "It's pretty cool to come in here and be able to build the castle and then to install all the models that are built 100 percent out of the Legos," Riebel said during a tour of the site.Crews have their work cut out for them. Legoland is scheduled to open in just 75 days. By that time, Fun Town will be finished. So will Duplo Village, named for the bigger bricks popular among the youngest children. Signs of what will be already are taking shape in Lego statues. And Lego-like horses at the Royal Joust are ready to run. There will also be hands-on Lego building areas, miniature Lego versions of famous buildings and streetscapes, and a birthday pavilion. Legoland Florida is the second park in the U.S. built by the Danish-owned company, known for its signature plastic building blocks and stubby action figures. The first park is in Carlsbad, Calif., and there are also Legolands in Great Britain, Germany and Denmark. Another Legoland is under development in Malaysia. One-day admission to the park is $65 for ages 13 to 59 and $55 for ages 3 to 12 and 60 and older. A standard annual pass for all ages is $99. A premium annual pass, which includes parking and discounts on food and merchandise, is $159 for adults, and $129 for children and seniors. Parking will cost $12. Crews have spent a year transforming what used to be Cypress Gardens, a historic attraction from central Florida's more bucolic days that featured water skiing demonstrations and Southern belles walking lush gardens. You get a sweeping view of the attraction taking shape from 150 feet up on the Island in the Sky ride, a holdover from Cypress Gardens days. Among the challenges crews face: The Cypress Gardens infrastructure dated to the 1930s, so most gas and sewer lines and all the water lines had to be replaced. They're working extended hours and weekends to get it done and have even built in time lost to Florida's wet season — including a possible tropical storm. Already, the park has hired half of the 1,000 workers it will employ. And four of the rides have received the required certification. Kim Isemann, director of sales and marketing for Legoland, notes the park has been designed to appeal to an audience much different from Florida's other theme parks. "Our core is families with kids 2 to12. A lot of kids play with Lego," Isemann said. "A lot of teenage kids play with Lego." Will the park be ready for them by Oct. 15? "Oh sure, it'll happen," Riebel said. "We're accelerating. We're running between 450 to 500 workers right now."
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