In June, Merlin Entertainments announced a proposed new LEGOLAND theme park in Goshen, Orange County, which would be the third of the attractions to open in the USA. Bloomberg has been looking into Merlin’s plans for LEGOLAND expansion, picking apart why this third LEGOLAND is moving somewhere so distinct from the existing locations in California and Florida.
he company has grand plans for America, to replicate its successful midsize seasonal parks in Denmark, the U.K., and Germany. It has no desire to try to match the scale of the small cities built by Disney: Merlin’s Florida Legoland is, at 150 acres, only a small fraction of the 40 square miles that constitute the nearby Walt Disney World Resort. Focusing on the midsize market gives Merlin a unique advantage in the themed attractions business, said Jim Futrell, historian for the Pittsburgh’s National Amusement Park Historical Association, because development costs tend to be lower. “These smaller parks help them … define their niche, which is families with preteen children,” Futrell said. “Scattering a number of smaller parks, vs. having a Disney-style [park], can draw a big customer base.”
But this isn’t the first location that Merlin explored for the next stateside attraction. Reluctance among local residents to having their area disrupted is a key stumbling block for developments on this scale, and LEGOLAND parks have had their share of resistance.
Before Goshen, Merlin explored building a Legoland in Virginia, according to a 2013 industry report. More recently, the company looked at two towns closer to New York City, Haverstraw and Suffern. Locals there didn’t rush to embrace the amusement park, either. “We didn’t want to divide our community,” Haverstraw town supervisor Howard T. Phillips Jr. said, expressing regret that his town lost out. Merlin said its park, wherever it ended up landing, would create 800 local construction jobs, 500 full-time, year-round jobs and 800 part-time and seasonal positions.
As Merlin continues to rapidly open new attractions around the world, there are many factors in play that could affect the outcome in Goshen. East Coast brick fanatics, however, will be hoping that LEGOLAND becomes a local reality.