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Legoland to expand again – this time in miniature

Following on the heels of this summer’s largest Legoland California expansion in history, theme park officials said Friday they anticipate adding another 2 million Lego bricks to create Miniland Las Vegas by March.

Plans for the newest addition to the 128-acre theme park call for the miniature re-creation of the Las Vegas Strip, with a 20-foot Stratosphere, an exploding Mirage volcano, a 1,250-brick MGM lion and a Luxor Las Vegas pyramid that beams light into the sky.

Major resorts lining the miniature “strip” include New York, New York Hotel and Casino, Excalibur, Mirage, Treasure Island, Tropicana and Venetian, which took more than 20 separate Lego models to make it the attraction’s largest.

The Vegas re-creation will also feature a miniature wedding chapel, monorails and real life sounds recorded by a Legoland sound engineer.

“Miniland is really an area where you can release your imagination and grasp what they can create out of Lego bricks,” said Legoland spokeswoman Kelly Schwartz. “Putting in something like Vegas really puts in a city recognized around the world.”

The creation of a miniature Las Vegas eliminates its currently standing New England Harbor, which Schwartz said wasn’t exactly an appropriate fit with other more prominent icons. Those include such structures as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, New York City skyscrapers and the White House in Washington, D.C.

Schwartz said Legoland polled guests two years ago to determine which city could be featured alongside the others, and they overwhelmingly replied Las Vegas.

The addition marks the largest Miniland expansion at any Legoland, which includes its other theme parks in Denmark, England and Germany.

Legoland said it represents more than 16,000 hours of collaborative labor between six full-time Lego builders in Carlsbad and builders in Europe.

Schwartz said the addition is more about “growing Legoland itself and offering something new and exciting” than pushing it as a vacation destination.

Earlier this year, Legoland executives announced their strategy to draw more visitors to the Carlsbad theme park with intentions of staying more than a day. Making it what they called a “vacation destination,” they said, would require expansion inside and outside of the Carlsbad theme park.

Grand Pacific Resorts is constructing a hotel adjacent to the park expected to open next year, and Legoland California owner Merlin Entertainment has expressed interest in partnering with additional companies to produce attractions within the park. Merlin operates a Sea Life inside Disneyland Resort Paris.

Legoland California became a part of Merlin Entertainment Group in July 2005, when New York-based parent company Blackstone Group bought a 70 percent share of Legoland’s four theme parks for $456 million. Merlin operates 28 attractions in eight European countries under the brand names Sea Life, Dungeon and Earth Explorer. The Lego Group, a Danish company, holds 30 percent.

This summer’s addition of Pirate Shores is anticipated to fuel additional revenue for the park, which experienced a lag in attendance during its early years but recovered in 2004 and 2005.

Schwartz said this year’s attendance should reflect positive numbers as a result of the water attraction’s debut.

“We should have record attendance again this year,” she said.

The 3-acre, water-friendly attraction features a four-passenger water cannon battle ride through pirate-infested waters, a log ride aimed at young children, a shipwrecked pirate vessel poised to pour more than 300 gallons of water on guests and a water play area with fountains, pop-up jets and water cannons.

When Pirate Shores was announced earlier this year, executives from Legoland California and Merlin announced their intention to open a fifth Legoland in the United States in the next three to five years, possibly on the East Coast or in the Midwest.

Schwartz said those plans are still a reality, and theme park officials are in talks about the subject.


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