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Legoland hotel now a block closer to being a reality

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An new amusement park for San Diego County just took one step closer to resembling the Disneyland resort, as the Carlsbad Planning Commission unanimously approved a hotel at Legoland California.

In a 5-0 vote Wednesday night, the commission passed a land-use resolution to amend a specific plan and allow for the construction of a new hotel on the theme park's 128-acre site.

The project is designed to be a three-story 121,000-square-foot facility with 250 rooms, according to Carlsbad Senior Planner Van Lynch and is proposed in the outer parking area of the theme park currently used as visitor, bus and recreational vehicle parking.

"This is an exciting step in the planning process for the Legoland hotel," said Peter Ronchetti, new general manager of Legoland California. "While the opening of the hotel is not in the immediate future, we are looking forward to this new chapter in our development as we bring the Legoland experience to the next level for our guests."

The next step for the proposed hotel project is another date with the Planning Commission in about three to four weeks for a complete design review approval of the entire project, according to Lynch, and then a month and a half later the City Council will review it for final approval from Carlsbad.

"It will then go in front of the California Coastal Commission for final approval about a year after the City Council approves it," Lynch added about the project, which is the first time it has come to the city of Carlsbad.

According to Beth Downing, spokeswoman for Legoland California, construction will take about two to three years to complete once initiated and will be done in two phases with the first one containing approximately 150 rooms to be built. Cost of the project was not disclosed.

The Planning Commission's approval also allows for Legoland California, which is owned by Merlin Entertainments Group, to change its parking conditions and the street name of Hidden Valley Road to Crossing Drive.

In addition, the planning commission's report stated that the hotel would have space for retail, restaurants, staged entertainment, outdoor pool, bar and nightclub and would incorporate Lego-themed features at the hotel entry, pedestrian park entrance way and on the ends of the hotel.

Nichols Brown Webber, of the United Kingdom, was the architectural firm that designed the preliminary plans of the project, according to Lynch.

Legoland California, which opened in 1999, is one of four such them parks in the world with ones in Denmark, Germany and the U.K., where it also has a 176 Lego themed hotel built in 1991.

Legoland wants to expand and make the experience more than a one-day adventure, according to Downing.

"It's tough to do all of the things we offer in one day," she said of the amusement park geared toward children with rides, attractions, shows, restaurants and stores in nine themed areas. Current admission is $63 for adults and $53 for children ages 3-12 and seniors 60 years and older.

A Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa next to Legoland offers a private entrance to the theme park, but Downing said because Legoland is trying to make the experience a multi-day experience and expand what Legoland offers, it would like to build a new hotel -- similar to what Disneyland offers in its all inclusive resort.

"We want to make it a Legoland-themed hotel geared for young children," she explained.

Legoland has researched over the years and asked patrons for theme park ideas. A hotel is "something guests have been asking for a long time," Downing added.

In August, Legoland opened Sea Life Aquarium, a two-story 36,000-square-foot attraction geared toward children ages 2-12.

Its theme features sea creatures like rays and tropical fish, along with Legos, to give children a hands-on educational experience.

The new park also features a 200,000-gallon ocean tank and a 35-foot long acrylic tunnel where visitors can walk through and see all the water animals.

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