Lego®, the company famous for its interlocking bricks that have captured the imagination of children worldwide, opened the first Legoland® theme park in its hometown of Billund, Denmark, in June of 1968. Legoland® California, a 128-acre family theme park located in Carlsbad, Calif., opened its gates in March 1999, providing education, adventure and fun in this first park of its kind in the United States. There are more than 15,000 LEGO models in the park created from more than 35 million LEGO bricks. The park offers interactive attractions, family rides, shows, restaurants, shopping and beautiful landscape features specifically geared for families with children ages 2 to 12.
In 2005, Legoland theme parks became part of Merlin Entertainments Group, the leading name in location-based, family entertainment. Merlin Entertainments brings together Legoland, Madame Tussauds, London Eye, Sea Life, Legoland Discovery Center, Gardaland, Dungeons – as well as national brands such as Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Heide Park.
Legoland® Water Park, the world’s first Lego-themed waterpark, opened on May 28, 2010. Perfect for its demographic of minivan moms and kids aged 2 to 12, Legoland’s Water Park provides small-scale fun that is reminiscent of bigger park thrills. Design of the 5.5-acre park began more than 18 months ago and cost over $12 million for the largest expansion in the history of Legoland California.
The centerpiece of the waterpark is a 45-foot-tall tower designed to immerse children in the creative world of Lego. The four main slides originate with this tower. Other key attractions include: Orange Rush, a family tube slide where up to four people can ride together down a 312-foot long curving track on an 11-foot in diameter half pipe; Twin Chasers, two side-by-side enclosed red tube slides that stretch nearly 130 feet and pour into a wading area below; Splash Out, an open body slide that invites guests to slide 240 feet and “splash out” into the water below; Build-A-Raft River, a one-of-a-kind concept where kids customize their own raft made of soft Lego bricks before floating down a lazy river; and Duplo® Splash Safari, a water play area designed especially for toddlers with three small slides and interactive Duplo® characters modeled after the actual alligator, polar bear and elephant pieces found in Lego sets.
There are 22 Lego models throughout Legoland Water Park, five of them are jumbo Lego friends who stand 6 feet tall and weigh about 250 pounds. Imagination Station provides interactive, educational and imaginative fun. There are two interactive tables. On one, kids can build bridges, dams and cities out of Duplo bricks and test them against the flow of water. On the other, they control the flow of water by creating patterns out of Lego elements. In another area, there is a musical water stand with a series of holes on top that squirt water, allowing kids to become conductors of their own water symphony as they cover holes creating new musical notes.
During a January 2010 press conference, Resort General Manager Peter Ronchetti commented, “Many theme parks across the country have reported difficult trading and necessary cost control actions as a result of the challenging economic climate over recent months. So we feel very fortunate with all of the expansion here at Legoland California Resort, to be able to report that our attendance continues to grow.” Ronchetti said that 2009 marked six years of continuous growth for Legoland California with a 6 percent growth in attendance over 2008. He also reported guest satisfaction ratings in the high 90s, a statistic rarely heard in the amusement park industry.
Master Model Builder-turned Project Designer for Legoland California Bill Vollbrecht also spoke during the press conference. Vollbrecht, who is the lead designer for the waterpark, built a Lego model as inspiration for the waterpark design. “When designing the world’s first Lego-themed waterpark, what better way to start than to take it from a child’s perspective,” said Vollbrecht. “Imagine a child beginning to build a fun Lego tower that they could actually play inside of with their family. They would dump out a bucket of bricks of every color and combination, and create a fantastic, imagination-filled world.” The replica Lego elements are 35 times larger than the real ones. If stacked one on top of another it would take 1,450 real Lego bricks to reach the top of the 45-foot tower.
There were some challenges associated with building the world’s first Lego-themed waterpark and getting the creations to work the way the designers had intended. “For instance,” according to Julie Estrada, media relations specialist, “the Build-A-Rafts were a brand new concept and bringing them to life from artist’s renderings was a challenge and we had to go through many different prototypes to find the best way to make Lego base plates fit onto inner tubes so that children could customize their own ride.” Another challenge was making the 45-foot-tall main tower look like it is actually built out of LEGO bricks the way Vollbrecht, had planned. In addition, five of the new Lego friends, which are 6 feet tall, required special piping in order to splash and spray water onto guests – this is something that had never been done before. Marketing the new waterpark was also challenging since no one knew what it would look like, including the staff, until it was actually built. Once people were actually able to see it for themselves, either in person or via photos, the waterpark sold itself.”
As construction continued in April 2010, Legoland Water Park Operations Project Manager Mike Pastor told the press. “We are creating more than 200 jobs within the waterpark and at least 100 of those jobs created are lifeguards. In fact, all of our MCs (Model Citizens) who interact with waterpark guests in each of these attractions will be certified lifeguards.” After posting the new positions, Legoland California received more than 250 applications for lifeguards. One hundred of those applicants went through a pre-test sanctioned by the American Red Cross and those who passed did 32 hours of training to receive their certification. “We are excited to be able to offer these new positions especially during the current challenging economic climate,” Ronchetti said.
Attendance at the waterpark has far exceeded park expectations. Ronchetti said, “After all the discussions and brainstorming and creative thinking that went into the waterpark design, the magic ingredient was adding the children – it was when we added children that we could really see how they would behave and interact with the waterpark. I can tell you that we are really, really thrilled and excited with their reactions.” Estrada said, “The hands down favorite ride, based on its uniqueness, is the Build-A-Raft River where every ride down the river is unique as children customize their own raft with soft Lego bricks. This is a new concept conceived especially for Legoland Water Park and has never been done anywhere else! Riders encounter four 6-foot Lego models that spray water onto guests as they float along the lazy river.”
One hour prior to the public opening, 50 foster children from Camp Connect were invited to enjoy the waterpark along with their siblings, who they have been separated from due to their placement in the foster care system. Camp Connect is a program provided in partnership with Promises 2 Kids, United Way and Health and Human Services, that gives these children a chance to spend the whole day with their brother or sister who they don’t get to see very often, if at all. Legoland California Resort interacts daily with their community through activities such as Model Moms Club, Mindstorms, school field trips, educational classes and more. They also host several annual special events that reach out to the community such as Teachers are Heroes, Celebrate Carlsbad Day, Junior Master Model Builder Competitions, First Lego League and an annual tree lighting celebration where they donate to children’s charities such as the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Legoland California has doubled the amount of rides and attractions since opening in 1999 and they are consistently looking for ways to enhance the guest experience as the leading multi-day family destination in Southern California. Estrada reflected, “For me, as a mother of two young boys ages 10 and 6, Legoland Water Park is like looking at something my boys would build themselves out of Lego bricks in the backyard while dreaming of what it would look like if it was a real waterpark – their fantasy has become a reality.”
Suppliers for the project included slides and main tower theming by Whitewater West, the Imagination Station by Funtraptions and other theming by Storyland Studios. (For more information, circle 256 on card.) Special thanks to Julie Estrada for the great pictures and special insights into the inner workings of Legoland. This is a waterpark that I want to bring my own grandchildren to even though it is located 3,000 miles away! –