Legoland California Resort is going back in time as it moves forward to celebrate 25 years in Carlsbad next year.
The theme park was closed for 13 months in 2020 and into 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has recovered, and new investments are being made in it, said Legoland President Kurt Stocks.
A portion of the 128-acre theme park with more than 60 rides and attractions is currently in construction mode, as Legoland changes its Explorer Island area to “make extinct” the Safari Trek and Fairy Tale Brook rides as it creates Dino Valley in its place.
Dino Valley, set to open in March, will offer “an immersive dinosaur experience,” Stocks said, and have two rides, Explorer River Quest and Duplo Little Dino Trail. Explorer River Quest is a river-feel expedition that takes riders to see Lego dinosaurs, including a Tyrannosaurus rex, while the Duplo Little Dino Trail puts riders in four-seat vehicles to travel through a safari of Lego Duplo dinosaurs.
The Coastersaurus roller coaster and Dino Dig interactive zone (which will be updated) will stay.
“We’re seeing, as most destinations are… similar to other attractions, the hotel industry and theme parks… a really nice recovery post-COVID,” Stocks said. “Obviously, COVID was quite devastating to the industry. Since everyone’s had the chance to reopen since 2021, we’ve seen across the board a steady increase and a return to attractions.”
Stocks said that since the pandemic, the park has had “a nice run of successful launches and investments,” including Lego Movie World in 2021 and the hugely popular Ferrari “Build and Race” interactive attraction in 2022 that features a life-size Ferrari F40 model developed by the Lego Group.
Local and Master Builders
Merlin Entertainments, the British-headquartered group that took a controlling interest in the park in 2005 and which operates more than 140 attractions, 24 hotels and six holiday villages in 24 countries, has tasked local Carlsbad contractor Align Builders, Inc. to oversee the design and build of the Dino Valley project, which is 1.32 acres altogether.
Align, founded in 2014, is known for its technical buildings in San Diego and Orange counties, particularly in the healthcare, science, technology and higher education spheres. Its work includes the Cancer Infusion Center at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, an instrument make-ready lab at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and a student services building at MiraCosta College.
Legoland California Resort Master Model Builders Tim Sams, Phillip Catalano, Chris Schuenemann and Jeremy Schuenemann are designing and building Dino Valley Lego models.
In 1999, Legoland California became the first Legoland park to open outside of Europe. There are 10 Legoland parks in operation, with two other U.S. Legoland sites opening since Carlsbad. Legoland opened its 145-acre site in Florida in 2011 and its 150-acre site in New York in 2021. The Legoland California Resort includes the theme park, the Sea Life Aquarium, the Legoland Water Park, Lego Movie World and two hotels.
Legoland Resort in Carlsbad employes 8,000 of Merlin’s total 30,000 employees.
Financial Performance ‘Above Pre-Pandemic Levels’
Julie Estrada, public relations director for Merlin Entertainments North America, said that in 2022, the company welcomed 56 million guests overall and that in Q1 of 2023, Merlin reported revenue and visitor numbers up more than 30% than in the same period of 2022.
“I think much of this can be attributed to robust consumer demand, the continued return of international tourism, working with popular global IPs and the opening of new attractions across the globe,” Estrada said.
Estrada said working with IPs has added a new significance to Merlin and new openings with LEGO and other global brand partners like Ferrari, Sony Pictures and Hasbro.
Estrada said the company can’t disclose specific numbers regarding investments, but in Merlin Entertainments’ financial results for 2022, the company “showed strong performance at above the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 with strong optimism for great 2023 results.”
Its half-year review through June 2023 reported that “The LEGOLAND Resorts Operating Group continued its growth trajectory, underpinned by positive trading in the Europe and Asia Pacific divisions. The North American resorts had a more challenging start to the year with extended periods of wet and cold weather in California.”
Stocks said 2024’s Legoland offerings will also include a new Lego World Parade, the first parade in North America for the brand. It will feature floats themed to a Lego City fire truck, pirate ship and other themes related to Lego City Deep Sea Adventure, Lego Ninjago and Lego Friends. The parade will run through the summer.
San Diego Tourism Authority President and CEO Julie Coker said Legoland is an important part of many people’s visits to the San Diego region and congratulated the park for an “incredible 25 years.”
“Legoland has been a great partner of ours and complements San Diego’s status as the ultimate family destination,” Coker said. “Next year’s celebration with the all-new Dino Valley and Lego World Parade will make the attraction even more exciting and a must-visit for families traveling to San Diego in 2024.”
Legoland California Resort
PRESIDENT: Kurt Stocks
BUSINESS: Theme park
SOCIAL IMPACT: British-headquartered Merlin Entertainments, Legoland’s majority owners, announced that it will publish a comprehensive impact report on its social impact in the United Kingdom in Q1 in 2024.
NOTABLE: All three Legoland parks in the U.S. in 2023 became Certified Autism Centers, working with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards