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Friday, September 30, 2011

Legoland Florida Ready for Soft Opening

Orlando Sentinel: The rides at Legoland Florida are up and ready to roll, as Central Florida's newest theme park prepares for its first guests this weekend — the contractors who built the park and the families of the park's 1,000 employees.

Legoland doesn't open to the public until Oct. 15., but the Winter Haven park is nearly ready, with rides in working order, landscaping all but complete, and hundreds of Lego sculptures scattered throughout the property, waiting to be discovered by eager eyes.

"We're in full training mode. Our merchandise people are filling in the stores, our food people are practicing food preparation," Jill Swidler, the park's marketing director, said Wednesday. "So we'll be ready to go Oct. 15."

Legoland conducted a brief, technical rehearsal Wednesday of part of its water-ski show, the first time the show has been done in full costume. Dubbed "The Battle for Brickbeard's Bounty," the show includes a boxy Lego pirate named Brickbeard and the "spicy and brave" heroine, Ms. Miranda, who defends Legoland's happy harbor with her Lego soldiers and a pirate-eating shark named Sawtooth. The show set comes complete with a large-scale model of a Lego pirate ship.

"We actually have a Lego ship that we modeled this after," said Marc Kish, project manager for Nassal, the Orlando company that built the set piece. "We had to make sure every line and every seam and every placement is true."

The park also gave members of the media a sneak peek of Lego City, with its Boating School, Ford Driving School and Lego City Rescue Academy — a firefighter-inspired race that pits family against family in a bid to battle a burning building.

"The rides at Legoland are really special rides in that, instead of being a passive participant, you're an active participant," said Bill Vollbrecht, the park's senior project designer. "Everything they do, it's hands on. They drive the car — there's no track. They drive the boat on open water."

The park's Lego Technic Test Track was also ready Wednesday. The steel roller coaster offers a high-rise view of the park before riders plunge down a 45-foot drop.

Legoland said it will soon begin selling discount tickets at area Publix Super Markets. At $60 for adults and $50 for children, the tickets cost $15 less than those purchased at the gate and $5 less than pre-opening prices available online.

Park officials also expressed confidence in their annual-pass sales, saying area residents are already clamoring to get into the attraction.

"Our pass sales are going through the roof, totally exceeding our expectations," Swidler said. "We know the locals are totally excited to get in here."

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