The new blockbuster attraction, which is expected to open this fall, is an indoor paradise for Lego lovers.
The buildup to Ohio’s first Legoland Discovery Center has been kicked up a notch.
Easton hosted a groundbreaking Feb. 6 that drew local and state officials as well as several dozen curious onlookers—many of them parents with young children. Since Legoland will be part of the existing Station building, no shovels of dirt were turned. Instead, a front-end loader dumped 90,000 Lego bricks onto the splash pad.
The new attraction, which is expected to open this fall, is an indoor paradise for Lego lovers. The $10 million, 36,000-square-foot play center will take over the space formerly occupied by KDB and GameWorks and will be owned and operated by Merlin Entertainments. (The Lego store already at Easton is expected to remain open.)
Legoland Discovery Center Columbus will feature 10 play areas, two interactive rides, Master Model Builder classes, a vehicle test track, 4-D cinema, party room, café and a Miniland Ohio. Miniland, a signature area found in all Legolands, will depict landmarks from Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. In all, the venue will boast more than 1 million bricks, said general manager Jacob Kristensen. “There will be so much to do for kids and their parents and so much to explore as well that they will want to come again and again,” he said. “The mall was the perfect choice for Merlin Entertainments.”
“Easton is about family and experiences, and we can’t think of a more terrific partner to make that experiential journey come to life even more so,” said Easton CEO Jennifer Peterson.
Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus, said Legoland is an ideal fit for the already-family-oriented Easton. “This is definitely the most fun I’ve ever had at a groundbreaking,” he said. “We know this is one of our top destinations in the city of Columbus.”
Ross said the attraction also could build on the region’s tourism base. “Visitors plan an important role in the overall economy. On an annual basis, we’ll welcome over 40 million visitors into the city of Columbus and Franklin County, and with that those visitors will spend close to $6.4 billion and represent over 75,000 jobs,” he said.
Legoland Discovery Center Columbus is among 12 open or in development in North America and 22 worldwide. “There’s a number of factors whenever we look at a new attraction,” said Johnny Campbell, new operations director for Merlin. These include location, demographics, population and even mall landlords. A project can take two to three years just to reach the groundbreaking phase, he said. “We’re hugely excited to be here,” Campbell said. “It’s a great location. … People seem really excited as well.”
A fall grand opening will introduce Legoland to the city. Two key events will take place before that, Campbell said, including recruiting the so-called creative crew. “We look for children like these children here in hats to come and help us … design and be kind of ambassadors for our Legoland Discovery Center,” he said. Then there’s Brick Factor, a contest to find a Master Model Builder. Campbell called that person “the hero of the attraction” who will teach kids to use different building techniques.
The first Legoland Discovery Center opened in Berlin in 2007. The attractions, where the average visit lasts two to three hours, are geared toward families with children ages 3-10. Merlin does not disclose attendance figures. The other U.S. Legoland Discovery Centers are in Atlanta; Auburn Hills, Michigan; Boston; Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Kansas City, Missouri; Philadelphia; San Antonio (opening in 2019); Tempe, Arizona; and Westchester, New York. At the Michigan center—the closest to Columbus—online rates for admission start at $18; ages 2 and younger get in free. Learn more at columbus.legolanddiscoverycenter.com.