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Nick Varney at “the world’s most beautiful theme park”


have done and we had relatively few prob- lems with planning because it was already zoned and licensed. Most of the big things that cause the problems are infrastructure, from car parking through to laying down the drainage. These were already in place, plus we had fantastic support from the local community. “But what’s truly spectacular about Legoland Florida,” he continues, “is that although it’s a new theme park, it looks like it’s been there forever. It’s just beautiful. I know I’m bound to say that, but I honestly believe that in very short order people will be saying that not only is it a fantas- tic Legoland park, but it’s also one of the most beautiful theme parks on the planet.”


BLACKPOOL Another huge project that Merlin has taken on this year is as partner in the regenera- tion of Blackpool, once one of the most popular seaside towns in the UK, but which has been in decline since the 1970s. Merlin recognised the resort’s potential and when the initial regeneration plan of using casinos to make Blackpool the Las


AM 4 2011 ©cybertrek 2011


LEGOLAND


Five theme parks: Windsor, UK with a hotel opening in 2012; Billund, Denmark with a hotel and Sea Life; Gunzburg, Germany with a holiday village; California, US with a waterpark and Sea Life; and Florida, US. Malaysia will open in 2012 and Korea, Japan and Dubai are in discussion


Vegas of the UK fell through, they were there with Plan B – relaunching the town as a 21st century family resort. “When it became evident that people in high places were willing to put some serious money into the project, then we were at the front of the queue to get involved,” he says. The regeneration includes the launch


of Merlin’s biggest portfolio of attractions in one place outside of London – focused around the extensive restoration of the iconic 158m (519ft)-tall Blackpool Tower. Newly opened is the Blackpool Tower Eye, Blackpool Tower Dungeon and Madame Tussauds – all joining Merlin’s original


Sea Life aquarium as well as the tower’s famous ballroom and circus. Development will continue over the next decade but Varney is confident that the town can regain the popularity with families it experi- enced in its heyday. “We’re very happy with what we’ve done,” he says. “There are huge plaudits coming in from everyone who’s seen it. On the launch day in September, a large group of quite cynical journalists, including tel- evision crews, broke into spontaneous applause at the end of the 4D cinema pre- show to the Eye. “Almost £300m (E345m, $464.5m) has been spent on the resort in the last five years,” he points out. “This has meant new trams, seven miles of fantastic beach [known as the Golden Mile] with the most modern, impressive seafront anywhere in Europe, increasingly high-quality accom- modation and regeneration throughout the entire town. Along the Golden Mile there’s the highest concentration of premier league attractions anywhere, including, not just ours, but other developments like Nickelodeon Land at the Pleasure Beach.”


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