Home Entertainment Legoland adds to national footprint with Yonkers center

Legoland adds to national footprint with Yonkers center

Maddie Miller, left, of New City, and Alex Luis of Tarrytown examine the million-Lego “Miniland” exhibit at the new Legoland Discovery Center Westchester in Yonkers March 21. Photo by Jim Sulley/Newscast.
Maddie Miller, left, of New City, and Alex Luis of Tarrytown examine the million-Lego “Miniland” exhibit at the new Legoland Discovery Center Westchester in Yonkers March 21. Photo by Jim Sulley/Newscast.

“If you build it, they will come” worked swell for a movie ballfield carved into a cornfield.

The new take on the adage as espoused by Legoland Discovery Center Westchester is: “If they build it, they will come.”

At 32,300 square feet – about 75 percent of an acre – and containing 3 million plastic blocks, Legoland Westchester at 1 Ridge Hill Blvd. in Yonkers is the fifth such center nationally and 10th globally. United Kingdom-based Merlin Entertainments Group, the owner, puts the price tag to open at $12 million. It is expected to employ 100, though there was no listed breakdown by full- and part-time workers.

Merlin runs sites globally, including in Australia, Hong Kong, China and 10 European nations. Merlin’s brands include the London Eye (the giant Ferris wheel on the River Thames), Madame Tussauds wax museums and several iterations of adventure lands, aquariums and wildlife parks. They attracted a total 46.4 million visitors in 2011, which was up 13 percent from 2010.

The other four American Legolands are in Atlanta, Kansas City, Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago.

“We’re second to Disney in total visitors worldwide,” said Legoland Westchester manager Chris Mines, who assumes the reins having previously worked for Merlin at the London Eye and at the Las Vegas Madame Tussauds for 12 years total. “We began this Westchester program in November. Just to construct Miniland of more than a million blocks took 20 builders nearly six months to complete.” Miniland encompasses New York City and Westchester landmarks in day/night cycles that take just five minutes, not 24 hours. “It’s been a new experience, but real fun so far,” he said.

The new Legoland can accommodate between 650 and 750 persons. The target audience is children ages 3 to 10 and their families. A birthday party offering begins May 9. Mines said that after summer he would look to introduce corporate events. There is a 98-seat theater.

Children must be accompanied, which prevents the site from becoming a daycare center. It is, in fact, something of an engineering school. “We encourage interactive learning between parents and children,” Mines said.

There is an onsite Builder Academy to teach construction techniques. “The skills required to build a good model are the fundamental engineering skills,” Mines said. “We even have an earthquake table. We switch on the power and if the building is not built properly it will fall. It really shows them the importance of a good foundation.”

The site was set to open officially March 27, having already enjoyed a limited opening a week prior for 100 lucky gatecrashers from a pair of regional schools. Tickets are $18 for ages 3 to 12 and $22 for 13 and up; children under age 2 get in free.

Prebooking perks include special ticket prices and priority entry to the attraction.

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Bill Fallon is editor of the Fairfield County Business Journal. He has worked at Westfair Communications for more than five years, previously editing an upstate New York daily and a national motorcycle magazine in Nevada. He attended Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the University of Virginia.

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