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Legoland launches process to build hotel

San Diego Union Tribune

Original Article »

February 01, 2008

CARLSBAD – Legoland California has taken a step toward fulfilling a longtime dream of building its own hotel on the grounds of its Carlsbad amusement park, for families who can't get enough of the tiny building blocks.

“It's a direct extension of the park and park experience,” John Jakobsen, Legoland California's president and general manager, said yesterday. “For 24 hours you are immersed in the Legoland experience.”

He said the hotel would feature Lego-themed rooms and other features to extend the park experience beyond the gates.

The park, which is based on the popular toy building blocks and their miniature figures, opened in March 1999 and caters to families with children 2 to 12 years old.

Last week the park filed an application for a “specific plan amendment” that would allow it to build a hotel on the grounds. Jakobsen said the hotel would be built next to the main entrance.

That amendment is the first step in a lengthy process that would culminate in construction.

“You're looking a few years down the road before you see a Legoland hotel,” Jakobsen said. “We have to respect the planning process.”

He said the company is working on the design, so he had few specifics. He said the hotel initially would have about 200 rooms, with 250 when it's completed.

“We of course feel that a Legoland hotel will not only be a great addition to the park but a great addition to the city, and (it will) be an important TOT generator for years to come,” Jakobsen said. TOT stands for transient occupancy tax, the city's 10 percent levy on occupied hotel rooms.

Jakobsen said the park will observe the city's height restrictions and other limitations, and he hopes to meet with the city planning staff soon to discuss the project.

Legoland management has said for years that it would like to build a hotel at the park north of Palomar Airport Road and east of Interstate 5.

Jakobsen said its Denmark park includes a Lego-themed hotel, and its parent company, Merlin Entertainment, has built hotels at other parks. Merlin is owned by the Blackstone Group, a private investment firm.

“There's expertise now in how (we) can develop and construct a hotel, so we are leaning heavily on that experience,” Jakobsen said.

On Tuesday, the City Council will hear another plan amendment proposed by Legoland that would allow for a different type of overnight experience: park sleepovers.

Jakobsen said Legoland staff members are working on the specifics, but the proposal would allow visitors to camp in the theme park. Other local parks, including the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Sea World, offer such programs.

The council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive.

The same application would give the city planning director discretion to approve rides or other changes in the entertainment section of the park.

Van Lynch, a Carlsbad senior planner, said the park has gone through Planning Commission and City Council hearings to get such approvals in the past, but there have been no controversies.

“There's height restrictions, use restrictions, ride restrictions,” Lynch said. “They're not thrill rides.”

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