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Legoland leaves evenings, certain days off its schedule

Orlando Sentinel

Original Article »

June 15, 2011

Planning a trip to Legoland when the park opens in October? Be sure to check the calendar first — and don't get a late start.

In a land of theme parks open every day of the year and often late into the evening, Legoland Florida plans to close by 5 p.m. most days when it first opens. And the park, scheduled to open Oct. 15 in Winter Haven, will be closed two days a week, at least during certain months of the year.

Legoland officials say the planned operating schedule is in keeping with the park's family friendly business model; still, the limited hours contrast with parks such as Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, which sometimes stays open as late as 2 a.m.

"We say we target kids 2 to 12," said Kim Isemann, Legoland Florida's director of sales and marketing. "We're backing that up, and we're going to be reasonable and not keep the park open all hours of the night so the kids get tired and grumpy."

According to a schedule on Legoland Florida's website, the park will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays in November and December except during holiday weeks. The park hasn't released its calendar and operating hours for 2012, but so far they are similar to the year-round schedule for the only other U.S. Legoland, in Carlsbad, Calif.

That park is open five days a week, with the exception of summer months and major holiday periods such as spring break.

"It works very well for them," said Isemann, who noted that Legoland is testing to see whether the same approach will work for Florida. "We understand the two markets are different." The Southern California park also stays open until 8 p.m. in the summer.

Lee Cockerell, a former Disney World executive vice president of operations, said anything short of a year-round calendar in Central Florida could be a problem for an attraction.

"I would be concerned about being closed a couple days a week, where you become inconsistent," Cockerell said. "Orlando's a seven-day-a-week business."

If Legoland can pull off a five-day week and 10-to-5 operating hours, it could help keep costs in line by limiting staff to a single shift and workweek. Most larger parks employ three work shifts, which requires more people.

"In our industry, salaries and wages range anywhere from 30 to 34 percent [of revenue]," said Manny Gonzalez, a Dallas-based theme-park consultant. "The way to minimize your risk in the expense line is to say, 'Well, let's pick a couple of days to close.' "

Most Central Florida theme parks and attractions open between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Closings can range from as early as 5 p.m. at Disney's Animal Kingdom during the fall to as late as 2 a.m. at the Magic Kingdom for special events.

By opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m., Legoland Florida is focusing on the hours of the day when the most people are inside the area's theme parks, said Adam Borgos, general manager of Michael's VIPs, a theme-park tour company.

"By about 5 o'clock, you've had enough fun, thank you very much," Borgos said. "You cross reference that with the fact that this park is going to cater to a younger demographic. … they just don't last as long."

Borgos said his company sees the biggest crowds at local theme parks Thursdays through Sundays. And though it's unusual for any park to close, Tuesdays and Wednesdays — relatively slow days — are probably the smartest options, he said.

Legoland, which is building on the site of the formerCypress Gardens theme park, said it plans to heavily promote its hours and schedule in marketing material and through industry partners, such as hotels and the AAA auto club.

Still, there's the potential for unsuspecting tourists to head to Winter Haven on a Tuesday or a Wednesday without having done their research, leaving them a 45-minute drive south of Orlando's other theme parks, staring at a locked Legoland.

"All the parks down here, they're all 365[-day operations], every one of them," Borgos said. "It wouldn't surprise me if you have people showing up there on Tuesday or Wednesday … who just didn't think about if that could be a possibility."


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