An artist's rendition shows Legoland Florida's planned hotel in Winter Haven The hotel is scheduled to open in 2015, the company announced on Thursday. / AP/Legoland Florida
WINTER HAVEN - While shoveling a ceremonial scoop of Lego bricks, Legoland Florida executives announced Thursday that the theme park will build a 152-room hotel on its property by 2015.
The news is significant for both the theme park and the area. Since opening in 2011, the park has drawn many guests from families who are staying in Orlando and visiting the area's large theme parks like Disney or Universal.
A brightly-colored Lego-themed hotel is expected to draw more visitors for longer stays to Winter Haven, a small city in Polk County about 50 miles from Walt Disney World.
"This shifts us from a single-day visit to a multi-day destination," said Adrian Jones, the general manager of Legoland Florida.
This will be the world's fifth Legoland Hotel; there is currently Lego-themed lodging in California, England and Denmark. Another hotel is under construction in Malaysia.
Local Florida officials said they traveled to the California location and saw how the Legoland park and hotel has expanded the entire area's tourism offerings.
"This was our hope from the beginning," said Winter Haven Mayor JP Powell, adding that he's hoping other large hotel, restaurant and tourism companies will build in the area - which was once orange groves decades ago.
Legoland Florida is located on what was once Cypress Gardens, an old-timey Florida theme park that offered water ski shows and Southern belles dressed in hoop skirts. Some of Cypress Gardens' amenities, such as the historic botanical area, were preserved and are still on Legoland grounds.
The new hotel will overlook Lake Eloise, where water ski shows are still held.
According to artist renderings distributed at the Thursday news conference, the four-story Florida hotel will look a lot like the one in Carlsbad, Calif., but Jones said the new hotel would be more innovative and have several different features for Lego fans.
Legoland Florida is based on the building-block toys and has rides and attractions geared toward ages 2 to 12. The Winter Haven location is one of five Lego-based theme parks in the world, and the company's largest. The Florida location has expanded several times in two years, adding a "Star Wars"-themed area, a water park and a new ride and interactive play area based on the company's popular Legends of Chima product line.
The company opened its park and resort in April in California. Visitors to the hotel there are greeted by a fire-breathing dragon made of 400,000 Lego bricks.
Guest rooms are decorated in pirate, adventure or kingdom themes, and most items in the rooms appear as if they are built of Legos.
"From a child's eyes, what an ultimate experience to wake up in the world's largest Legoland," said Jones.