$500M Legoland Project Unveiled in Goshen

John Jordan | June 2016

GOSHEN—Merlin Entertainments PLC made its first presentation of its $500-million LEGOLAND New York theme park on June 14th to the Goshen Town Board and hundreds of local residents, politicians and members of the building trades.

Merlin Entertainments PLC, the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, will file plans with the Town of Goshen on Thursday, June 16th, according to John Ussher, senior divisional director, LEGOLAND Development. Merlin Entertainments, the developer and operator of the proposed park, is hopeful that it can secure all necessary approvals by January 2017 and open the theme park in early 2019. Merlin will seek a zone change from the Town of Goshen on 153 acres of the more than 500 acres it controls on a parcel that abuts Route 17 along Harriman Road between exits 124 and 125. Ussher and Merlin Senior Project Manager Ian Stewart made their presentation before a packed room at Orange County’s 911 Center in Goshen.

Ussher told Real Estate In-Depth that Merlin had considered sites all along the East Coast for the project that will also include a 250-room hotel and theme park. He said Merlin was also mulling properties in New Jersey and Virginia before deciding on pursuing the property off Harriman Road.

Real Estate In-Depth first reported Merlin’s confirmation that it had selected Goshen as its preferred site for its proposed Northeast theme park. Ussher said that if all approvals can be secured by January 2017, it would then go before the Merlin Board of Directors for final approval. If the project secures the board’s approval, construction could begin by April 2017, he added.

The Goshen theme park, catering to children from two to nine years old, will be Merlin’s third Legoland park in the United States, but will not include a water park. He added that the park would attract between 1.5 million to 2.5 million visitors each year and would be open from April 1 to the end of October. The park would be closed for the winter, with the exception of the hotel, which would be operational year-round. The LEGOLAND New York Resort will feature more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, including what Merlin described as “spectacular LEGO® models.”

The park’s design would mirror the successful concept of the six resorts operating in Florida, California, the United Kingdom, Germany, Malaysia and Denmark.

The Goshen project is expected to create approximately 800 construction jobs and Ussher received an ovation from the large number of building trades members in attendance when he told the Goshen Town Board that the park would be built as a prevailing wage project under a Project Labor Agreement with the local building trades. During peak season, the park when operational will crate 500 full-time jobs and 300 part-time jobs.

Ussher said that the total project would involve approximately 750,000 square feet of construction and will take two years to construct. He said that the theme park and hotel would create a resort at the property and that Merlin felt its estimated $500 million in investment during the first five years would be sufficient. He said the property does allow for future expansion and did not rule out the development of a water park sometime in the future at the property.

Merlin officials had proposed to build the Legoland park that would include an amusement park, a water park and a hotel at the 175-acre Letchworth Village site in Haverstraw and Stony Point in Rockland County. However, after the project, which had not been officially presented to the village, drew some local criticism, the Town Board and Town Supervisor Howard Phillips released a statement last October that the village would no longer consider the project. Shortly thereafter, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and the Orange County Partnership, along with officials from Empire State Development, began talks with Merlin Entertainments to develop the theme park in Orange County.

Ussher said that incentives from New York State and Orange County are critical for the project, particularly for the traffic improvements to Exit 125 and adjoining roads to facilitate better access to the property The project has already secured approximately $3 million from New York State in the Consolidated Funding Application competition. Ussher said that Merlin would be applying for further CFA awards this year. He added that the company would also be looking to secure incentives from the Orange County Industrial Development Agency.

“We believe this location, just an hour from New York City and approximately three hours from Boston and Philadelphia, is the absolute perfect site for an entertainment brand as compelling as Legoland,” Ussher said. “We would be honored to join the Goshen/Orange County community and are confident local and regional residents, in addition to international travelers coming to New York, would have a fantastic experience at the park.”

A public open house is scheduled for Thursday, July 7 to provide the community with an opportunity to see the proposed park’s preliminary design concepts. A location and time for the open house was not made available at press time.

Merlin Entertainments operates more than 100 attractions, 13 hotels and four holiday villages in 23 countries and across four continents. The first Legoland Park opened in 1968 in Billund, Denmark, following by Windsor in the United Kingdom in 1996 and in California in 1999. In 2002, Legoland Deutschland opened. Since 2005, those four parks have belonged to British-based Merlin Entertainments Group. In 2011, the group opened Legoland Florida and Legoland Malaysia in 2012. Legoland Dubai is scheduled to open in October 2016 and Legoland Japan is projected to open in the second quarter of 2017.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth