The CEO of Legoland’s parent company was in Orange County today, to announce that the theme park will open in 2020 in Goshen. Also there was New York’s economic development czar, who says the state will contribute millions of dollars more to the project.
Nick Varney is CEO of Merlin Entertainments.
“It’s with particular excitement and pride that we’re here today to announce the commencement of Legoland New York here in Goshen,” Varney said.
It will be the first Legoland in the Northeast and third in the U.S., joining others in Florida and California. Again, Varney.
“Legoland New York will be Merlin’s biggest ever single investment, as I said, $350 million. Quite a lot of money by any standards. And what it’s a reflection of is our confidence in this location, which we think is perfect. It lies right at the heart of Lego’s biggest market anywhere in the world.”
The announcement in Goshen came less than one week after the town planning board approved the site plan for Legoland, a proposal to build on 150 acres of a 522-acre site. Empire State Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky says the state is taking the next step in turning the Hudson Valley into a premier tourist destination.
“And the state is adding $18 million to its commitment to this project, bringing it up to $25 million,” Zemsky says.
Of the $18 million, Zemsky says $10 million will go to support road infrastructure improvements and traffic mitigation measures on Route 17. Traffic has been a major concern in the community. The money will go toward relocating and reconstructing the Exit 125 interchange on Route 17, constructing a new bridge over Route 17 and other improvements. Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus has been supportive of the project throughout.
“We want to make Orange County a place that people want to bring their families to, and what better thing than a park dedicated to 2-to-12-year-old kids,” Neuhaus says. “So, it’s an exciting day. It’s a big milestone, a major step for this project moving forward. And I think to have the CEO of the company and the CEO of the state’s economic development team here shows that this is the real thing.”
Again, the state’s Zemsky.
“Really there are not that many $350 million private sector investments. So that’s a big number. And when you talk about jobs, 1,300 — 500 full time, 300 part time, 500 seasonal — that’s a big number,” says Zemsky. “So I travel all over the state, do a lot of economic development announcements. Not that often are we talking about several hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and jobs over 1,000, so it’s great. It’s very significant.”
Opponents say Legoland will destroy Goshen’s character and negatively impact the environment and quality of life, not to mention traffic. They have vowed to continue fighting the project. New Hampton resident Christina Harnett says traffic was a major concern but believes it has been addressed. She was on hand for the announcement with her 9-year-old son.
“We’re thrilled that Legoland is part of New York now,” Harnett says. “We came to join in the celebration. It’s awesome.”
Asked whether there is anything to stand in the project’s way, Varney replies:
“I don’t believe so. I think we are going through all of the right processes," says Varney. "We’ve been taking all the right advice and working with all the authorities so, as far as we’re concerned, we’re sort of ticking the boxes as we go and believe that we will be on track to open the park in 2020.”
The theme park, with a 250-room Legoland hotel, is scheduled to be open from April 1 to November 1. The hotel would be open year round. Legoland New York anticipates generating $283 million in sales tax and hotel occupancy tax for Orange County over 30 years. The town of Goshen would receive about $71 million in revenue from the host community fee. Merlin plans educational programs and benefits as well.