1. Business

Legoland Florida to open new hotel, new land for girls

WINTER HAVEN — After breaking attendance and revenue records in 2014, Legoland Florida Resort is looking to smash them again by addressing the brick-happy park's two greatest needs: a hotel on property, opening May 15, and a "land" aimed at preteen girls called Heartlake City, which will be pink and perky and pegged for later in the summer.

Opened in 2011 on the site of the old Cypress Gardens, the 150-acre Legoland Florida has proved a success mainly because it has little interest in trying to compete with Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. "We've never tried to be all things to all people," said park general manager Adrian Jones, who adds that the park has kept the same demographic in sight: kids ages 2 to 12.

It's a "niche" park, Jones says, for the past few years a place for people to stop on the way from SeaWorld to Busch Gardens. But the Legoland Hotel should change that a bit, keeping more guests inside the property. "Before we were a stop on the way to Orlando or Tampa," says Julie Estrada, media relations manager. "Now we're not just a stop — we're a destination."

The five-story, 152-room hotel, which will be adorned by more than 2,000 Lego sculptures (including a dragon out front), is relatively small next to sprawling Disney World standards, but that's deliberate, too. "We're trying to create demand," says Jones, hoping that staying in the hotel will be special, intimate.

Each room will be themed to the hilt via designs including "Pirate" (swashbuckling critters), "Adventure" (Egyptian critters) and "Kingdom" (medieval critters). And, yes, rooms will have play areas and tons of Lego to snap together. (Talk about stealing towels and shampoo.) Standard rooms will start at $279, which includes an all-you-can-eat breakfast, a model shop, a pool and a separate entrance to the park. Oh, and a flashy "disco elevator," which, at the very least, will introduce a new generation to the glory of the Bee Gees.

Heartlake City could be an even bigger draw. Lego "has always been boy-dominated," says Jones, and yet the Lego Friends toy line — like Barbie in brick form, built around five sassy gals — "has been our most successful female brand for girls by a mile." Heartlake City, based on the five primary Lego Friends characters (Emma! Stephanie! Mia! Andrea! Olivia!), will feature an interactive stage show called "Friends to the Rescue" and a selfie-perfect purple convertible hot-rod that can also be bought in a miniature form.

"Obviously, the theme of Heartlake City is girl-intensive," says Rex Jackson, the park's marketing and sales director. "But it's also meant to be appealing to the entire family and complement the rest of the park."

What could draw the boys to Heartlake City — you know, besides all those girls — will be a "pink-knuckle" attraction called Mia's Riding Adventure, a spinning disc coaster that also incorporates super-cute ponies.

Contact Sean Daly at Follow @seandalypoplife.