Legoland Florida: Gardens staying, Starliner going, jobs coming
News and notes from Thursday's "open house" for Legoland Florida, which was held in Winter Haven's Orange Dome, down the street a few miles from the site of the new theme park, which will be built where the Cypress Gardens attraction was. (Full news story by Sentinel staff writer Sara K. Clarke and yours truly here.)

+ It was an impressive turnout of locals. Clearly, residents of Winter Haven and Polk County have an attachment to the Cypress Gardens property, and many of them have a watchful eye on the botonical gardens proper. Many in the crowd -- numbering in the thousands -- were former Cypress Gardens employees and many were hoping to be among the hundreds of future hires coming to Legoland Florida. (No applications were being taken at the Thursday event. Go to for more information.)

+ On the scene were blown-up before-and-after representations of Cypress Gardens features and their future Lego-ized look. For instance, Adventure Arcade becomes Imagination Zone, Aunt Julie's Country Kitchen becomes the Garden Restaurant and Jubilee Mercantile becomes Big Shop. There were a handful of Lego scuptures on hand, representing a firefight, Bob the Builder, Darth Vader and the centerpiece, a blocky version of Rodin's "The Thinker." Monitors showed scenes of rides and attractions from the Legoland park in California.

+ Distinctive to the Florida park, executives said, will be the gardens themselves -- which will have "very little" Lego theming and a revamped ski show, which WILL have a Lego theme. How that's to be carried out is still to be determined, said John Ussher, managing director of Legoland Development. He told the group they had narrowed it to three concepts.

+ Not surviving the transition to Legoland is Starliner, the big wooden roller coaster transplanted from a shuttered amusement park in the Florida panhandle a couple of years ago. In fact, the disassembly process has begun. "We couldn't use that for the park," said John Jakobsen, managing director of Legoland. To me, that's a pity. The owners are trying to find a buyer for the ride, which was first constructed in 1963. A newly constructed castle-themed area will go where the Starliner currently stands.

+ Florida icons will be incorporated in the "Mini-land" area, but exactly which ones will be built of Legos is still up in the air. What would you like to see?

+ Ussher tried to diffuse a persistent rumor that Merlin Entertainments Group, which will operate Legoland Florida, has purchased a shopping center across Cypress Gardens Boulevard from the park in order to build a hotel. It's not true, he told the assembled folk. ("Oh, good, I won't lose my Publix," said one lady.) Related: There are no current plans to rename Cypress Gardens Boulevard or Cypress Gardens Road.

+ Legoland Florida is expected to open in the fall of 2011. Legoland Malaysia, which will be the sixth Lego park in the world, is set to open in 2012.