Merlin Entertainments Announces Plans for First Attraction in Canada

$12 Million Legoland Discovery Centre to Open in Toronto's Vaughan Mills

TORONTO, May 24, 2012 /CNW/ - Global leisure giant Merlin Entertainments (Merlin), the world's second biggest visitor attraction operator, announced today plans to build the company's first ever attraction in Canada - a $12M LEGOLAND Discovery Centre (LDC).  It will open in spring 2013 at Vaughan Mills, one of the Greater Toronto Area's (GTA) premier shopping and entertainment destinations, owned and operated by Ivanhoé Cambridge.

Merlin's newest attraction concept, the unique LEGOLAND Discovery Centre will offer a fun, highly interactive and educational two to three-hour indoor experience specifically designed for families with children 3-10 years old.  Based on the ever popular LEGO brick, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres provide a range of play areas including a 4D cinema; a brick pool, master classes from the LEGO Master Model Builder; exciting LEGO rides; special party rooms for birthdays and other celebrations. Also included will be the popular MINILAND exhibit, found in every LDC and LEGOLAND Resort Theme Park.  Each one is different however and designed to reflect the iconic buildings and skyline of each individual attraction's location featuring buildings nominated by the local community.

This new attraction at Vaughan Mills underlines Merlin's aggressive global growth plan, spearheaded by significant development in key cities throughout North America.   Canada will be the 21st country in which Merlin has attractions.  In 2012 alone, the company will open 6 new attractions, including 4 in the USA; as well as continuing to invest in new experiences and improved customer service across its existing portfolio of 90 attractions. 

Glenn Earlam, Managing Director of Merlin's Midway Attractions Operating Group, which includes the LDCs, comments "The LEGOLAND Discovery Centre concept is already successful in both Europe and the USA, and I know people will love it here in Canada, which is a very important development market for Merlin.  We are absolutely delighted to be opening our first attraction here, and believe that Toronto, and particularly the City of Vaughan, which is already a popular destination for family visitors, just 32 kilometres north of Downtown Toronto, is exactly the right location for us.   More than that, 5.4 million consumers reside in the Trade Area of this new attraction; of which a high proportion are families with young children.   Our experience has  shown that bringing together an exciting mix of retail, dining, and quality leisure attractions like the LDC, creates a whole new element to a family shopping day, delivering significant incremental business to both the shopping centre, and to the area as a whole.  Such projects play an important part in Merlin's future growth strategy for our 'midway' or indoor City Centre attractions."

Earlam remarks "I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both Ivanhoé Cambridge, with whom I hope we develop a long and close working relationship for the future, and the City of Vaughan including Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, for their support.  The enthusiasm with which we have been welcomed was a key factor in selecting our location. Our plan is to start work on the premises later this summer, as we anticipate a spring 2013 opening.  In fact, this is just the beginning of Merlin's introduction into Canada, and we have already identified two other potential new sites."

Merlin currently has 14 attractions in North America including LEGOLAND Discovery Centres in Chicago,  Dallas/Fort Worth; Atlanta Georgia and Kansas City, Missouri; the stunning LEGOLAND Florida theme park, which opened in October last year; LEGOLAND California theme park, with its exciting Water Park, and SEA LIFE aquarium (a hotel will also open in 2013); Madame Tussauds attractions in New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Hollywood; and SEA LIFE aquariums in Phoenix, Arizona; Dallas/Fort Worth and the Mall of America in Minneapolis, underlining the company's position as the world's biggest global aquarium operator.   2 more Merlin attractions are also scheduled to open in the USA in 2012 - a SEA LIFE in Kansas City, Missouri and a Water Park in LEGOLAND Florida.

"As a leading owner and manager of shopping centres across Canada, Ivanhoé Cambridge continually strives to provide best-in-class experiences for consumers in all its properties." declared George Fiddler, Senior Vice President, Retail, Central North America.

"The decision by Merlin Entertainments to build a LEGOLAND Discovery Centre at Vaughan Mills, already one of GTA's premier shopping and entertainment destinations, reinforces the centre's reputation as a distinct tourist attraction," declared Stephen Gascoine, General Manager, Vaughan Mills. "Vaughan Mills is thrilled to partner with Merlin Entertainments and welcomes this exciting new attraction to our growing list of entertainment, dining, outlet and fashion retailers."

Construction for the approximate 34,000 square foot site is expected to begin in summer 2012.  LEGO models for this Vaughan Mills location will be made in Merlin's specialist studios around the world and shipped in during the construction phase.

"The LEGOLAND Discovery Centre will be a wonderful addition to all the great tourism attractions in Ontario," said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Chan.  "Ontario is a premier global travel destination and now visitors - as well as parents and children from our province - have one more great reason to visit. This is a great entertainment venue that will generate jobs and growth."

Ontario is North America's premier destination for foreign direct investment with highly competitive corporate tax rates and business costs; educated workforce; and efficient infrastructure. The province is also the largest travel destination in Canada, with over 139 million people within a day's drive of southern Ontario.

"This is great news for the City of Vaughan," said Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua. "It has been a pleasure working with Merlin Entertainments Group to make the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre project a reality.  As a city, we are very proud that we were chosen as the best city to host this very impressive and world class entertainment venue.  I welcome Merlin Entertainments and this great attraction to our dynamic and vibrant community ."

City of Vaughan, Ward 4 Councillor Sandra Yeung Racco echoed his comments.   "I am very happy to hear that Merlin Entertainments Group has chosen Vaughan Mills, in the heart of the City of Vaughan, as the location for its first attraction in all of Canada - a LEGOLAND Discovery Centre.  LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is a wonderful family venue, and I have no doubt it will prove to be a great tourist attraction for the city and for Vaughan Mills. I have been a long time proponent of developing tourism infrastructure as part of our economic development strategy in order to bring both full-time employment and investment to the City of Vaughan, and the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre will be a great addition to the tourism landscape of Vaughan."

Notes to Editors


ABOUT MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS:
Merlin Entertainment is the leading name in location-based, family entertainment, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last five years. Europe's Number 1 and the world's second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin now operates 90 attractions, 7 hotels/2 holiday villages in 19 countries and across 4 continents, including 14 in the USA. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 46 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and more than 18,000 employees.  Among Merlin's attractions are  - SEA LIFE, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, The EDF Energy London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, THORPE PARK, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Blackpool Tower, Heide Park, Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye and SKYWALK, Siam Ocean World and Busan Aquarium.  All brands which are distinctive, challenging and innovative - and which have great potential for growth in the future. Visit www.merlinentertainments.biz for more information.

ABOUT VAUGHAN MILLS:
It's the thrill of the hunt that draws savvy shoppers to Vaughan Mills, where an exceptional mix of factory outlets and specialty concept stores make it a top destination attracting over 13.7M consumers, families and tourists each year.  The centre is a true hybrid of the best attributes of an enclosed regional mall, power centre, outlet mall and entertainment venue set in an ambiance of distinctive design and architecture.  This powerful retail mix offers many Canadian retail "firsts", and "exclusive-to-Vaughan Mills" concepts such as Holt Renfrew Last Call, Michael Kors Outlet, Juicy Couture Outlet, Lacoste Outlet, A/X Armani Exchange Outlet, Hugo Boss Outlet and many more.  Vaughan Mills also includes tourist and entertainment attractions such as Hollywood's Lucky Strike Lanes, Pro Hockey Life and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.  Located in the City of Vaughan, the fastest growing municipality in Canada, the centre is well positioned for easy accessibility along Hwy 400, just 32 km north of downtown Toronto. The massive trade area covers a 65 km radius and totals over 5.4M residents who enjoy a household income 10.5% above the provincial average at $97,574. Vaughan Mills is proudly Canadian and is owned and managed by Ivanhoé Cambridge, ivanhoecambridge.com.

For further information:

MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS

Sally Ann Wilkinson / Penny Roberts    
Tel:        + 44 (0) 20 8899 6110 / + 44 (0) 20 8948 4225
Mobile:   + 44 (0) 7774 415372 / + 44 (0) 7887 542490
Home:    + 44 (0)20 8948 3725 (Sally Ann Wilkinson)
Email:      saw@thefirmcomms.compar@thefirmcomms.com

Merlin Entertainments' Real Estate Enquiries in Canada/ North America contact: 

Howard J. Samuels, President
Samuels & Company, Inc.
14011 Ventura Blvd., Suite 209 East
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Tel:   818-817-9500 
Email:   hsamuels@samuelscompany.com

VAUGHAN MILLS

Jamie MacLean, SCMD
Marketing Director, Vaughan Mills 
Direct: 905-879-2115 
Mobile:  416-936-5532
Email:    jamie.maclean@ivanhoecambridge.com 


For media enquiries:
Hayley Findlay
NATIONAL Public Relations
T: 416-586-1929
hfindlay@national.ca