Merlin Entertainments is already building Legoland Florida outside of Orlando, now they’ve announced plans to open a Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and build a 425-foot-tall Orlando Eye observation wheel in a new shopping center on International Drive. [Read more…]
It was nearly two months ago that the sale of Busch Entertainment Corp. and its theme parks to The Blackstone Group was made public. Now a new name for the company has been revealed.
“SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment” replaces “Busch Entertainment Corporation” with the closing of the sale announced jointly today by Anheuser-Busch InBev and The Blackstone Group.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates 10 parks across the U.S., including SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica in Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and Adventure Island in Tampa.
“[SeaWorld] is one of the world’s most widely recognized and respected family travel brands,” said Jim Atchison, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment President. “SeaWorld has been a brand associated with quality family entertainment since SeaWorld San Diego opened its gates for the first time in March 1964.”
For now, Busch Gardens retains the Busch name.
By Andy Guinigundo
Let’s go over the scorecard: The Blackstone Group describes itself as an “alternative asset manager and financial advisory firm”. In this layman’s definition it is a company that owns companies. Most recently, it acquired Busch Entertainment Corporation – the company that owns Busch Gardens and SeaWorld. Blackstone also jointly owns Universal Orlando with NBC Universal. Blackstone is also the parent company of Merlin Entertainments Group who run Legoland parks worldwide, Tussauds, as in Madame Tussauds of wax museum fame, Sea Life Aquariums, and other entertainment holdings worldwide.
Why go through the exhaustive amusement park family tree? Well, about 38 miles southwest of Walt Disney World there is a classic park that sits closed: Cypress Gardens. While I am not here to fan the flames of rumor, it has been speculated that perhaps Merlin is looking to put a Legoland in this location. If Legoland might be a Central Florida neighbor, let’s take a closer look at the only U.S. version of the park and throw in a little Halloween for fun.
About 30 miles north of San Diego and one hour south of Anaheim is Carlsbad, Calif. Carlsbad is home to the 128-acre Legoland California and Sea Life Aquarium which comprise the Legoland California Resort. As any theme park, it is made up of interactive attractions, rides, shows and restaurants. They describe themselves as a “family” park aimed particularly at children age 2 to 12 years old and their families.
Of course, the theme is the Danish building blocks called Lego. There are more than 15,000 Lego models park-wide made of more than 35 million Lego bricks. Scenes include the Las Vegas Strip and Washington D.C. Master model builders have the ability to build anything to depict current events. Recent models include the Presidential Inauguration and the Little League World Series winners from California.
The park is made up of several themed lands. Some of these are Dino Island, Explore Village, Fun Town, Pirate Shores, Miniland USA and Land of Adventure. Attractions within these lands include the “standards”: water attractions (Splash Battle, Soak-n-Sail), a dark ride (Lost Kingdom Adventure), driving ride (Volvo Driving School, LEGO TECHNIC Test Track), flying rides (Sky Patrol, Cargo Ace), and coasters (Coastersaurus, Knights’ Tournament).
Sea Life Aquarium is also owned by Merlin and is part of the Legoland California Resort. Guests pay a separate entry fee into this 36,000 square foot, two-story structure that houses 36 displays with more than 250,000 gallons of water. The aquarium emphasizes education, interactivity, and sea conservation. More than 200 species of underwater creatures are featured. These include sharks, seahorses, puffer fish, jellyfish, stingrays and others.
Just like Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, Legoland has special seasonal events. For the Halloween season, they’ve brought back the Brick-or-Treat Party again for 2009. Each Saturday and Sunday in October, kids 12 years old and under take part in costume contests, trick-or-treating, dance contests and other live entertainment in a not-too-spooky environment. Costumes are judged in one of three categories: creative, spooky and Lego. Trick-or-treating takes place on the Brick-or-Treat Trail where children receive treats, trading cards and a commemorative Lego brick. Brick-or-Treat is included in the daily admission or guests can attend just the evening party at a special price.
So, a lot of questions persist. Will they build it? Will we come? Is Orlando a case of the more the merrier or is the market saturated with parks already? These are questions for someone more financially savvy than me to ponder. There is certainly a segment of Orlando visitors that meet the age demographic. I believe the Lego brand is unique. I remember building things with Lego as a child. I have a desire for my kids to play with toys like Lego that expand the imagination. What could be wrong with an amusement park centered on building, imagination and adventure?
• Andy Guinigundo is the author of the Out of The Loop column in “Orlando Attractions Magazine”. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and three daughters. He grew up frequenting theme parks around Ohio and making trips to Orlando with his family. While for most of the year, he’s out of the Orlando loop, he tries to visit Florida at least once a year.
Anheuser-Busch InBev and The Blackstone Group announced today that Anheuser-Busch InBev will sell its entertainment business to Blackstone Capital Partners V L.P. for up to $2.7 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, Blackstone will acquire Anheuser-Busch InBev’s wholly owned subsidiary, Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC), the second largest entertainment park operator in the United States with approximately 25 million annual visitors
The purchase includes:
- SeaWorld, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida
- Busch Gardens and Adventure Island in Tampa Bay, Florida
- Two more SeaWorld parks in San Antonio, Texas and San Diego, California
- Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia
- Other Busch/InBev-owned family entertainment attractions in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
In addition to the new purchase, Blackstone also currently owns 50 percent of the Universal Orlando theme parks. The firm also owns Merlin Entertainments Group, which owns Legoland theme parks, Madame Tussauds Wax Museums, The London Eye and more.
Worlds of Discovery President Jim Atchison made this statement:
“A short time ago, Blackstone Capital Partners V L.P., an investor fund advised by The Blackstone Group, announced that it had reached agreement with Anheuser-Busch InBev to purchase the company’s entertainment park division, Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC). While you may have never heard of BEC, if you are reading these words you know who we are.
“BEC operates 10 Worlds of Discovery – SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld San Antonio, Busch Gardens Tampa, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Sesame Place, Adventure Island and Water Country USA – some of the best-known and most-loved entertainment parks in the world today. More than 25,000 men and women make up our team. Each is dedicated to providing you the very finest family entertainment experiences and service anywhere.
“For all of us at Worlds of Discovery, this is an exciting development. This new phase in our history is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the principles that have guided us for the last 50 years. This is also our opportunity to make a promise to you. We pledge to deliver an experience that exceeds your expectations; an experience that brings you closer to those you love; an experience that is as enriching as it is thrilling and fun.
“Visit a Worlds of Discovery park. If it isn’t everything you hoped it would be, contact us. We’ll refund your admission. On behalf of the Worlds of Discovery team, thank you for your interest in our great parks. We hope to see you soon in one of our Worlds of Discovery.”
Carlos Brito, Chief Executive Officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev, said:
“Busch Entertainment Corporation is a high performing asset with a world-class management team, but not a core business for Anheuser-Busch InBev. We are pleased to have reached an agreement with a buyer who understands the industry and has a strategic vision for the business. The sale of BEC represents another important milestone in our commitment to de-leverage the company and will also allow us to continue to focus on our core brewing business. “The Blackstone Group is a preeminent private equity firm and we are very happy to have reached an agreement with Blackstone. We have great respect for BEC’s management and employees and know they will continue to prosper under Blackstone’s ownership.”
Joseph Baratta, Senior Managing Director of The Blackstone Group, said:
“We have long admired the Busch Entertainment Corporation parks. They are the premier collection of entertainment parks in the United States and offer a unique family experience. We are pleased to have the opportunity to acquire this business. We have deep sector experience and look forward to working with the excellent BEC management team to continue to invest in and grow the company.”