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Updated: 04/26/2012 08:01:09AM

Legoland seems to help increase business in Polk

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Some of the tourist attractions in Polk County had more visitors during this winter season and they credit the opening of Legoland in Winter Haven for providing that boost.

At Bok Tower Gardens, both attendance and revenues increased in 2011. Attendance was also up in January of this year, according to Cassie Jacoby, director of communications.

“Of course, Legoland Florida has put us on the map and built an 8-foot LEGO replica of the Singing Tower in their Mini Land,” Jacoby wrote in email correspondence.

She recently told the Bok board of directors that revenues increased by
5.5 percent to $2.9 million in 2011. With more than 20,000 visitors in December, it had the highest attendance in 15 years.

The holiday home tour at Pinewood Estate had 13,000 visitors, far exceeding previous attendance. Attendance grew from 70 visitors on Christmas Day five years ago to 1,728 on the same day in 2011.

In addition to tremendous national group sales business from Diamond Tours, Jacoby said another reason for increasing attendance is David Price’s decision to change the name from Historic Bok Sanctuary to Bok Tower Gardens when he became president five years ago.

Also, another media partnership with UF-IFAS Extension Service Horticulture Agent Emeritus Tom MacCubbin has driven visitation. He promotes Bok statewide on his radio network of 21 stations every Saturday during his show, “Better Lawns & Gardens.”

She noted media partnerships, including one with Sun Coast Media Group, Inc., continue to grow.

The total attendance for 2011 was 150,000 visitors, up 7,500 from 2010. Jacoby said total attendance for the first quarter (October through January) is 58,950 compared to 50,452 during the same period last year. First quarter revenue increases are 20 percent for the café alone and 4 percent for the gift shop.

Tom Davidson of Davidson of Dundee said the candy and jelly factory saw an increase in visitors during the winter season. Davidson added the numbers are skewed because the six-laning of U.S. Highway 27 blocked off the entrance to the business.

He is curious to see what will happen this summer with Legoland in operation and if the theme park will bring more visitors to his business.

“You have to have a niche,” he said.

Florida’s Natural Grove House Visitor Center had its “strongest” winter season in the 11 years it has been open, according to Nikki Black, company spokeswoman.

Black said more visitors have come as a result of the company partnering with Bok and Davidson and setting up a “citrus experience” with an Orlando tour operator.

She said Legoland has made an impact on the visitor center, noting that during the Christmas holidays some visitors mentioned that they had been to the theme park.

Black said there has been a
remerchandising of gifts in the center’s store and added that it keeps updating the videos about orange juice

Hank Longo, manager of visitor services for Polk County, said 16,660 people stopped by the welcome center near Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 27 between January and March of this year. Longo added that number is “definitely up” over last year.

He believes the opening of Legoland last fall has helped attract more tourists to the county.

“We’ll see more of that as the years go by,” Longo said.

A brief email from a public relations agency said since Legoland opened |Oct. 15, the park has been “extremely successful.”

The park is looking forward to opening the water park attraction on
May 26.