Posted Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:41 PM | Contributed by Jeff
Winter Haven city officials know they must convince Legoland visitors to turn left and fight traffic into the city's retail and restaurant hub, and eventually, to the shop-dine-play development, The Landings.
Read more from The Ledger.
Signage or not, some people Just won't want to deal with traffic. Fixing the traffic problem should be a higher priority. IMHO
I think the park hours are going to be what ails Winter Haven. I am their key demographic. Family of four living 3-4 hours south of there. We already have our annual passes.
With a park closing time of 5:00pm it is going to be an easy decision to either drive back home to South Florida or drive over to the Orlando area to find something to do in the evening and grab a hotel there. If the park were open just 2 or 3 hours later we'd be getting out after "rush hour" (if Winter Haven even HAS a rush hour) and may not necessarily want to make a late night drive home.
It sounds like the city fathers and the Chamber of Commerce didn't bother to do any research on the California operation and how it's startup was handled. They just assumed that it was going to be just like an Orlando park. All it would have taken is some time on the internet and perhaps one or two trips to Carlsbad that would have clued them in as to what to actually expect.
I would not be surprised to see the park hours extended on a regular basis when they first open, and their calendar changed outright after about 4 months.
Now improving Winter Haven is a different story. Cypress Gardens Blvd. is the main road between 27 and downtown, so it is decently busy pretty much all throughout the day. That road definitely needs expanding from 27 over to where it bends from north to west, and then from there they could probably go back to four lanes. The Landings is new, though. Did that pop up recently? I wasn't aware of any kind of new development out towards downtown while I was temporarily living in the area.
A number of City leaders did, in fact, go out to Carlsbad to see the operation. I think the park is going to be successful but I don't know how much of that success will fuel the Winter Haven economy...until such time as hours are extended as Mike says.
And depending how closely they follow the California model, that may take a couple of years.
Then again, San Diego/Carlsbad already had quite an extensive network of hotels when the park opened, and that may be the reason for the delay in the hotel. If the Florida park is successful off the bat, I could see them moving ahead on a hotel sooner. But yah, it would still be 2 to 3 to 4 years off.
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