Legoland New York Opens

 LEGOLAND New York officially debuted on Friday, July 9; Photo By Kathy Kahn

Lego lovers of all ages, rejoice! Your favorite building blocks are ready for inspection.

After being delayed a year by the 2020 Pandemic, LEGOLAND New York officially opened its doors on Friday, July 9. (An earlier “soft” opening allowed season passholders and a limited number of ticketed guests to visit.) The first theme park opened in New York in 40 years, state and local officials applauded its opening and welcomed the tourism dollars it will bring to Orange County and the Hudson Valley.

Merlin Entertainment’s $500 million investment is the company’s third U.S. theme park and its tenth worldwide. All seven “lands” of the 150-acre New York Park are now open, and a 250-room hotel with heated pool is nearly completed and is accepting reservations for August 6.

This is the first of Merlin’s parks to introduce a new attraction to many rides and activities: “Factory Adventure,” a ride which transforms its passengers into mini-figures to give them a “brick’s-eye” view of how Legos are made. The ride offers a specialized ADA vehicle for visitors who use wheelchairs. Merlin, which opened its first Lego venue in 1968 for the 3-12 age group, has strived to make its entertainment centers accessible to children with disabilities.

The British company did not originally chose to construct their new park in  Orange County. It had first tried to negotiate for the former Letchworth Village property in the Haverstraw/Stony Point area for its New York Park, but with community pushback overwhelmingly against it, the company looked further north. In 2017, Merlin purchased 500 acres off Route 17 where Arden Hill Hospital once stood for its third U.S. entertainment center.

Concerns about traffic were also a major issue for Goshen and other residents who rely on Route 6/17 to travel west to the Catskills; to mitigate that issue, Merlin spent $40 million (with 25 percent funded by a grant from Empire State Development) to reconstruct Exit 125, putting in a third lane for traffic, as well as building an on-off ramp and an overpass that connects Route 125 west directly to Harriman Drive and brings visitors to Legoland’s entrance a half-mile off the highway.

Merlin negotiated a 20-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) which will provide $60 million for the Goshen Central Schol District, $5 million to its Fire District and $10 million to Orange County annually. It will also be subject to the county’s hotel tax, which is expected to generate an additional $500 million annually. It created hundreds of PLA (project labor agreement) construction jobs and is on target to create 800 full- and part-time jobs. Residents of Goshen will enjoy discounted admission and to pay its host community an annual fee based on the number of attendees it attracts each year. It has also agreed to provide well water to the town of Goshen.

Those visiting LEGOLAND New York are also advised to leave their cash at home: the park is completely cashless, accepting only “plastic” and Apple Pay. For more information, visit www. Legoland.com and search under “New York.”

LEGOLAND New York’s 250-room hotel is taking reservations for August 6; Photo By Kathy Kahn