Legoland has followed through on plans first reported here a year ago to expand its hotel offerings at the Winter Haven theme park.
Parent company Merlin Entertainments Group filed a site plan and construction documents on Aug. 16 with the city and Southwest Florida Water Management District for a five-story, 150-room expansion of the Legoland Hotel. The new tower would be built south of the existing hotel and will have its own pool.
"Our review will run through end of September," Winter Haven Senior Planner Sean Byers told GrowthSpotter. "Once we issue our approvals, they'll be able to pull building permits and start construction."
The new hotel opening will complement the next year's Lego Movie World expansion, which includes three new rides.
Legoland has invested heavily to expand on-site accommodations, opening the five-story, 152-room Legoland Hotel in 2015. The park doubled its room count last year with the opening of Legoland Beach Retreat.
"We're always looking for ways to improve our guest experience," Vice President Gillian Smith said at the I-4 Corridor Commercial Conference on Aug. 9. She declined to discuss the company's hotel plans but acknowledged the need for more hotel rooms in the market.
"We're exceeding average Orlando occupancy for (the) hotel and beach retreat," she said. "We're striving to make Legoland and Winter Haven a real destination so people will want to spend multiple days."
Last year at the same conference, Merlin North America Division Director Adrian Jones said the company also plans a third hotel on property by 2024.
"The most important thing there is the hotel," he said at the time. "The hotel changed the business. We're racing to get as many rooms as we can."
Merlin launched a Legoland vacations booking portal last year for partner hotels and vacation home resorts, and the company is expanding its North American call center in Winter Haven.
Jacksonville-based developer Murphco of Florida is close to opening an 111-room Courtyard by Marriott -- the first of two hotels -- on Cypress Gardens Boulevard, right across from Legoland Florida.
South Florida hotelier Hardial Sibia is also entering the Winter Garden-Legoland submarket and has deals with Wyndham for a new 120-room Wyndham Garden Hotel and IHG for a Staybridge Suites extended-stay hotel. Sibia said he plans to start construction on both hotels next year, and expects to open the pair by July 2020.