Malaysia to get Legoland theme park by 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – December 15, 2008 The 750 million-ringgit ($210 million) park, based on Lego's colored plastic construction blocks, will be built in the Iskandar development zone in southern Johor state, a spokeswoman for the project said Monday.

The theme park will boost Malaysia's efforts of turning Johor into a high-tech urban and industrial hub to rival Singapore, a city-state separated from Johor by a narrow waterway.

The Legoland park is a joint venture between Iskandar Investment Bhd., an investment holding company which coordinates the development in the zone launched in 2006, and theme park operator Merlin Entertainments.

Merlin, which owns Lego, will own 30 percent of the project, while a consortium led by Iskandar Investment will hold the rest.

The Legoland park, to feature more than 40 rides and other attractions, would target families with children between the ages of 2 and 12 years and is expected to draw tourists from throughout the region.

The spokeswoman said construction will start in 2010. The project is estimated to create almost 5,000 jobs during its various phases.

"This is a significant first step in developing Iskandar Malaysia as an international tourist destination," Iskandar Investment chairman Azman Mokhtar said in a statement.

There are already four Legoland parks - in California, Denmark, England and Germany. Another Legoland is expected to open in Dubai in 2011.

Malaysia's Legoland will be part of a 145 acre (58.68 hectare) area, which will also include a shopping center, offices, hotels and residential units, costing a total of more than 3.5 billion ringgit ($980 million) to develop.

"We love the location of Iskandar Malaysia ... We have no doubt that once open it will become the ultimate destination in the region for families with young children," Legoland Parks managing director John Jakobsen said.

Lego is an abbreviation of the Danish words "leg godt", meaning "play well".

The Billund, Denmark-based Lego Group was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen in a carpenter's workshop and is still owned by one of his grandsons.

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