Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Merlin plans US growth

Pepsi Globe highlights expansion

Merlin Entertainments has announced an major expansion of its operations in the United States, rolling out five new attractions in the next two years, including America’s largest Ferris Wheel.

The London Eye-style Pepsi Globe opens in November at the Meadowlands Xanadu entertainment and retail complex in northern New Jersey, where it will stand 287ft-tall. In common with other observation wheels around the world, it will offer a ride time of about half an hour and one full cycle. Twenty-six glass-enclosed, climate controlled capsules will offer the ride of lifetime with sweeping vistas of New York City and the Hudson River.
“The Pepsi Globe will be an instant landmark – the signature attraction heralding the premier entertainment and shopping destination in the country,” says Laurence Siegel, president for Meadowlands Development.
“With an estimated 50 million visitors annually, Meadowlands Xanadu is the ideal location for such a unique attraction and Merlin is the perfect partner. The wheel is also a colossal branding opportunity and we are delighted that a company with the power, reach and prestige of Pepsi has joined forces with us.”
Merlin, which will lease and operate the attraction, has also announced plans to open a Legoland Discovery Centre at the same venue. The largest attractions operator in Europe, the UK-based group is currently opening five to six new attractions every year around the world and sees enormous potential for its brands in the USA.
“This is a very exciting time for Merlin, and developing the US market is a very important part of our strategy,” adds chief executive Nick Varney. “With five new attractions already close to completion we are certainly making our presence felt – and we are now getting approaches from developers and other partners around the US almost on a daily basis!“
“Meadowlands Xanadu promises to be a very exciting and diverse leisure/shopping destination with a broad appeal,” adds Varney. “We believe that it will not only encourage visitors from a very wide local catchment area but also those coming to New York City from other parts of the USA and overseas – and our attractions will play a key role in that.”
Merlin already operates a Legoland theme park in California, with a Sea Life aquarium due to open alongside this summer. The first Legoland Discovery Centre in the US will open this summer in Schaumburg, Illinois. Madame Tussauds attractions, meanwhile, can be found in Washington, Las Vegas, New York City and, from early next year, Hollywood.
The group’s European portfolio includes the London Eye, which has become an iconic symbol since it opened in 2000. Several other operators have since set up businesses specialising in giant wheels, but now Merlin plans to fully exploit its expertise in this field and develop other observation attractions in addition to the Pepsi Globe.
Together with Madame Tussauds, Merlin will boast three attractions in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area once the additions at Meadowlands Xanadu are complete. By clustering its brands together in high traffic areas, the group is able to gain considerable benefit from cross marketing and reduced operational costs. This strategy is already operating very successfully in London, Berlin and Amsterdam.

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