MERLIN Entertainments, owner of Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds, announced yesterday it planned to tap into the world’s second-largest theme park market by building a £185m Legoland site in Japan.
The company, which floated last year, said it would invest £53m of cash into the Nagoya theme park. The remainder will be funded by Kirkbi, the Danish family investment firm, which owns the Lego brand and controls a 30 per cent of Merlin.
The park, which is due to open in 2017, is two hours from Tokyo and one from Osaka, giving it a catchment area of around 20m people. Nagoya city council has agreed to provide the necessary local transport and a 5,000-space car park.
Merlin already runs a smaller, indoor Legoland centre in Tokyo, but Nagoya will be its first full-sized theme park in Japan. The country is the world’s second-biggest theme park market, worth around £4bn annually. It will be a similar size to its recent openings in Malaysia and Florida, creating around 1,000 jobs.
Merlin runs six Legolands and plans to open in Dubai in 2016.
Chief executive Nick Varney said: “Long term, we continue to believe that there is significant opportunity for the Legoland brand, with the potential for up to 20 parks across the world.”