Embarking on its most costly attraction yet, Legoland announced Thursday that it will introduce a submarine ride next year that will traverse a "deep sea" habitat populated with tropical fish, stingrays and exotic sharks.
Lego City Deep Sea Adventure will feature eight 12-seat submarines, completely enclosed and outfitted with large portholes for viewing more than 2,000 sea creatures, as well as octopuses and scuba divers fashioned from Lego bricks, the theme park said.
The new attraction, expected to debut next summer, is to occupy the Castle Hill area in the back of the park, replacing a miniature golf course.
Also set to open next year, in the spring, is Legoland's second 250-room resort hotel, designed to resemble a castle and with knight-, princess- and wizard-themed rooms.
The premise of the submarine ride, which is inspired by Lego's Deep Sea Adventure line of toys, is built around a voyage in which the passengers are searching for lost treasure on a sunken Lego shipwreck. As they pass through what will effectively be a 300,000-gallon underground aquarium, they will use their touchscreens to help the dive team of Lego mini figures identify gems, pearls and gold coins.
A similar, although not identical, ride is already at Legoland parks in Britain, Dubai and Japan.
"We do have some experience from our other parks, which is very positive, but when planning ahead, we put concepts out to research, and the research on this came out very strong, especially with an environment where the fish literally swim up to you and stare at you," said Legoland California General Manager Peter Ronchetti.
"One of our guiding principles is we want to be 'my first experience' for a child: my first car where I steer it, my first coaster, and although there is some visual trickery, you absolutely feel like you're in a submarine looking at real fish and the sensation is very exhilarating, which is very different from walking through an aquarium."
Though Legoland will not reveal the cost of the new attraction, Ronchetti said Deep Sea Adventure represents the single largest investment made in any Legoland theme park by parent company Merlin Entertainment. Within the entire Legoland California resort, only the hotels and the Sea Life Aquarium were more costly.
Ronchetti characterized the creation of the underground aquarium, which will be housed inside a themed building, an ambitious feat of engineering.
"Most attractions occur on the ground, so here we have to dig down, which is a new angle for us," he said.
Although the planned Legoland subs won't actually submerge — they will already be underwater — passengers will feel as though they are, and a cascade of bubbles will enhance the effect. Riders will step down into the underwater vehicles that will hang from a rack, and they will sit on a long bench inside, facing the portals that are below the water line.
The ride is yet another attraction that Legoland hopes will keep visitors at the park longer than a day and entice them to stay overnight at its new hotel. The park announced that it will be looking to hire 200 new employees to staff the hotel. Most immediately, it wants to fill 30 leadership roles, including head chef, front office manager and food and beverage manager.
Other jobs that will need to be filled include cooks, valet, housekeepers and entertainers.
Weisberg writes for the San Diego Union Tribune.