Lego geeks in Canada have been abuzz with the news last week that a Legoland Discovery Center (or Centre, since this is Canada) is being built in Vaughan, just north of Toronto. According to the press release from Merlin Entertainments (which operates four existing Legoland Discovery Centers in the US, as well as the Legoland theme parks in Florida and California), the 34,000 square foot attraction will open in the spring of 2013.
While it’s not quite on the scale of the Florida/California theme parks, this is a welcome development. The Samsonite factory in Stratford, Ontario, manufactured Lego bricks for distribution in North America starting in 1961 (the US got its own plant in 1965) and continued to manufacture and distribute Lego in Canada through to 1986. I grew up in Stratford and fondly remember the factory, because with a factory comes an outlet. Sometimes Lego bricks would show up at our house by the bagful.
However, despite its early roots in Canada, the Great White North has been largely bereft of an official Lego presence since then. There were stores that specialized in Lego scattered around various shopping centers, but that wasn’t quite the same as the real thing. We’ve had the occasional Lego store open in recent years — the first official Lego Store in Canada opened in Calgary in 2010 — but to really enjoy the Lego experience required a significant road trip. So the announcement that construction on a Legoland Discovery Center will be breaking ground this summer is big news. And who knows, the way we’re progressing here (Lego themed outlet stores to official Lego stores to Discovery Center), maybe a Legoland North is in the cards. A Director with Merlin is quoted in the announcement as saying: “In fact, this is just the beginning of Merlin’s introduction into Canada, and we have already identified two other potential new sites.”
That probably refers to additional Discovery Centers, but one can hope.
Each Legoland Discovery Center features an exhibit that includes iconic buildings from the local area, so count on a Lego CN Tower dominating the Vaughan location. There’s no note of this in the press release, but the Toronto Star says a contest will be held this fall to find a master builder from the Toronto area to take on the design of the exhibit. So, Toronto area Lego enthusiasts: get out your bricks and your cameras and start practicing.