WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (FNN Sports) – Daytona International Speedway has a sleek new look at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort. It’s the newest model in MINILAND USA, where visitors discover dozens of towering LEGO® landmarks from across the United States.
The sounds of roaring engines and cheering fans greet theme park guests as they approach the 1/20-scale model of the “World Center of Racing,” updated following the DAYTONA Rising project – a $400 million frontstretch renovation that made DIS the first motorsports stadium in the world. The new stadium made its debut earlier this year during the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the DAYTONA 500.
The theme park version was designed and built by Merlin Magic Making at its new creative hub in Lake Wales, Fla., which develops displays for Merlin Entertainments attractions around the world. Made of nearly 300,000 LEGO bricks and stretching 31 feet long, the miniature stadium is now the single largest model in MINILAND USA.
“Race fans have been thrilled by the transformation of the world’s first motorsports stadium,” said Chip Wile, President of Daytona International Speedway. “I’m sure LEGOLAND guests will be just as impressed by this awesome replica.”
Veteran NASCAR driver Casey Mears visited the theme park today to celebrate the giant new display, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ return to DIS for the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola on Saturday, July 2 and for a special event – a two-car race through MINILAND USA in kid-sized vehicles borrowed from the theme park’s popular Driving School attraction.
Racing against Mears was 10-year-old Layla Popoff, whose dream of a giant backyard playhouse was fulfilled by Make-A-Wish® Central and Northern Florida earlier this year. The spirited Orlando, Fla., resident was tapped for the friendly competition with the assistance of Merlin’s Magic Wand, a global charity that has enabled nearly 300,000 children and their families to enjoy a magical day out at more than 100 Merlin attractions around the world.
As a crowd of cheering fans gathered along the miniature racetrack for the “MINILAND 400,” Mears climbed into a vehicle resembling a LEGO-built version of his No. 13 GEICO race car while Layla took the wheel of a car representing the Coke Zero 400.
The four most famous words in motorsports kicked off the exciting action: “Drivers, start your engines!” With a wave of the green flag, the race was off to a “fast” start, topping out at a modest 3.7 mph as the racers took off from between LEGO models of the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. Capitol.
Neck-and-neck as they zoomed past the New York City skyline, the racers remained close as they barreled down the Las Vegas Strip. With the finish line in sight at the new DIS model, Mears suddenly plowed into a pile of oversized LEGO bricks while Layla raced across the finish line to the delight of park guests and assembled media, claiming victory in the inaugural MINILAND 400. Posing next to Mears, she accepted a giant LEGO trophy from Wile with a triumphant smile.
Noted Adrian Jones, general manager of LEGOLAND Florida Resort, “We’re a theme park built for kids to take the lead, and that’s exactly what happened here today. Brilliant!”
Afterward, Mears greeted fans in the theme park’s Imagination Zone, a popular indoor space filled with hands-on LEGO building activities in a variety of themes, where kids can put their imaginations into overdrive. Using his years of competitive driving expertise, Mears helped kids design and build creative LEGO vehicles before sending them zooming down timed ramps in the racing-themed Wheels Zone.
Now open after a months-long refurbishment, the awesomely re-imagined Imagination Zone gives LEGOLAND Florida Resort guests many great new reasons to come and play. Several all-new LEGO building activities promise endless possibilities to dream it, build it, race it, fly it, swim it and more in a cool indoor play area that’s been totally transformed with colorful furnishings and floor-to-ceiling graphics.
This summer is packed full of excitement at the place #BuiltForKids, including LEGOLAND Night Lights, an all-new summertime event included with park admission that features extended park hours, special entertainment and a spectacular LEGO NINJAGO® fireworks display taking place every Saturday and Sunday through July 31, plus Monday, July 4. For more information, visit www.LEGOLAND.com/florida.
Fun Facts About the DIS Model
• Designed by Dan Martinez and David Chambers of Merlin Magic Making, the new Daytona International Speedway display in MINILAND USA took a team of more than a dozen Master Model Builders to create out of 282,384 LEGO bricks.
• The new stadium model stretches 31 feet and weighs more than 1,400 lbs.
• The stadium was built in three sections at MMM’s new Lake Wales facility, a relatively short distance away from the theme park that saved the designers from having to split the model into smaller pieces for transport.
• The project took approximately 250 design hours and 2,100 build hours to complete.
• To match the elegant curves of the new stadium, more than 2,000 LEGO hinges were used in plate and brick varieties.
• When the theme park stays open past dusk, the stadium will illuminate with lighting installed throughout the model.
• Look for the word “Daytona” spelled out on fans’ shirts, a group of spectators holding letters that spell TURN LEFT and a contingent of soccer fans using their G-O-A-L signs to cheer on racers with G-O!
• Sharp-eyed guests might also spot a cheeky nod to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recent heart-stopping moment when his steering wheel came off during a race.
More About Merlin Entertainments
Merlin Entertainments, the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, currently manages four family oriented attractions in Central Florida under some of the most iconic brands in the leisure travel industry:
• LEGOLAND® Florida Resort in Winter Haven, just 45 minutes from Orlando and Tampa, is a multi-day vacation destination built for kids 2-12 years old and includes an interactive, 150-acre theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, a world-famous botanical garden and the 5-acre LEGOLAND Water Park. LEGOLAND Hotel, located just steps from the theme park entrance, features 152 rooms and suites, each with its own LEGO® theme and some with beautiful views of nearby Lake Eloise.
• In 2015, Merlin launched three of its top global brands in the heart of Orlando’s International Drive. At I-Drive 360, guests can take flight on the iconic Orlando Eye, a 400-foot tall observation wheel with breathtaking views of Central Florida; dive deep into three oceans of the world by exploring SEA LIFE Aquarium and its 360-degree Underwater Tunnel, floor-to-ceiling displays and bubble aquariums; or indulge in the ultimate fame experience at Madame Tussauds, the unparalleled celebrity wax attraction.
Casey Mears’s Career Highlights
· Driver of the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS for Germain Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
· In his 14 seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Mears has one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway), 13 Top Five and 51 Top 10 finishes, and has started from the pole four times
· Has finished 11th or better the last three years in the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway
· In 2006, became the first full-time NASCAR driver to be on the overall winning team of the Rolex 24 At Daytona
· Family history is rich in racing, with roots still very deep in the open-wheel side of motorsports