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27th November 2009

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History of the Park

Opened in 1996, LEGOLAND Windsor has had many rides and attractions added throughout the years, as well as the closure of a fair few. Using a set of park guides, brochures souvenir guides and more, as well as personal experience, Completely LEGOLAND Windsor brings you a year-by-year account of the history of LEGOLAND Windsor. If you notice any errors or omissions, please get in touch using the 'contact us' link at the top of the home page.

Prior to Opening

In 1989, The LEGO Group began research into the development of a second LEGOLAND Park after LEGOLAND Billund. Over 1,000 sites were considered in all, one of which was Windsor Safari Park, which went into receivership in January of 1992. It was this 150 acre site that was chosen to be the first LEGOLAND Park outside of Denmark.

Throughout 1992 and 1993, planning, design, site preparation and the design and construction of LEGO models began, during which time new homes were secured for all the safari animals. In 1994 services, foundations and infrastructures were installed, and in 1995, one year prior to opening, Big Ben was set in place in Miniland. By this time buildings and attractions were becoming established, and in September advanced bookings for entrance tickets were opened. Final installations were completed by the beginning of 1996, and at this point the LEGOLAND Windsor staff-base was recruited.

The grand opening of LEGOLAND Windsor occurred in March 1996, and during it's first season, the park attracted over 1.4 million guests.

1998

The first major extension to the park was Knights' Kingdom, then named 'CastleLand', which opened on the 14th March 1998, two years after the park first opened. This was the first new area added since the park opened, and contained the Dragon, the park's first roller coaster built by WGH Transportation. Also included in the new development was the LEGO MINDSTORMS Workshop, which opened on the 1st May that same year. Surprisingly, Dragon's Apprentice did not open until the following season.

1999

1999 saw three major new additions to the parks' set of attractions. Firstly, Dragon's Apprentice opened just outside the castle, in time for the start of the season. The Balloon School was not so lucky, suffering delays in construction, and finally opening in April. Extreme Team Challenge, then written 'X-Treme Team', was constructed on the slope in front of St. Leonard's Mansion in time for the school summer holidays in August.

At the end of the 1999 season, the Imagination Theatre was refurbished in order to make it much more like a theatre in preparation for the Christmas Production of Peter Pan. This involved the installation of a truss lighting grid, a lighting booth, and blackout drapes.

On the 20th November 1999, LEGOLAND Windsor opened for it's first Christmas season, which continued until the 3rd January 2000. During the season, the park operated as normal with all rides and attractions running, but a number of extra attractions, relevant to the season, were laid on:

  • Santa's Toy Factory - Located in Brickadilly's Circus Tent, this was a walk though attraction which depicted Santa's post room, with actors playing the part of elves. Following this, a show centering around Santa's Toy Workshop was performed in the main ring.
  • Peter Pan's Christmas Adventure - Performed in the Imagination Theatre, this adaption of Peter Pan had Peter and Wendy attempting to and succeeding in reaching the North Pole to meet Father Christmas, whilst Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee tried to stop them. This was a visually impressive performance, with a number of theatrical effects such as snow, and with a fair amount of wire work, with Peter and Wendy often 'flying' above the stage.
  • Cinderella's Puppet Pantomime - Performed on the Willow Stage, this version of Cinderella had the obligatory LEGOLAND Windsor comic twist!
  • Snowball Express - The Orient Express (then the I-Spy Express) was renamed the Snowball Express for the duration of the Christmas season. The engine car was decorated with mock snow and other Christmas-related items, as were the models around the track. To top it off, an over-zealous snow machine was installed on the platform, meaning that visitors had to navigate their way through a blizzard on exiting the attraction!
  • Treasure Trail - Located in the Pavilions (a marquee behind what is now the Digger Challenge), this was a set of Christmas-related models.
  • Miniland Illuminations - A large number of Christmas lights were installed across Miniland, and each evening an illumination ceremony was held to switch them on.
  • Twelve Days of Christmas - A model was made for each set of characters from the relevant nursery rhyme, and these were scattered around the park.
  • Millennium Celebrations - To mark the start of the new Millennium, a show was performed on the staging across the My Town Harbour on the 31st December 1999. This included music with audience participation, as well as a few pyrotechnics. It was performed three times during the day, each time on the hour to signify the start of the new Millennium in a different country.

2000

Towards the end of the park's first Christmas Season, construction began on the Creation Centre and Rocket Racers, as well as the Wave Surfer. Due to open at the beginning of the 2000 season, delays pushed the commissioning of the Wave Surfer back to April, at which point only one turntable was operational, with the other up and running a few weeks later. This was the last season for the Bum Shaker, with the space it occupied being changed to a picnic area in time for the 2001 season.

The 18th November 2000 saw the start of the second and (thus far) final Christmas season, which continued through to the 7th January 2001. The attractions from the 1999/2000 season were again put in place, with a few changes. Firstly, the Creation Centre and Rocket Racers were completed in December, and as such were advertised as key new attractions for the Christmas season. Santa's Toy Factory was replaced with a Santa's Grotto, where children could meet the man himself for an extra charge. The I-Spy Express kept it's name for the season, and the Twelve Days of Christmas models were dotted around it's track, as opposed to the whole park. Finally, the Millennium celebrations were clearly not held, but neither unfortunately were they replaced with any form of New Year celebrations.

In the years following these two Christmas seasons, the park has opened the Big Shop during the time in between seasons, along with the rest of the beginning. During these periods the Big Shop often has large discounts, alongside offers for annual passes, and one year a Kuka Robocoaster (a large robotic arm with ride seating on the end) was installed.

2001

No new attractions were constructed for the 2001 season, with the exception of the Creation Centre and Rocket Racers which had already opened during Christmas. However, the end of the season saw the closing of the Technic Garage, which was subsequently refitted as a food outlet. Muscle Maker also closed, and became the Truck Stop, a set of remote-controlled lorries that incur and extra charge. During the time in-between seasons, the Sky Rider was extensively refurbished, with the direction of the cars around the track reversed, a constant-loading system introduced in the station, and new restraints fitted.

2002

2002 again saw no new attractions, but instead a few subtle changes. The I-Spy Express was renamed The Adventurer's Express, and re-themed around jungle animals. The well-loved badger family, previously dotted around the track having picnics, had clearly decided to go elsewhere, and were replaced with models themed around jungle animals. At the end of the season, the Imagination Theatre was refitted as a 4D cinema, which involved installing a 36-foot projection screen. This was in preparation for LEGO Racers 4D.

2003

For the 2003 season, the MINDSTORMS Workshop was moved to the Imagination Centre, replacing the Dacta Workshop. Robolabs opened, and LEGO Racers 4D was introduced in the Imagination Theatre. As part of British Tourism Day, Queen Elizabeth II visited LEGOLAND on the 10th June, and spent time admiring the models in Miniland. At the end of 2003, the Muscle Maker was closed, and the site was to be used later for the Truck Stop.

2004

2004 saw the installation of the first major new ride in four years, behind LEGO City. Ready in time for the start of the new season (amazingly!) was the Jungle Coaster, a Technic-themed wild-mouse coaster manufactured by MACK. This and the Wave Surfer were designated part of a new area, 'Adventure Land', and along with this the lake at the bottom of the park was renamed the 'Adventure Land Lake'. Also in time for the new season was the refurbishment of the Big Restaurant, which saw an ocean theme introduced.

Rocket Racers finally gave up the ghost at the end of this season, and was shut down, having never been particularly reliable. To this day, as far as can be seen by the public, that section of the building remains unfortunately closed off and disused. This was also the end of the line for the Celtic Maze of the Amazing Mazes, which was gutted and had a path created directly through it.

2005

Three new rides debuted in 2005: The Fire Academy in Traffic, and Dino Dipper and Dino Safari in Adventure land. The latter extended the inner park (the area of the land accessible by the paying public) far enough round the Adventure Land Lake that a path was constructed connecting Adventure Land to Traffic. The Adventurer's Express was again renamed, this time to The Orient Express, but the theme stayed constant, and the models remained largely unchanged.

In April, due to rising losses across the whole company, The LEGO Group made the decision to sell the LEGOLAND Parks (which by now included LEGOLAND Billund, LEGOLAND Windsor, LEGOLAND California and LEGOLAND Deutschland). On the 13th July, 70% of LEGOLAND was acquired by the Blackstone Group, and control of the parks passed to Merlin Entertainments. The remaining 30% was retained by The LEGO Group.

2006

At the beginning of the 2006 season, Digger Challenge opened behind the Cola Fountain, though this was knocked down. At the same time, Spellbreaker 4D was introduced alongside LEGO Racers 4D in the Imagination Theatre, with viewings of each alternating during any given day.

Over the Christmas period, both the Celtic Maze and the Nautical Maze were entirely demolished, to make way for Vikings' River Splash. The Tudor Maze was retained, and renamed Loki's Labyrinth, but being situated in the centre of a construction site it remained closed until the opening of Land of the Vikings in late 2007. This was, however, the end of the Amazing Mazes.

2007

Whirly Birds was renamed Chopped Squadron for the start of the 2007 season, and the small bird models that used to adorn the area were removed and replaced with air-traffic control models, which were decidedly less cute. The MINDSTORMS Workshop was revamped to centre around the new NXT system, and in July, Mole-in-One Golf opened having strangely received no publicity whatsoever.

On August the 18th, after severe delays, Land of the Vikings finally opened to the public. Having originally been benchmarked for April 2007, the area increased the park's capacity by 15%. Vikings' River Splash, the new river rapids ride constructed by ABC, was opened at the same time as the new area, though it was operated at a reduced capacity for the remainder of the season. Being made entirely of concrete, the water channel unfortunately had the appearance of having been 'dropped' into the park, but it was thankfully painted brown for the 2008 season, which did a surprisingly good job of helping it blend into the background. Loki's Labyrinth was opened at the same time as Vikings' River Splash, but with no noticeable theming, and the Longboat Invader, which had at one point been advertised as opening at the same time as the other attractions, didn't appear until the 2008 season, though the concrete plinth had been poured and was ready and waiting for the installation of the ride.

2007 was the final year for the Magic Theatre, which closed it's doors for the last time at the end of the season, having been a part of LEGOLAND for 12 years.

2008

For the 2008 season, the park advertised a "...magnificent seven new attraction debut...". This, however, included Vikings River Splash, Loki's Labyrinth, and Mole-in-One Golf, all of which had opened in 2007. Of the remaining four, two were new shows (Revenge of the Aztec Queen at the LEGO City Harbour, and Cinderella in the DUPLO Theatre). The sixth attraction actually was a new ride, albeit one originally scheduled to open in 2007 - Longboat Invader, a Zamperla Rockin' Tug, opened in Land of the Vikings in time for the new season. Finally, the Xbox Gaming zone, which didn't open in time for the new season, was to be constructed in the centre of LEGO City, in a way which seemed to be an echo of the console area that had been present in My Town for the first couple of years of the park's history.

The Big Restaurant was refurbished in time for the new season and renamed City Walk. The menu was changed to that of Pasta Patch, which was in turn renamed Captain Barnacle's Boatshed, selling Fish and Chips.

2008 also saw the introduction of the Q-Bot system, a virtual queue-line system for the parks most popular rides.