Legoland is coming to Winter Haven in Polk County, and like a minifig on
a Lego pirate ship, Haines City is hoping to share in the booty that
its new neighbor is likely to attract. So city leaders are laying plans
to lure tourists traveling between Disney and the new attraction.
"We're extending a leg to trip them on their way
to a park," says Jane Patton, president of the Haines City-Northeast
Polk County Regional Chamber.
"We sit at the beginning of the Scenic
Highway 17, a beautiful drive through orange groves, past lakes and
some undeveloped land between Haines City and Frostproof."
Allison Beeman, deputy director of the Haines City
Economic Development Council,
is working on getting the word out to
hotel chains, developers and investors. "Our location is perfect for
business coming to and from Disney and Legoland. We are just off I-4 and
along US 27. We have property owners who are willing to work with
investment folks and/or developers. They are willing to work out a
Patton likens the arrival of Legoland
impact on her community to the impact Disney had on Orlando and
Kissimmee, and wants to see deliberate planning take place. "We are
holding a tourism forum to raise awareness, identify people interested
in participating on a task force and develop an action plan."
Beeman sees it as an opportunity for Haines City
residents who currently commute to the Disney Resort for work to find
employment closer to home. "If you look at our county, we're positioned
northeast of Orlando," she says. "There are lots of people who live in
Haines City and work in Orlando. Hopefully the new park will bring lots
of opportunities for people to work closer to home."
Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Jane Patton, Haines City-Northeast Polk County
Regional Chamber; Allison Beeman, Haines City Economic Development