YONKERS, N.Y. – With a cascade of plastic bricks falling from the sky, Yonkers officially welcomed Legoland to Ridge Hill on Wednesday.
Sporting hard hats and with shovels in hand, elementary school children, city politicians and company executives broke ground on the $12 million Legoland Discovery Center Westchester in an afternoon ceremony.
When it opens next spring, New York’s first Legoland is expected to draw 300,000 to 350,000 visitors annually, a boon for tourism and business not just in Yonkers, but throughout the region, officials said.
“This will be a tourist destination,” said Larry Gottlieb, director of economic development for Westchester County. “People will come from much farther than we have seen people come before to this area.”
Nestled into a corner of the shopping center between TJ Maxx and Lefteris Gyro, officials said the 32,000-square-foot store will create more than 100 full-time jobs.
Inside, children and parents will be welcomed by more than 3 million Lego bricks and models of area landmarks such as One World Trade Center and the Empire State Building made entirely out of the colorful plastic toys.
Children will have access to interactive play areas, Lego rides and a 4D cinema, and will even be able to dive into a pool of soft Lego bricks.
“This is quality education and entertainment for kids,” Gottlieb said. “It’s not just a place to run around and throw bricks at each other – though you can do that too.”
A dozen elementary schoolers got a sneak peak at the fun Legoland will offer, piecing together the building blocks in a courtyard outside the soon-to-be store before dumping a bucket of Legos onto city politicians.
Afterwards being showered with bricks, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano called Legoland a “true success story” for Yonkers and said it shows what Ridge Hill has become.
“Ridge Hill has become a premium destination for all of the region, not just here in Yonkers or Westchester,” he said. “This is truly a destination.”
Kathy Welch, senior vice president for retail development at Forest City Ratner’s Ridge Hill, said the shopping center will be “lifted to the next level” with its newest addition.
“We are so proud to have the fifth Legoland Discovery Center here at Ridge Hill,” she said.
As part of Wednesday's ceremony, Legland officials announced the start of open registration for “Brick Factor,” a two-day talent search to find the area’s best Lego builders.
The contest will begin Nov. 17 when contestants will audition for a job as the Lego "master model builder" of Legoland Discovery Center Westchester.