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Fans eagerly await decision on Legoland near Charleroi
Will Legoland come to Charleroi? That is the question as debate continues over how to fill the huge space left deserted when US world-leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment Caterpillar stopped production at Gosselies, 9km from Wallonia’s biggest city of some 200,000 people.
With Wallonia’s economics minister Willy Borsus saying that the 2018 proposal of Chinese company Thunder Power’s electric cars coming to Charleroi is “no longer the priority”, the floor is open for other candidates.
But a deal with Legoland owner Merlin Entertainments, the British company active in 25 countries that also runs Madame Tussauds in London and Sea Life parks in Bruges, Blankenberge and all over Europe, is by no means certain.
“Negotiations are still at draft stage,” Borsus said. He made clear that many sites worldwide also wanted to attract the mini-figure attraction park built more than 50 years ago – in 1968 – at Billund, Denmark. Moreover, other projects much closer to home would like to grace the Walloon site, he said. And significantly, Charleroi mayor Paul Magnette announced that he still wanted to complete the Thunder Power deal.
If accepted, the Legoland project is estimated to cost €300 million and create 1,000 jobs. Merlin, noting that the 100-hectare Caterpillar site is the right size for another Legoland, already promised Charleroi a third of its sum after visiting the Hainaut city late last year.
That would leave a further €200 million to find via funds raised in collaboration with Wallonia’s investment company SOGEPA. Earlier this month, Tandem Capital merchant bank was appointed to oversee this financial transaction.
The ambitious project would mean not only an attraction park, but also the construction of new hotels and restaurants, bringing more work to the Charleroi region.
Indeed, in the UK, Legoland Windsor Resort, open for business in 1996, has become something of a holiday destination, featuring its own designated hotels and package deals. There are also Legoland amusement parks in the United States, Malaysia, Germany and Dubai.