Saturday, April 20, 2024

Merlin Entertainments purchases The Wheel at ICON Park, renamed The Orlando Eye

Merlin Entertainments is expanding its estate of popular attractions and theme parks in Orlando and Central Florida with the purchase of The Wheel at ICON Park, the tallest observation attraction on the U.S. East Coast. Renamed as The Orlando Eye by Merlin Entertainments, the observation wheel in the center of Orlando’s International Drive district joins Merlin Entertainments’ other family-friendly attractions and theme parks in Orlando: SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium and Madame Tussauds Orlando, both located in ICON Park alongside The Orlando Eye, and nearby, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and Peppa Pig Theme Park Florida in Winter Haven.

The attraction is the first acquisition made under the leadership of Merlin Entertainments’ CEO Scott O’Neil and demonstrates the company’s strategic focus on expanding its Gateway ‘mega-clusters’ of attractions in leading tourist cities throughout the world. “The acquisition of the Orlando Wheel in the vitally important tourist hub of Orlando demonstrates our Gateway strategy in action and serves to replicate our successful London Gateway formula, whereby we have clustered four of our branded attractions alongside the iconic anchor that is The London Eye,” states CEO, Scott O’Neil. “Similarly, The Orlando Eye by Merlin Entertainments will become an unmissable stop on visitors’ itineraries, delivering an elevated experience with unobstructed 360-degree views of the ICON Park area and beyond. We look forward to connecting guests to our wider portfolio of premium attractions and resort theme parks in and around Orlando as well, including our SEA LIFE aquarium, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND Florida Resort and Peppa Pig Theme Park.”

ICON Park’s President and CEO Chris Jaskiewicz said Merlin’s expansion plans fit well with its own growth strategy of continuing to sign quality restaurant, live entertainment and attraction tenants to its 20-acre destination in the center of the Orlando Entertainment District on International Drive. “We successfully built and developed it into a famous Orlando landmark, and now welcome The Orlando Eye by Merlin Entertainments as one of our outstanding ICON Park tenants. We’re proud that Merlin recognized the global appeal of this attraction, and of ICON Park as a destination, in selecting us as the site to expand their popular brands in Central Florida.”     

“Merlin’s newest attraction, The Orlando Eye by Merlin Entertainments, is located in the heart of Orlando where visitors will experience breathtaking 360-degree views of Central Florida, including nearby theme parks and attractions, downtown Orlando, and Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast,” said General Manager of Madame Tussauds Orlando, Paul Gould. “We’ve brought together a wonderful mix of attractions within walking distance from each other to appeal to domestic and international tourists traveling to our city.”

Located in ICON Park, the 400-foot-tall Orlando Eye by Merlin Entertainments features 30 air-conditioned glass capsules. Each capsule has room for up to 15 guests to enjoy a serene 20-minute journey above the scenic landscape.

In 2023, 27% of guests who visited Merlin’s Orlando-based Madame Tussauds also visited Merlin’s SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium. Similarly to Merlin’s expanding cluster of Orlando-based attractions, the world-leader in branded entertainment destinations owns and operates several of London’s most iconic and popular entertainment attractions including the 443-foot-tall London Eye, SEA LIFE London Aquarium, Madame Tussauds London, The London Dungeon, and Shrek’s Adventure London. According to figures by VisitBritain and Merlin guest data, more than one quarter of tourists who come to London visit at least one of Merlin’s attractions.

Of the 16 U.S. states boasting Merlin attractions, Florida is now home to five attractions, and was the site of Merlin’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park, which opened in 2022. In 2023, Merlin announced the construction of America’s second Peppa Pig Theme Park, set to open in Dallas-Fort Worth in summer 2024; which is one of two Peppa Pig attractions currently under construction globally. Merlin’s three U.S.-based LEGOLAND Resorts in Florida, California, and New York are some of the most popular and most visited of Merlin’s 10 LEGOLAND theme parks open globally.

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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