Legoland amusement park to open in Charleroi by 2027
A Legoland amusement park should open by spring 2027 on the former industrial site of Caterpillar in Charleroi. A non-binding memorandum of understanding was signed on Tuesday 30 August by the leisure group Merlin (number two in the world), Sogepa (financial arm of the Walloon Region), Soresic (owner of the site) and the Federal State in order to deepen the collaboration between these different parties in this direction. The Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, welcomed the Lego Group in Belgium in French and Dutch through his Twitter account.
"This allows us to turn the painful page that was the closure of Caterpillar. Suffering is now giving way to hope and new employment opportunities are being offered to workers in our region," said Walloon Minister-President Elio Di Rupo.
According to the Minister-President, the project is important on the social level, creating more than 1,000 jobs from the start of operation of Legoland. "We need to demonstrate that Wallonia, like other regions of Europe, is a high-performance region" and the future park will contribute to this desire, said the Walloon Minister-President.
"Legoland is a top-notch leisure park, whose financial model is very robust," added Willy Borsus, Walloon Minister of the Economy. This is a structuring project, which will call on local companies for the construction and for the suppliers, in particular.
The investment is estimated at between 370 and 400 million euros, while the initial budget was closer to 300 million euros. This would make it the second largest investment of the last ten years in the Walloon Region after Google in Mons.
This amount will be distributed between the various partners, with a share for Wallonia of around 100 million euros net, depending on the budgetary analyzes in progress. Banking partners will take between 75 and 100 million euros on their account. It should also be noted that an additional 10 to 15 million euros will be invested each year in the park.
Such an establishment would strengthen the tourism in Europe and Wallonia in particular, the stakeholders stressed on Tuesday morning during a press conference at the Lego Discovery Center in Docks Bruxsel. The customers targeted are in fact mainly those from Wallonia, Benelux and the north of France, but also those further away and more inclined to stay a few days on Belgian territory.
An area of the continent that Merlin Entertainments had been looking to expand into for several years and which has been identified as a viable market for what would be the 4th Legoland park in Europe.
The technical and market studies carried out have also shown the full potential of a location on the former industrial site of Caterpillar, where 2,200 people worked and which the Walloon Region had bought from the American group for a symbolic 1 euro. The site is located in the center of a densely populated area and close to highways, train stations and an airport.
"The strong appetite for the Lego brand suggests the prospect of a pool of 21 million potential visitors located less than two hours' drive from the site", support the various partners.
Such a park generally attracts between 1.5 and 2 million visitors per year and projections show that this figure could also be obtained in Charleroi, where it is hoped for a "very significant" turnover of 120 million euros.
Legoland and its infrastructure will initially cover an area of 70 ha, while a land reserve of 20 ha could allow for future extensions and developments. It will have several thematic areas as well as accommodation (hotels and cottages, among others).
In the event of an explosion in costs, an exit option is provided. The investment cost will thus first be the subject of more in-depth studies in the weeks and months to come in order to remain acceptable to each of the stakeholders, which also applies to the costs of decontamination and sanitation of the Caterpillar website.
© BELGA PHOTO (HATIM KAGHAT)
Walloon Minister President Elio Di Rupo, Former Walloon Minister President Paul Magnette, Merlin Group CEO John Jakobsen, MR's Willy Borsus and State Secretary for scientific policy Thomas Dermine during a press conference at the new Lego Discovery Center in the Docks shopping center in Schaarbeek, Brussels, Tuesday 30 August 2022.