Lego Land: Timeless toy sparks childhood memories for students, teachers

The Southerner

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By Olivia Kleinman

The March 17 opening of LEGOLAND Discovery Center, a LEGO-themed amusement park in Phipps Plaza, the third location in the United States, has triggered nostalgia for LEGO enthusiasts at Grady.

Junior Claire Hasson said she used to love constructing LEGO models when she was younger. She said the little plastic bricks could always capture her attention for hours on end, and  when she visited LEGOLAND, waves of her childhood resurfaced.

“I felt like a little kid again,” Hasson said. “I sat down next to one of the LEGO bins and realized the entertainment value of them still hasn’t changed.”

LEGO may not be a brand name most people associate with such high-end stores in Phipps Plaza, but operation manager Richard Dilly said the new addition is off to a great start.

Dilly, who played with LEGO bricks as a child, flew in from England for the grand opening in Atlanta. Opening weekend attracted 3,500 people, Dilly said.

The first attraction in the discovery center is the LEGO factory, where visitors can experience the transformation of raw plastic into finished bricks and even find their weight and height in LEGO bricks.

The center’s second room features the sound of medieval music, which transports visitors to a whole different era. Blazing torches with fabric flames glow on the castle walls that surround several children eagerly fidgeting in line under the pink and blue lights.

“If he’s old enough to walk and hold a gun, he can ride,” an employee said to a parent.

With that, one by one, the children and their dazzled parents board the chariots, equipped with laser guns, on an interactive ride called “Kingdom Quest”—a fictional mission to rescue the captured princess by defeating the skeletons and vanquishing the trolls.

Down the hall lies downtown Atlanta—intricately composed from 1.5 million LEGO bricks, one of the world’s biggest boxes of LEGO bricks. Known as “Miniland,” there are detailed recreations of several buildings and landmarks with moving parts such as the Georgia Dome, Turner Field, the High Museum, the CNN Center, the state Capitol, the Georgia Aquarium and much more. When nighttime falls, the room darkens, buildings light up and animated fireworks are projected in the “sky.”

A flood of children and their parents rush under the LEGO arch into a giant room with wide, green buckets of LEGO bricks and life-size LEGO figures spread throughout the vicinity.

“If you’re having fun, scream!” an employee yelled.

Earsplitting shrieks echo across the room as children frolic in the Fire Academy jungle gym, build LEGO cars to race down ramps, sing karaoke, construct LEGO buildings, spin around on a ride called “Merlin’s Apprentice” or count down the seconds before the next 4D LEGO animation movie. The employees, clad in purple shirts, dance around, adding to the lively atmosphere.

“Everyday it’s a fantasy world,” employee Robin Rowland said.

Rowland said children’s faces light up in wonder as soon as they enter LEGOLAND, and she enjoys being a part of the excitement.

Dilly said child visitors have ranged in age from newborn to 13 years old. The ages of LEGO lovers, however, are boundless.

“Once, when I went to the bank, there was a man who said he got his degree in architecture because he liked playing with LEGO bricks so much,” Dilly said.

Juniors James Moy and Henry Peteet can also relate to this old pastime.

“[LEGO] makes it easy to be constructive, and I was a destructive kid, so it was nice to have,” Moy said.

Peteet, who is on Grady’s robotics team, said LEGO contributed to the spark of his interest in robotics.

Math teacher and robotics coach Andrew Nichols also recalls playing with LEGO bricks when he was younger.

“It was an avenue for my interest in robotics,” Nichols said. “I already had an interest [in robotics], and LEGO helped me explore it.”

Admission to the discovery center is free for children two and under, $15 for children 3 through 12 and $19 for adults 13 and older.

Since LEGOLAND is a children’s attraction, the policy does not admit adults into the discovery center unless they are visiting with a child. All those older LEGO fans, however, have no need to fret. Beginning in May, LEGOLAND will host an adult night on the second Thursday of every month.

LEGO toys continue to rave in popularity some 65 years after they were originally produced in 1947, and Dilly believes they will remain popular for many years to come.

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