GRAPEVINE -- The new Legoland Discovery Center at Grapevine Mills mall may be all about the kids having fun, but a media preview Thursday was just as much about the adults.
Those included members of the Grapevine City Council, who were surprised to discover just how much the city is represented in the attraction's Miniland, where more than 1.5 million Lego bricks were used to build models of notable Metroplex buildings.
In bright Lego fashion are the Gaylord Texan hotel, Great Wolf Lodge, a section of Main Street, Delaney Vineyards, the historic Nash Farm and the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.
"It looks so great," Councilwoman Darlene Freed said. "It's far more than I ever expected."
Said Mayor Pro Tem C. Shane Wilbanks: "I have just become a 10-year-old kid. This is amazing."
In 2009, the council approved a $1 million incentive package for the $12 million project, developed by U.K.-based Merlin Entertainment Group, the world's second-largest operator of visitor attractions.
Legoland will open to the public Wednesday. Its sister attraction, Sea Life Aquarium, will open in July. Legoland has taken the space once used by a skate park and is across from the AMC Theatres.
The 35,000-square-foot Legoland is geared to kids ages 3-12 and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. It's only the second Legoland Discovery Center in the U.S. and the fifth in the world.
The addition of Legoland means more visitors staying at hotels, eating at restaurants and shopping, said Paul McCallum, executive director of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It helps us hold people in the community and that drives more money into the community."
About 100 lucky Grapevine schoolchildren were the first to visit Legoland on Thursday. After gathering in the mall's food court, they paraded to the Legoland entrance, some chanting "I love Legoland." Once inside, their eyes lit up and they stopped in their tracks to take it all in before scattering to the different activity posts.
"It's so awesome," said Andrew Nelson, the grandson of state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. "It's a lot bigger than I imagined it would be," said the first-grader, who accompanied his grandfather, Mike Nelson, to the preview.
Grapevine Mayor William Tate said he's learned quickly from his grandchildren what Legos are all about.
"It doesn't seem so many years ago I was in the old family homestead, playing with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs," Tate said. "In recent years, my grandchildren have taught me the magic of Legos."
Legoland is mostly interactive, letting kids play with Legos to their heart's content. The Kingdom Quest interactive laser ride takes guests to a medieval castle; there's a 3-D movie as well.
But it's in Miniland where kids and adults alike are amazed by the structures built with Legos.
Fort Worth is represented by the Tarrant County Courthouse, Bass Hall, the Stockyards Coliseum, the Will Rogers complex, Carter Burgess Plaza, a City Center office tower, the Modern Art Museum, The Tower condo building and other places.
Dallas is depicted by the American Airlines Center and Victory Park, a blinking Reunion Tower, Dealey Plaza, Union Station and Dallas City Hall.
There's also Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, South Fork Ranch, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Cowboys Stadium.
Project manager Darren Ward said the models took 4,500 hours to build, 1,500 hours to put in animation and lighting and four more weeks to assemble on site. They were all built in Windsor, England, and shipped to Grapevine, he said.
The designers incorporated a few fun twists with the Lego figures: Look for SpongeBob SquarePants swimming in Dallas City Hall's water pond, Star Wars stormtroopers sitting in Cowboys Stadium, and the Simpsons at a Rangers game.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727