Legoland Florida has officially opened to the public with a grand opening ceremony attended by a big crowd. Many had already purchased tickets in advance but those who hadn’t found they had a long wait to purchase tickets at the gate. Legoland Florida opened Oct. 15 on the old Cypress Gardens property, about 40 miles from that theme park Mecca. Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, with its lakefront setting and botanical gardens, "was probably the most beautiful site we've ever looked at," said John Ussher, director of development for Legoland. The company liked the location, midway between Orlando and Tampa. And because the property already had the right zoning and infrastructure, the usual process of buying land, getting permits and building a theme park could be cut by at least five years. They paid almost $25 million for the business, including the property. Legoland executives say they are counting on the affection that grown-ups and kids alike have for Lego toys, Floridians' sentimental attachment to the botanical gardens, and the attraction of a park designed just for kids age 2 to 12. They anticipate the park will draw 1.5 million to two million visitors a year, in the same general range as the other Legoland parks. By contrast, Orlando's seven big parks — Disney's four, Universal's two and SeaWorld — drew a combined total of about 64 million visitors last year, according to The Global Attractions Attendance Report by the Themed Entertainment Association. The parks do not make their own numbers public. The new Legoland will have a few of the old Cypress Gardens attractions, but most of the property has been razed, every square foot of paving replaced. Most of the 50 or so attractions are brand new, incorporating 50 million Lego bricks, and include several places where children can play with — and buy — Lego toys. The rides and attractions are geared toward younger kids — "pink knuckle" rides Legoland calls them, that will thrill but not terrify youngsters. A few rides, such as Driving School, where youngsters ride alone, are child-sized, but most are large enough for adults, too. Legoland parks do not want to attract teenagers and don't have attractions designed for older kids. Admission will be cheaper than the big parks, but the hours will be shorter. For about half the year, the park will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It will be open seven days a week and later in the evening in summer, holiday weeks and about six weeks at spring break time. Tickets will cost $75 ($65 for ages 3-12 and over 60), $10 less than Disney and Universal for a one-day, one-park ticket. Annual passes cost $129 for adults, $99 for kids. Legoland has already announced plans to expand the park over the next few years. By May next year they hope to open a water park; it will be Lego themed and will feature many unusual Lego elements such as a Lego raft guests can build themselves to then float down a 'river'. They also plan to open a 500 room hotel in 2014 or 2015.