Siegfried Boerst is general manager of Legoland Dubai, a 3.2 million-square-foot theme park and water park in Jebel Ali which, when it opens in October, will contain 40 different attractions. The German, 53, has worked in the industry for more than 20 years, starting at Disneyland Paris in 1992 as assistant manager in charge of ticketing. He first joined the Legoland brand in 2001, as an admission and security manager for Legoland Deutschland, going on to oversee the opening of Legoland Malaysia in 2012. Mr Boerst moved to Dubai in October 2013 to lead the construction of Legoland Dubai, part of the wider Dubai Parks and Resorts development that includes Motiongate and Bollywood theme parks.
After breakfast, I walk my 15-year-old daughter to her school bus, as I have done since she was a small child. It’s a quiet moment with her to hear her concerns, and then I drive to work. As I pass through the Dubai Parks and Resorts construction site on the way to my office, I drive slowly so I can see what’s going on. The cars behind probably aren’t too happy. Currently we have 33 people on the Legoland team and over 3,000 construction workers, out of more than 15,000 altogether on the Dubai Parks and Resorts site.
I arrive at the office and go through my calendar, emails and have a meeting with my PA. I like to go on a site visit in the mornings before it gets too hot. It’s impressive to see how Legoland has taken shape since we started building 18 months ago.
Three times a week, I meet our project team on site. Buildings start as a drawing and then you see how it looks on the ground – sometimes small changes have to be made, easier now than when it’s finished. We use paints and materials to match real Lego colours, and our constructions are all to scale with real Lego bricks. For our Lego castle, for example, we want the bricks to have that smooth Lego-like look, but it’s a medieval castle, so it also needs texture.
The first office meeting begins. It’s with the six directors overseeing finance, marketing, commercial operations, and HR, who I meet at least once a week. I get updates about what’s happening on the project, and where I can assist. There are small pockets in the park where we can add attractions in the future.
I meet my counterparts from Motiongate and Bollywood parks to discuss progress. We want to open together so it’s crucial we’re aligned in what we’re doing and what the guest experience will look like. The submarine adventure attraction is the one I’m most looking forward to seeing completed. You’ll enter a submarine and drive underwater (though you won’t get wet) through an aquarium of live fish, sharks and rays, and a sunken Lego village.
Often I bring my own lunch to work – potato or pasta salad, made by my wife.
We have a meeting with the whole Legoland team. These meetings enable all the staff to understand what’s happening elsewhere at the park and ask me questions. Our water park will be the biggest Lego water park in the world. Although it’s part of Legoland, it’ll be a totally separate full-day experience, with lazy river slides, big soft Lego bricks floating around the river and Lego play areas.
Once a week we have a directors’ update for the senior management team. Last week, we had a team here from Lego to talk about how to publicise the park. Lego are now looking at developing more Dubai architectural designs in their toys – the Burj Khalifa Lego was specifically redesigned because they knew Legoland would be coming here.
I come home and do homework with my daughter. She’s missing her older brother (who is now at university) but she now has Daddy all to herself, so that has its advantages. We often go cycling together, and also like to build Lego. I like to build architectural models following set instructions. It’s amazing to see how they reflect the real building.
I’m getting old so I need to sleep early. My job is not causing me any sleepless nights. I’ve done it all before in Malaysia, so this time it’s easier. I have a very good, experienced team and I’m confident we’ll open on time. When we do, my days will be very different because I’ll be able to go out and meet the visitors, and see the smiles on the children’s faces.
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