Legoland Family Park Development Proposition D, 1994

When Danish toy manufacturer LEGO selected a 125-acre site in the City of Carlsbad for development of their first North American amusement park, government officials rejoiced about the impact the park would have on the state and local economies. But resident opposition – warning of traffic congestion and destruction of agricultural lands – soon threatened to de-rail the project.

The Carlsbad City Council promised to be bound by the results of an advisory measure on the June 1994 ballot. We were retained by a committee of local property owners, businesses and residents to run a campaign in support of the project.

Our challenge was to demonstrate broad-based resident support for the project and convince voters the project would be a good neighbor that would contribute to rather than detract from their quality of life.

We recruited well-known and respected community members to take leadership roles in our campaign committee – Carlsbad CARES – and developed campaign materials that explained city-imposed conditions would funnel traffic directly on and off the freeway, avoiding impact on local streets, and ensured permanent preservation of the adjacent flower fields. We pointed out that over two-thirds of the Park would be landscaped open space, with the remainder hands-on education and entertainment facilities for young children and their families. We also emphasized the benefits of the project – 600 new jobs, $76 million annually for the region, and over $600,000 each year in revenues for the city.

An aggressive grass-roots campaign placed campaign signs in over 500 front yards; we secured personal endorsements from thousands of local residents; and an effective direct mail program carried our key messages to all likely voters.

Our efforts proved crucial when, in the final two weeks of the campaign, a competing Southern California amusement park operator funneled over $100,000 into efforts to defeat the project. Despite their last-minute attacks, Carlsbad voters overwhelmingly approved what is now LEGOLAND, a regional visitor attraction and the foundation of the city’s surrounding development efforts.