As Seen on TV: The Peppa Pig Theme Park

Barton Malow brings a beloved cartoon character into the real world—without disappointing her young fanbase.
By Molly Petrilla
November 29, 2022

Sometimes a kid just needs to revel in the imaginary land of Peppa Pig—which is why Merlin Entertainments Group set out to create the world’s first theme park devoted to the cartoon oinker. The new attraction opened at LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Florida, earlier this year, with Barton Malow Builders (BMB) leading the design-build process as the project’s construction manager.

“Peppa Pig was a great opportunity that came along, and it fit our experience as well,” says Randy Zylstra, senior director of Florida operations for Barton Malow. “The entire team had a great time building the project, and it’s been very rewarding seeing the public embrace the Peppa Pig Theme Park and enjoy all it has to offer.”

High on the Hog

For the uninitiated, “Peppa Pig” is a British animated series that stars a spunky, four-year-old pig named Peppa. The show debuted in 2004, now boasts more than 360 episodes and has become a favorite of preschoolers all over the world. A first-of-its-kind theme park dedicated to the beloved cartoon pig meant developing a project specifically for young children, who have their own unique needs for rides and attractions. It also meant capturing the show’s colorful but simply drawn 2D-animation style and general tone in theme-park form.

The new 5.5-acre attraction was carved out of an existing parking lot at LEGOLAND Florida, which Merlin Entertainments also operates. Visitors walk inside beneath a vibrant, 30-foot-tall aluminum rainbow, which is topped by Peppa herself. Inside, BMB managed the creation of five rides, each with its own operator’s booth and queue line. There’s a kid-sized roller coaster pegged as an outing in Daddy Pig’s red car, plus other rides that place guests inside faux hot-air balloons, on mini pirate ships and atop dinosaurs.

BMB also oversaw construction of a duck pond, a “fun fair” with tents and carnival games, a sand play area, a pedal car spot, a water play area and a garden play space with a nature trail. Other areas of the park include a diner, a theater, restrooms, a retail store, a life-sized model of Peppa’s house and multiple back-of-house spaces.

The new park took about 14 months to build from start to finish. While BMB had worked on previous projects with Merlin—and also at Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld—“this was the first Peppa Pig [theme park] that was constructed, so it was a learning process both for Merlin and us as well,” Zylstra says.

But Was It COVID?

Zylstra says there were “many challenges along the way” as BMB led construction on the Peppa Pig Theme Park, working with four partners and 29 subcontractors. Some ride components that were delivered needed to be reordered, while vendor drawings sometimes required additional information to complete certain areas of the park.

But because the park is the first devoted to Peppa—and thus filled with one-of-a-kind features—Zylstra says it’s difficult to figure out whether certain obstacles that the BMB team encountered were due to the COVID-19 pandemic or would have arisen regardless. “Sometimes it’s hard to understand, does this Peppa Pig statue really take six months to get, or did COVID-19 impact that?” he says. “If it was your standard four-story apartment complex, I could tell you exactly what COVID-19 did to [the project].”

That said, “COVID-19 obviously impacts procurement,” Zylstra says. For instance, some materials simply weren’t available in the marketplace at the time and required replacements. “We did a lot of procurement research on equals or better that did not compromise the design,” Zylstra says.

The team also planned and utilized strategic concrete pours and blockouts when materials were unavailable due to supply-chain delays. They relied on detailed planning and scheduling meetings to pull the work ahead, always making sure they stayed true to the overall design intent. “We kept the job going, knowing [an item] was coming across the seas and wasn’t going to be here for three or four months,” Zylstra says. “We were […] then able to install a lot of theming at the end, without any further impact.”

These skillful pivots weren’t lost on BMB’s client. “The team was fully committed to the success of the project, regardless of challenges that arose,” says Sarah Brightly, senior project lead for new business at Merlin Entertainments. “They worked tirelessly to find solutions while still adhering to the overall time, cost and design requirements.”

Travel restrictions due to the pandemic limited visits from several key stakeholders and ride vendors that were located outside of the United States. But BMB found a solution there, too, according to Zylstra: “continuous communication and coordination were key to schedule management.”

In the end, “even with some challenges faced,” Zylstra says, “the park ultimately opened on time as originally planned from day one.”

by Molly Petrilla

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