Legoland, Illinois?

Theme park seeks tax breaks

By Steve Rhodes
|  Monday, Oct 26, 2009  |  Updated 12:59 PM CDT
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Legoland, Illinois?

www.legoland.com

Imagine building a new plastic city.

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Legoland may be coming to downstate Illinois.

Illinois officials are in talks with a European company over tax breaks that could lure a lego amusement park to the tiny town of Glen Carbon, just outside of St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Legoland officials previously wanted to build an amusement park in Columbia, Illinois, but that deal fell through.

But when Gov. Pat Quinn was in Copenhagen as part of the Chicago 2016 bid team, Legoland officials were there.

"He ran into these people from Legoland, and they told him what they wanted to do," spokeswoman Kelly Kraft told the Post-Dispatch.

Legolands already exist in Denmark, England, Germany and California.

The company apparently wants a Midwest location and the St. Louis area has appeal; Glen Carbon ranked 91st on Money magazine's list of the top 100 places to live this year.

But while Legoland may seem like a fantastical place for kids and adults alike, there is a grim political reality behind the fun. One investor in the project, for example, is the son of downstate U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello. And the tax breaks Legoland is seeking include forgiving all sales taxes so the investors can pay off the bonds they would seek to build the theme park. A sweet deal.

Lawmakers could decide as early as next week what kind of deal they are willing to strike with Legoland.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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