SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Legoland will not let an adult enter its facility without a child. Makes sense, right? That’s unless you are an adult who loves Legos as much as so many kids do. These days they are making accommodations for them, too.
Because for many adults, those colorful toys are more than a hobby. They can be an obsession.
Take 34-year-old Greg Nuse, for example. Once a music major and band director, Nuse gave it all up to become a Model Master Builder at Legoland in Schaumburg. So why’d he do it?
"This gives me patience," he said. "I hate having to worry about paying the bills, balancing the checkbook. This is an escape from all of that."
And knowing that adults entering Legoland alone aren’t welcome, Legoland has created adult nights several times a year for Lego lovers who are "over-age."
Also inside Woodfield Mall, there's a store called Brickmania. The brains behind these mostly military-themed bricks take Lego pieces and re-design them. It's a store that may catch a kid’s eye, but there’s no doubt -- it’s for older brick builders, as the price tags reflect.
"From my perspective, I find building cathartic," said Brickmania's Joel Fry. "Something really satisfying about sitting down with a bunch of seemingly random pieces to start and being able to put them together into something, a nice structure like this."
Brickmania shoppers ogle tanks and ships, but in the corner you can also find dozens of adult reads. Nothing X-Rated about these books -- they're simply Lego literature to inspire the child in all of us. Then there are the movies that on their face look like they are for kids, but the humor plays to the adult population, too. The gags and one-liners will make parents laugh as much as the minors, and the impact is real.
Adult Fans of Legos, or AFOLS, can now be found all over the internet. They are an intense and tight-knit circle of dedicated builders worldwide. They attend conventions like Brick World, Brick Universe and Brick Slopes. Expos like these attract like-minded Lego aficionados, young and old.
There are also Lego User Groups on line. They call themselves “Lugs.” It's where adults connect online to blog, share ideas and sometimes meet to talk about Legos. There is even a "Glossary of Terms" adults are using to speak the same Lego brick language.
Two years ago, the Museum of Science and Industry capitalized off of adults attracted to the plastic play pieces. "Brick By Brick" is for children alright, but it brought in the big kids—the older generation. Architecture was the main theme. The creator, Adam Reed Tucker of Arlington Heights, is an LCP-A Lego certified professional who also has made a career out of building.
"Instead of understanding that I am using a plastic brick that is no different than paint to a painter or metal to a blacksmith and my choice of medium is interconnecting plastic bricks," Tucker said.
He and Lego the company joined forces to create a line of Lego architecture for the masses to become Lego architects, too. He and a friend started Brickworld, a convention for adults.
But his own collection will blow your mind—26,000 sets, maybe 20 million bricks in all, that until now have been housed ub countless rooms in his basement. Boxes and bins from floor to ceiling. And his private office in adult Lego users euphoria -- skyscrapers, roller coasters, ships and castles, trophy cups and cranes.
Tucker's next project is a 14,000 square-foot, $3 million self-funded museum opening to the public this spring at Woodfield Mall.
"I’m expanding beyond just the Lego bricks. So at this museum, called Blocks to Bricks, we’re gonna have things like Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, girders and panels from the ‘70’s," Tucker said. "It’s a venue that is meant to inspire the future designers of tomorrow."
He added: "I wanted it to be for a little bit of an older crowd."
Like Susanna Ver Eecke, a mother of four in suburban Winnetka, who says her love for Legos is her dirty little secret.
In her family room, she has built the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and more. Her favorite? Frank Lloyd Wright’s the Robie House.
"It’s just like someone would knit or needlepoint. Something with your hands. It’s very relaxing. Cathartic. I love seeing the finished product," Ver Eecke said. "Its just something I do when I need to be present.”
She got her first set from her parents at the age of 4 and has never looked back.
Her husband’s thoughts about it: “He thinks it’s a little weird, but great.”
Clubs, public conventions, private collections -- adults and bricks are breaking barriers for the next generation and proving it’s not just for kids any more.
"Adults who are my age don’t really take what I do seriously and they think that i am just a kid that hasn’t really fully grown up," Tucker said.
Tucker’s Blocks to Bricks museum opens its doors at Woodfield Mall this spring. Admission is $15.
The next adult night at Legoland is March 2.
Brick building conventions are happening year round all over the country: Indianapolis in March, Schaumburg in June, and Madison, Wis., later this summer.
More information can be found on the following websites: