Coming Soon to Universal Orlando: More Potter, Two Hotels and a Third Theme Park

Last week we took a look at some pretty exciting things happening at Universal’s various Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter both in Orlando and around the world. However, some new developments have come to light in recent days that would seem to bring the future of Universal Orlando Resort specifically into clearer focus and can help give us a clue about what Universal Orlando Resort will look like a few years from now.

Predictably, it looks increasingly like it’s going to start with even more Harry Potter…

1. A new, interactive Harry Potter-themed dark ride could be in development

 Image: Universal Orlando Resort

Late last week rumors from typically credible sources seemed to indicate that Universal was considering tearing down the Dragon Challenge roller coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure  and replacing this attraction with another Wizarding World-themed dark ride, possibly related to the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a few days after these reports surfaced, the Orlando Business Journal reported that they have uncovered a new patent that seems to indicate that an interactive ride is being developed that will place guests in the role of witch or wizard and allow them to experience a fully interactive ride the likes of which has never been seen before. Vaguely titled Video Game Ride, this patent is from from NBCUniversal subsidiary Universal City Studios LLC and details new technology that will create a fully interactive game that will change depending on the actions that users take during the ride. Interestingly, the patent also says that the ride experience will also be different depending on input factors as well. So, for instance, if you tell a Team Member that your birthday is in August and your Hogwarts House is Ravenclaw, then you might see some special content unique to your ride vehicle. The possibilities are endless.

Image: Comcast/Universal

The patent uses the example of a “wizard-themed game” to explain how this new technology will work. In this example, riders are said to be able to use different wands associated with specific characters and use those wands at specific moments to score points, working either with teammates or in competition with opponents.

While this may sound like a Toy Story Midway Mania clone at first, the patent goes on to say that this theoretical ride will be able to capture player motion (it specifically mentions waving wands), and then change the ride experience depending on how “effective” guests movements are.

Image: Warner Bros./Noble Collection 

While nothing has been confirmed yet (and it’s important to remember that theme parks file hundreds of patents every year that go unused), considering what has been rumored about the imminent demise of the Dragon Challenge attraction, we’d be inclined to believe that Universal is at least considering developing a dark ride that utilizes this exciting new technology.

However, though the thought of a new wand-controlled ride is certainly exciting, that’s not the only development that has come out of Universal lately…

2. Plans for new hotel properties are coming together

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Universal Orlando Resort is already moving ahead on plans to construct yet another on-property hotel. Code-named “Aventura”, this new 600-room hotel was revealed to be in development when parent company Comcast filed official documents with the Orange County government in mid-August. This new hotel will occupy six acres of land and will be located in close proximity to Universal’s newest property, Loew’s Sapphire Falls, and will even have an adjoining parking garage that will connect to Sapphire Falls’ via a walkway. The new hotel will reportedly be another “value” property (similar to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort) and will not include complimentary Express Passes for guests.

Though this new development hasn’t been officially confirmed by Universal just yet, it isn’t all that surprising, especially since Universal said in 2015 that it planned to open two additional hotel properties after the Lowe’s Sapphire Falls project was completed. And considering that property just opened a few weeks ago, it looks like Universal is wasting no time getting their 6th on-property hotel project off the ground.

Looking even further ahead, Universal has indicated that once Wet ‘n Wild is closed and the land cleared, a new high-rise tower-style hotel will be built at this site, fulfilling Universal’s desire to have seven hotels at the current Universal Orlando Resort. However, even though this project looks like it will be more or less complete in the next few years, Universal has even bigger plans beyond over half a dozen on-property hotels…

3. Further expansions waiting in the wings

Image: CBRE

In the final weeks of 2015, only a day before Christmas, it was confirmed that Universal quietly closed on 450 acres of undeveloped land spread across multiple parcels four miles from the current location of Universal Orlando Resort. You can see these parcels relative to Universal Boulevard above. Interestingly, this land has already been zoned by Orange County for use for hotel rooms, residential units, and most tellingly, theme-park style attractions.

Though nothing has been announced yet, back in June Universal filed permits to develop a transportation system that may use a dedicated bus line, light rail or combination thereof to get guests from the current Universal Orlando Resort to this new site. Though Universal hasn’t come out and said they are developing a third (and potentially fourth) park, it’s clear that they are planning for such a possibility, and are lining things up to formally announce this project in the coming years.

Universal Orlando Resort has quite a few irons in the fire at the moment, between the construction of Volcano Bay as well as new attractions Jimmy Fallon Race Through New York and Fast & Furious: Supercharged, which are supposed to open in 2017 and 2018, respectively. However, it looks like Universal has even bigger plans for the future as they prepare to expand their Wizarding World of Harry Potter yet again, build even more hotels, and even look to finally build that third theme park (and no, we’re not talking about Volcano Bay).

Are you excited for the future of Universal Orlando Resort?

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Don Korta
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