Coming Soon to Universal Orlando: A Wizarding World Expansion, New Hotels, and More

Though we’re certainly excited about the impending opening of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon next month at Universal Studios Florida and the 2018 debut of The Fast and the Furious: Supercharged, neither of these attractions are really a game changer for the resort. Like last year’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong, these new rides are fun for guests who make regular trips to Universal Orlando Resort, but they aren’t exactly a huge draw on their own.

However, while it looks like Universal is just biding their time at the moment, coasting after the wild success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, recent rumors suggest that Universal is absolutely not resting on their laurels, and actually has some massive (and very exciting!) long-term projects in the works that could bring bigger crowds than ever to the resort. And interestingly, it may all kick off with a high-profile closure…

1. Dragon Challenge inches closer to demise

Last year we heard whispers that Universal was considering demolishing the Dragon Challenge ride, potentially using this valuable space inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to create a ride based on the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film series.

Though we haven’t heard many updates on this rumor in the months since it first surfaced, this whisper turned into a roar earlier this week when the Orlando Business Journal reported that an inside source has indicated that Universal is indeed working on a replacement for Dragon Challenge, and could be preparing to close this attraction sometime in the very near future. 

Image: Warner Bros.

The Orlando Business Journal’s anonymous source goes on to say that the plan is to demolish this attraction soon and create an indoor/outdoor dark ride that “may have a portion as if you are in a forest — with part of the ride outside — and other parts indoor designed to make you feel like you’re outside.” While we don’t know for sure, this sounds a lot like the interactive wand ride that was patented last year, and could be an evolution of this concept. 

While Universal has obviously declined comment on this development (you’ll remember they denied the existence of Skull Island: Reign of Kong until after it was half-built), it looks like some real work is going on behind the scenes to inject some new life into the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020 (which would, perhaps not coincidentally, be a perfect time to open a new attraction!).

However, though this development may still be several years off, there’s some more immediate plans that are beginning to take shape at Universal as well…

2. Permits filed for land formerly occupied by Wet ‘n Wild

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

Earlier this week Universal parent company Comcast filed documents with the city of Orlando confirming that the former Wet ‘n Wild property will be redeveloped for new hotel use, with 4,000 rooms currently slated to be built at this site. And of course, this is on top of the currently under construction Aventura Hotel and Cabana Bay Towers.

While Universal has only added a few rides to its parks in the last several years, the resort is seemingly racing to build as much hotel inventory as possible. And with this new development it certainly looks like the resort will hit its goal of having over 10,000 rooms available onsite for guests before the end of the decade (as you might recall, with the opening of Sapphire Falls last year, the resort recently hit the 5,000 mark). So why is Universal looking to double the amount of hotel rooms it currently has available? We’ll bet you already know the answer… 

3. Universal’s 2015 land purchase remains a mystery

Image: CBRE

It has been over a year since Universal’s parent company Comcast purchased a 474-acre property known as the Sand Lake Road complex near Universal Blvd., and in that time, we have heard absolutely nothing about what Universal might do with this land. The natural assumption is that Universal is going to build new theme parks in this area (after all, you could fit both of Universal’s theme parks inside this new area twice), and we’re almost positive that this land will eventually be developed for this specific purpose. However, it might be some time before we walk into a third (and potentially fourth) gate for Universal Orlando Resort. 

For one thing, building a new theme park quite the lengthy process, with development alone taking several years. However, beyond this obvious point, it looks like Universal might be wanting to finish the aforementioned hotel inventory boosting project before it goes full steam ahead with any new theme park construction. This of course makes a lot of sense, as Universal can ensure that it is ready for a massive influx of guests that will undoubtedly show up to the opening of the first major theme park to be built in Orlando in nearly two decades by ensuring it has at least 10,000 rooms available for guests before their new park welcomes its first guests. 

And of course, there’s another reason why Universal is probably eager to get this hotel project off the ground… 

4. Initial details for Nintendo Land should come later this year

Image: Nintendo

Though we’ve known about Nintendo Land for nearly two years now, Universal has been quite sparing with  details for this project, declining to give any information about where this new land will be located, or what kind of rides and attractions will be featured. However, we expect that all to change later this year. With work ramping up on Star Wars Land at neighbor Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort has plenty of cause to get shovels in the ground for Nintendo Land as quickly as possible.

Walt Disney World has set a firm 2019 opening date for Star Wars Land, and if Disney’s new land is as successful as many are thinking it will be, Universal could risk losing some of the momentum they’ve built up over the past decade as guests flock to Walt Disney World without setting aside a day or two for Universal Orlando Resort.

Image: Universal

However, we expect that fans won’t have to wait much longer to hear the first details about this new land, which should be announced later this year, potentially as soon as this summer (coincidentally, Disney is also expected to share additional details about Star Wars Land this summer, so make of that what you will).

While a lot of the future of Universal Orlando Resort is still shrouded in secrecy, we do know one thing for sure: the next few years will be quite exciting for theme park fans in Orlando. With ambitious projects in the works at both Universal and Disney parks, it has never been a better time to be a theme park fan. Which of these new projects are you most excited to see? Let us know in the comments below!

-Originally in Theme Park Tourist By , Wednesday, March 22, 2017 05:25





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