While much of our attention over the past week has been focused on the imminent opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, just up the road Universal Orlando Resort has also been gearing up for its own big opening next week, the brand new Volcano Bay water park. However, it looks like Universal is far from done with their ambitious plans for the resort’s future growth. Not only are they still working on the Cabana Bay expansion and the Aventura Tower hotel (as well as the Fast and Furious: Supercharged attraction and of course Nintendo Land), but now two additional projects have been confirmed to be in development for the resort as well, including one that may be starting construction in just a few days.
Construction on Volcano Bay’s first expansion to begin next month
Volcano Bay hasn’t even welcomed its first paying guest yet, but it looks like Universal has a lot of faith in this new park, as an executive at Universal Creative has revealed that a 5-acre expansion Volcano Bay is in the works, and will actually begin construction in the very, very near future. Like as in next month. According to CNN, the vice-president and executive art director of Universal Creative let slip during an interview that an expansion for this park is officially in the works, saying that construction on this project (which was not detailed) “could start [as soon as] in three weeks.”
Of course, when reporters followed up asking about specifics for this plan, Universal was non-committal, with spokesman Tom Schroder saying that the resort was “entirely focused on May 25 and making that great.”
Still, even though the executive might have jumped the gun on the announcement, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that Universal would be planning to expand Volcano Bay already, especially as this project was fast-tracked from announcement to opening, which undoubtedly put some constraints on what Universal could do with the new park. Now that an opening is imminent, Universal has the freedom to continue to add to this park at their own pace to keep guests coming back to this new park, which has the unique distinction of having been designed from the ground up to be the world’s first park without lines.
And though this expansion has been confirmed (but not quite announced), there’s another project that Universal has been in the works for almost three years now, but could be finally ready to see an official announcement soon…
2. Plans finally start coming together for Universal’s most ambitious hotel project yet
Ever since it was announced that Wet ‘n Wild was closing, rumors have swirled about Universal’s plans for the land formerly occupied by this water park. And now that demolition of this water park is drawing to a close, plans have been filed that show Universal is indeed looking at building two or three branded hotel properties on this site that will be split on either side of Universal Boulevard, with 1,200 rooms on the west side and the remaining 2,800 on the east side.
According to official documents, Universal is planning to develop hotels on this land that will have complimentary themes related to their current stable of seven properties and will have “resort style” landscaping and pools, along with retail and food and beverage outlets.
This matches up with documents Universal filed earlier this year that detailed a master plan to construct roughly 4,000 hotel rooms on this site. According to the most recent documents, Universal is already considering transportation options for these new hotels, and is planning to construct three driveways off Universal Boulevard and International Drive to serve these new locations. In addition, a direct resort-to-theme-park shuttle service will be used to bring guests between the hotels and the theme parks (similar to what is already in use at the Cabana Bay Resort).
Like the Volcano Bay project, no official announcements have been made in regards to this project, but thanks to publicly-available documents (and Universal’s own vague statements in the past) we do know that this plan is indeed being set in motion, and an official announcement should come in the very near future. Now if only Universal could get around to finally confirming those not-so-secret plans for a third theme park…
How do you feel about Universal’s rapid expansion plans? Are they growing at a sustainable rate, or do you think this is too much, too soon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
-Originally published in Theme Park Tourist, May 19, 2017 by Amanda Kondolojy
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