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Ask and ye shall receive; Universal Orlando to drop $100 mil on new attractions

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Published: April 5, 2007 at 10:54 AM

Universal fans are buzzing about the company's latest SEC filing, which reveal plans to more than double capital spending, to "$100 million to $120 million" on shows and attractions in 2007. Universal told federal regulators that it plans to spend just $15 to $20 million of that on maintenance of existing rides.

(Background: All U.S. companies whose stock is traded through public exchanges must file quarterly statements with the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, revealing how much money they've spent and earned, plus any plans they have which could affect their stock price.)

Universal's announcement lends support to rumors that the park is planning a major retheming of one of the IOA lands, possibly to a Harry Potter theme. Keep in mind that $100-$120 million is just what Universal's planning to spend this year. A newly rethemed land would not open until 2008, at the earliest, so additional funds for the project, presumably, would come from the 2008 budget, as well.

As I noted earlier this week, Universal's attendance has not kept up with rival Walt Disney World's, and has declined at IOA. Attendance remains down, 3 percent for the year, according to the SEC report. So Universal needs to do something to boost attendance. And the Blue Man Group, tweaked admission deals and another Orange County ad campaign won't cut it.

Readers' Opinions

From Chris P. on April 5, 2007 at 12:06 PM
I hope they re-theme IOA's Lost Continent to cheese. That way we can have Dueling Dragons turn into Cheddar vs. Mozarella: The Coaster, and melted cheese rivers and watefalls.
From Iris Hernandez on April 5, 2007 at 12:19 PM
Freakin AWESOME...i love the ask and ye shall receive headline, that was genious. I am so glad that Universal is stepping up its game. Whatever is coming, i think will be really good. Its good to see some solid proof that they are doing something about there lack-of new attraction/attendace problems.
From Anthony Murphy on April 5, 2007 at 12:22 PM
Good plan for IOA!


I really want IOA to improve because it keeps Disney from getting lazy and sloppy!


Retheming? I wonder what area?

If its Harry Potter, it looks like the Lost Continent is on the chopping block which is a shame. Its my favorite land and that stupid water tunnel gets me every time!

However, I would imagine very little would change and Voldemort could make an appearence in the Battle for Atlantis or whatever they are calling it!

From Eric Malone on April 5, 2007 at 12:59 PM
The best news I've heard all week.
From Erik Yates on April 5, 2007 at 1:31 PM
I agree, this is excellent excellent news. Hopefully ontop of a new retheming they finally put in a new JP ride as well...thats an area that needs something very badly.
From Domenik Jost on April 5, 2007 at 1:32 PM
Looks like Universal is really planing to spice up their parks the next year or two. Knowing that they just closed down Back to the Future and that they are working on something new to open in 2008, I think it is great that they are finally putting more money into making the park more exciting. It's been quite some time since they have added anything new and exciting to the parks and I really think it is time that they do something. I mean I'm starting to get really bored with both parks. Now I know that since I have the annual pass I tend to visit the park more often that most other people, but honestly even if it was just once a year I'd go there, it would still seem like it's starting to get boring and old. They really need to add something new and exciting, something unique, something that people will remember. Universal hasn't done a good job of keeping their parks spiced up and keeping them exciting. I hope they will finally change that.
It'll be cool to see what they do next, and as many others, I'm anxious to know what they are planing on putting into the parks.
From Melissa Faulkner on April 5, 2007 at 2:32 PM
I agree with you Domenik. The last time we were at USO, was when The Mummy opened. And we hadn't been to IOA for 2 years before that. We haven't been to either since The Mummy. We just got bored. Nothing was changing. I was just telling my husband last night that I hated to say it, but I was turning Disney fan over USO. Simply because Disney has been renewing over the past few years. Maybe after this, we can go back to being BIG IOA and USO fans. They really needed this.
From Gareth H on April 5, 2007 at 8:39 PM
They've got something up their sleeves (Obviously not Wizard sleeves as they dropped them last year) and they know last with attendance down they have some way to go to catch that stinky mouse.

Can't wait to seee, people so blatently want to go to USF, but they need something to take them there for the high entrance fee.

Anyone noticed the latest push for customers with their new commercials, advertising 7 days of entrance to both parks for less than the cost of a 1 day park HOPPER (Note hopper price) over at Disney...

Now, we should also ask if the Blue Man Group is counted as part of that investment???

From Derek Potter on April 6, 2007 at 6:13 AM
Great...they are spending 100 million dollars....on what. Obviously they won't be telling us that yet. The article said that Universal wanted to maintain their teen fanbase, fans of the "intense ride" as they put it. The Blue Man group is interesting and probably a great show, but I really don't think it will make the turnstiles turn that much. They need more.

Naturally the removal of the Back To The Future attraction probably places a new ride in that area, but what about IOA? They are long overdue for a new ride or two. The Harry Potter rumors still have legs, but would that be the draw they want? I have doubts about that. Banking the future and a portion of the park on a single franchise near the end of it's popular life is a risk. Maybe it's me, because I never liked the series in the first place, but perhaps other options should be explored.

In any event, it's nice to see Universal finally get back in the ring with their gloves on. Seems they've been sitting out for a while.

From Robert OGrosky on April 6, 2007 at 8:08 AM
While this is good news, what are they actually going to get for 100-120 million????
When Revenge of the Mummy reportedly cost $60 million and rides like Everest at AK coat $100million alone, it doesnt seem like this amount of money is going to provide much more than 1 E ticket attraction when USF needs MUCH more after doing little with the parks for MANY years.
From David Kildal on April 6, 2007 at 8:11 AM
Harry Potter will most likely make IOA look like a freak show. In my opinion, they should not do that, because of my experience of being friends with geeks, they love Harry Potter, but the people who go to theme parks not giving a care about the theming or the storyline of the rides do not want to have Dueling Dragons or Poseidon's Fury rethemed to be some stupid Broomstick coaster or a Magic Wet Dunnel of Basiliskiominus, or whatever. The harry Potter theme will turn IOA, and possibly Universal, into the Deathly Hallows.
From Robert Niles on April 6, 2007 at 8:53 AM
Blue Man Group is a relatively minor capital investment -- just a theater rehab. There's no basic construction, ride mechanism or animatronics involved -- that's what really pumps up the costs.

And let's keep in mind that $100 is *this year's* spending. Since there's no way that a major attraction is debuting in 2007, that means additional money will be spent on this project in 2008, bringing the total budget for whatever-this-is to more than $100 million.

From George Pratt on April 9, 2007 at 11:00 AM
I think the current "express pass" policy is going to have huge negative effect on attendance over the next few year. My family has made an annual trip to Orlando for spring break (Grandpa has a timeshare). We normally spend a few days at the Disney parks and one day at the Univeral Parks.

When we arrived at the Universal parks this year we descided not to spend $55.00 extra per person for the express pass, figuring if we really needed them we could buy them later.

Our first ride was the Hulk and we spent 60 minutes in line. When we got to the front of the line, we discovered the operator was boarding everyone from the express line before anyone from the non-express line could get on the ride.

The other rides were not as bad but having a non-express ticket we were forced to wait 40 or more minutes extra for each ride. By 1 PM we had given up and descided to pay $55.00 extra per person for the express pass. To add insult to injury they had sold out of express passes so there was nothing we could do.

We will not be going back to Universal parks for the next several years. They may say they are a bargin but if you have to buy a $55.00 addon ticket to actually get on the rides, sounds to me like they are much more expensive than Disney.

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