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Say goodbye to Santa and hello to 2009 at Universal Orlando

By Domenik Jost
Published: December 30, 2008 at 6:33 PM
Christmas has come and gone. I decided to go out and see the Macy's Holiday Parade before it ends on January 1st. I got to say hello to Uncle Sam,

and waved goodbye to Santa as the Macy's Holiday Parade walked off into the sunset.

With the promising new year only hours away, Universal Orlando is hard at work getting ready for the upcoming Mardi Gras season as well as working on finishing its Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit coaster. In the past few weeks a lot of changes have happened in very familiar areas of Universal Studios Florida.

The first surprise is lurking behind the Christmas Tree in New York. It's a piece of the Rockit track piercing through the building and rising past the roof behind the it.

So when is Universal Orlando going to add the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit to its Studio Directory?

It is always an interesting sight to see a coaster go through piece of scenery.

The Sharp Aquos Theare and Jimmy Neutron Stage have become a new neighbor, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit loading dock which is really starting to take shape.


Yet the Rockit Coaster track and loading dock are not the only part of the construction happening. The installation of the Rockit Coaster includes a permanent stage in place of what has during Mardi Gras been called the "Yard Stage" between Jimmy Neutron and Twister.

The stage is really taking shape in the traditional stage look which Universal has used for years with room for two big screens on each side of the stage.

The permanent installation of the stage has me wonder if Universal will add LED Video walls instead of using rear projection screens on the outside stage.

Mardi Gras is just over a month away and set to start off its Saturday night celebrations February 7, 2009 and last until April 18, 2009. The Mardi Gras 2009 celebration is also to include Sunday, February 15, 2009 as well as Friday, March 27, 2009. I can explain Feb. 15 being added in addition to it being Valentines Day Weekend. For Friday, March 27, the only thing I could think of is it being possibly the opening weekend of the Rockit coaster, but that is just speculation on my part. The only confirmed concert date so far is KC and The Sunshine Band taking the stage to kick of Mardi Gras on February 7, 2009. (They are listed to be at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL on the bands' website) A Universal Orlando employee that I asked if he knew of any of the concert line up told me that his supervisor had only heard of one confirmed artist, Nelly. Another rumor coming from Pollstar is that Trace Atkins is to perform on April 11, 2009.

The full line up should be released by Universal Orlando very soon, more than likely as soon as the Holiday Celebrations are over.

Among all the renovations of the stairs and building next to Nascar happening and finishing (I forgot to check it out and take pictures), I did notice that the Hard Rock Building had gotten a Christmas present, a new color led video display replacing the old single color display which displayed the events happening at the Hard Rock.

Readers' Opinions

From Joshua Counsil on December 30, 2008 at 9:28 PM
From Day 1 I didn't like the sound of the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rubbish coaster. It really takes away from USH's allure. Sure, that little detour through the buildings would be great in an isolated backlot, but traveling through the park? That's not the Studios - that's the Islands. The noise, the aesthetics - everything about this coaster (with the exception of the stage station, which looks quite sweet) sucks.

Now, I know Robert argued that it is an excellent move for Universal. Its grassroots' interactivity level and its strategic front-and-center placement give the park a huge draw, but at what cost? The park will no longer feel like a Hollywood backlot.

Regardless, I hope you get this right, Universal. I don't know how the sound will be dampened or how the coaster will tie-in with the park, but I hope it works. USH is probably my favorite park after Epcot and I'd hate for the scope of the park to change completely.

From James Rao on December 30, 2008 at 9:52 PM
Thanks for the photo tour of Universal's progress on the RRR coaster, Domenik. I think it is shaping up nicely.

Josh, I can see where you could be concerned, but this coaster seems to be just what the park doctor ordered: a glitzy, flashy, hip coaster right in line with the excesses of the current crop of glamor-addicted Hollywood producers, directors, and actors. Furthermore, I have little doubt that Universal's "imagineers" will preserve the USF theme, it is, after all, what makes the park unique. Also, RRR appears to be more of an addition to Citywalk than to USF proper, so, while I share your concern, I think we'll both be happy with this coaster in the long run.

Besides, as long as a coaster does not have the word "Vekoma" followed by the word "Boomerang", I am pretty much excited to see it built! ;)

From Robert Niles on December 30, 2008 at 9:53 PM
USF's "backlot" hasn't been a functional movie studio for years. And real studio backlots - outside the soundstages - can be chaotic places. A roller coaster symbolizes that activity perfectly, I think.

Yes, the noise needs to be minimized, as not to make USF sound like a Cedar Point clone. But I'm willing to wait and seehear before jumping on Universal over that.

Thanks, BTW, for the great pics, Domenik. Fresh construction photos always welcomed on the Flume.

From KD Younger on December 30, 2008 at 10:38 PM
Well, it is a visual imposition to the theming. That's a given...it really breaks the illusion of the setting, I must agree. As for sound pollution...

There had been a lot of worry at Knott's when Silver Bullet was going in there about sound pollution compromise in the Ghost Town area. Never happened...Silver Bullet is one of the quietest running units I have ever heard. I am expecting the new coaster at USOrlando will be equally tame in the track noise output, but, heavy in the onboard sound system...a matter Universal still hasn't fully figured out how to best balance....

From Rob P on December 31, 2008 at 7:33 AM
The jury will very definitely be out over this one when it's finally opened.
I do have reservations about it's imposition over the existing Studios set-up and think it would have been better suited to IOA but , there you go, it's being constructed at the Studios.
I know what Joshua was saying about the noise factor too. I'm thinking of how a similar coaster works over at Busch Gardens, Tampa. That's great fun but the sound is dampened by the open space and the vegetation. At Universal's concrete jungle we will almost certainly have more resonance. Also what will happen during things like Macy's Parade at Xmas or other events ? Will it shut down for the duration ?
I think that's impractical so it will certainly have an impact on those too.
I can't comment further until we see how it actually fits in but at this early stage I have serious doubts about it's validity at Universal Studios.
From Joshua Counsil on December 31, 2008 at 1:06 PM
You and your Vekoma Boomerangs, James - always good for a laugh.

Rob -
You touched on a point I completely forgot about. Universal can use modernized methods of sound reduction by dampening the coaster's vibrations (sand/pea gravel bases for the supports, for example) and by using polyurethane wheels (or a similar soft substance), but the concrete jungle that is Universal is a haven for reverberations. I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere near any section of the park that houses this coaster. I hope they have some innovative method of making this work.

From James Rao on December 31, 2008 at 1:34 PM
I hate 'em, Josh, just hate 'em. When you complete your engineering degree, if you ever design a crappy excuse for a coaster like the Vekoma Boomerang, I WILL hunt you down and burn your college degree!!!

Two words that should never be used together when designing the next big thing in roller coasters: "small" and "footprint."

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