Some thoughts on what might replace Jaws at Universal Studios Florida
Published: December 7, 2011 at 4:51 PM
But before anyone goes connecting this week's announcements about the Jaws closure and the Harry Potter expansion, let's also keep a few other facts in mind.
First, the next stage of the Orlando Harry Potter expansion is taking place inside Islands of Adventure, right next to the existing Wizarding World, to the east. I've heard that they're talking just new shops at the moment, but that at least one new additional attraction is planned for the Orlando Wizarding World, even though it might not come in this next phase of expansion.
As for Jaws, well, let's remember that Universal doesn't have a track record of tearing down old attractions to the ground and building something entirely different on the site. If you look at all the new attractions that have been installed at the Universal Orlando Resort since it's opening, all were either built on undeveloped sites, or within existing structures. The Simpsons Ride went into the Back to the Future building. Shrek 4D took over the Alfred Hitchcock show. Revenge of the Mummy took Kong's space. Despicable Me is going in the old Jimmy Neutron building, which went into the old Hanna Barbera building. The only building I've known Universal to tear down to the ground was the old Hard Rock Cafe.
So when we're speculating about what might replace Jaws, I think it's smart to keep in mind concepts that would make use of the existing infrastructure on that site. After all, Universal chose to close Jaws, as opposed to two other adjacent attractions with relatively similar footprints and less fan devotion than Jaws - Disaster! and the Fear Factor theater.
Fortunately, Google Maps has an aerial view of the Jaws site that was taken during a refurbishment, when the water channel was drained, allowing us to see what's under the water:
You can see that the Jaws lagoon is not uniformly deep throughout, but just a single cut channel, with deeper cuts for show elements. That would reduce the cost of infill if Universal wanted to build on a blank site, but let's not forget that Universal probably has a significant infrastructure under the site to support pumping and draining all this water.
So if we're trying to figure out what Universal would build here, if it wanted to add a new water-based attraction, this would be the site where to build it.
Even if Universal didn't want to use water, presumably it would choose the Jaws over Disaster only if it either didn't need a show building, or needed a show building of substantially different dimensions than the Disaster building. Also, I think the selection of Jaws over the Fear Factor theater suggests that whatever the new experience will be, it won't be a show that would have fit in a modified Fear Factor theater.
I don't have any first-hand information about what will be replacing Jaws, but I think that keeping a broader view of Universal's history and what's now on that site, as opposed to others in the park, can help us better focus any speculation on the site's future.