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Told ya so! Universal Orlando confirms Harry Potter - Diagon Alley for 2014

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Published: May 8, 2013 at 6:49 AM

Universal Orlando this morning confirmed the news we've been telling you for months: That it is building a new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, themed to Diagon Alley, in Universal Studios Florida. And that it will open in 2014.

Concept art of Diagon Alley
Concept art from Universal

From Universal Orlando's press release:

Building on the global phenomenon that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced an expansion of historic proportion with the entirely new themed environment, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.

Scheduled to open in 2014, the world’s first centrally themed, multi-park experience expands The Wizarding World of Harry Potter across both Universal Orlando theme parks and allows Universal’s creative team to bring an unparalleled vision to this unique project. The new area will bring to life some of the experiences and places found in and around London in the Harry Potter books and films, offering brand-new adventures for fans and theme park guests from around the world.

Diagon Alley and ‘London’ will be located within the Universal Studios Florida theme park, which is adjacent to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, where guests now experience Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. The new area within Universal Studios will be just as expansive, immersive and authentic as the existing themed environment.

And – just like in the books and films – guests will be able to travel between ‘London’ and Hogsmeade aboard the Hogwarts Express.

Work on the new area is already underway. When complete, it will feature shops, a restaurant and an innovative, marquee attraction based on Gringotts bank – all directly inspired by the fiction and films.

More details on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be released over time.

We first reported the plans for the new land in December 2011, revealing the Gringotts coaster and basic layout of the Diagon Alley. And we first reported in March this year that Universal was aiming for opening Diagon Alley in July 2014.

You can read our complete coverage of Universal's Harry Potter attractions on our Wizarding World of Harry Potter page.

Update: Just confirmed from an inside source: The dragon atop Gringotts in the Harry Potter concept art is not an artist's embellishment. It will be real (i.e. a physical prop and not a projection). And the dragon will breathe fire.

As Dewayne Bevil from the Sentinel said to me earlier, when we were looking at the concept art, "It looks like Disney's dragon from New Fantasyland flew over to Gringotts."

Yeah, and it's going to be living there now.

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Readers' Opinions

From Michael T on May 8, 2013 at 7:09 AM
Took them long enough
From Rob Pastor on May 8, 2013 at 7:46 AM
I'm curious concerning the timing of the announcement. Any ideas?
From 82.15.12.22 on May 8, 2013 at 7:50 AM
Looks awful from the concept art. Are we supposed to believe the dragon will breath real-life fire down the tower?
From 85.150.173.168 on May 8, 2013 at 7:55 AM
I'm wondering who is responsible for this announcement. This project is the most amazing thing that is going on in theme park world and all we get is an announcement on facebook and 1 concept art. This should have been a huge media event!
Anyway looking forward to this amazing addition to an already awesome themepark. Above all it's done in an amazing speed. Disney should take notes with their slow building mountains and simpel ride systems.
From Brian Emery on May 8, 2013 at 7:58 AM
These Pictures look great...

Bob P:
Yes Transformers opens first so why not keep promoting that and not HP which is not until Next Summer....

From 70.126.18.232 on May 8, 2013 at 8:03 AM
and so now you must purchase tickets to BOTH parks to see it all
From Charles Reichley on May 8, 2013 at 8:10 AM
I do wish it was opening earlier, because we are looking to go to Orlando in late July of 2014 and it would be nice if the initial rush was over.
From 98.17.116.52 on May 8, 2013 at 8:31 AM
Wow.... 2014, very close to the same time as the finish of Fantasyland. Universal is quick. I wish Disney was able to pull off a project this fast.... it does seem like it has taken them a LONG time to do this family coaster..... but that being said, I still am most looking forward to Fantasyland being finished that year.
From James Trexen on May 8, 2013 at 8:35 AM
Talk about coming out of nowhere. I'm fairly certain I speak for many members when I say we were all expecting this to be announced around HHN.
From 24.2.43.220 on May 8, 2013 at 9:16 AM
Any idea when in 2014? Looking at planning a spring break trip there in April...
From 74.11.171.50 on May 8, 2013 at 9:29 AM
I don't get why people think Universal is building this stuff "so fast." I mean the Theme Park Insider news story showed up at the end of December 2011. If you read the article the writer says he saw blueprints for the ride. Now it must have taken something like six months to compile all of these detailed blueprints. That would mean that the work would have started in the middle of summer 2011. So if the Potter thing is going to open in the summer of 2014, that would mean it took three years to create the attraction.
From N B on May 8, 2013 at 10:49 AM
74.11.171.50.... your math is off.

Jaws last day of operation was Jan 2, 2012. It took months to clear out the land and take down the ride. HP London will have gone up from flat land to finished in about 2 years or 730 days. Considering the anount of acres they are dealing with, I would say that is lightning quick.

That includes the park to park Express and a station at IOA. We were there last Summer when they started punching holes in the walls at the unused studio where Transformers now stands. The ride is already operational and is going through testing. We were there ten months ago....

Since I don't really follow Disney expansion, I have no idea how long the new land at WDW took from start to finish, but I think Universal will do HP 2.0 in much less time.

From 24.239.56.189 on May 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM
I can't help but wonder, how much will the 2014 "Annual Ticket Price Hike" be now?
From Daniel Smith on May 8, 2013 at 11:53 AM
So... who's mine cart ride with dwarfs will be better? :P
From TH Creative on May 8, 2013 at 4:19 PM
From blue sky to grand opening a gate crasher takes 2-1/2 to 3 years -- give or take a few months. Unless its a flat out clone like 'Transformers' seems to be.

But it's great that Potter is in fact coming during the same time period as the Dwarf Train (attracting varying demographics to Florida). All boats rise together.

All this followed by Disney Springs and Avatar.

From 173.2.246.112 on May 8, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Am I the only one that thinks this is a terrible idea. WWHP is great as it is but now that the series of movies is over. Harry Potter will not be nearly as popular as it was and an expansion is definitely not necessary. Universals big mistake is that they think the Harry Potter series will become classic like Jaws or Jurassic Park. Harry Potter will not be that popular as we drift away from the years of the films releases. Yes this new area will be initially successful and make a lot of money, but I think universal is looking at a long term disaster. Harry Potter should just stay in IOA. I think Universal is making a huge mistake.
From James Rao on May 8, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Sometimes being a Theme Park Insider does have its downside... this announcement just feels like tired, old news. Robert, you are a spoiler! =)
From 204.184.77.1 on May 8, 2013 at 12:57 PM
I am curious about one thing...Can you only access the next HP section by taking the train to USF or can you access it both ways? I would think it would be neater and smarter to only be able to access both from inside IOA, keeps with the magic more.
From Dominick D on May 8, 2013 at 1:14 PM
Beautiful art!
From 4.28.232.218 on May 8, 2013 at 1:24 PM
gringotts is run by goblins, not dwarfs.
From Rob Pastor on May 8, 2013 at 6:35 PM
A fire breathing dragon atop Gringotts will be soooo cool.
From Anon Mouse on May 8, 2013 at 2:19 PM
Nice timing for the opening on July 2014. I will go in May 2014. I will miss the opening of Diagon Alley, but I think attendance at IOA will be lower due to people holding back.
From 174.33.228.183 on May 8, 2013 at 2:59 PM
Ahhh no!! I don't want the dragon! Yeah I'm sure it will be a great animatronic, but I want to admire the architecture of Gringotts without a dragon! Oh well... I'm still excited though!
From TH Creative on May 8, 2013 at 4:16 PM
While the Universal announcement is VERY exciting, it's also an affirmation about TPI ... Robert Niles broke this story almost a year and a half ago ... make no mistake, TPI is FLAT OUT the BEST theme park spot on the worldwide web.

Congrats to Mr. Niles.

From N B on May 8, 2013 at 4:33 PM
"Am I the only one that thinks this is a terrible idea"

You must be... Potter at IOA paid for itself within a year of opening and already financed the new expansion. Attendance rose dramatically at IOA as well.

Basically, there is no way they could lose money since the funds are abundant and Comcast is also handing out blank checks.

I love all of the negativity and comparisons to Disney...

From N B on May 8, 2013 at 4:34 PM
"Looks awful from the concept art. Are we supposed to believe the dragon will breath real-life fire down the tower?"

Actually, it will.....

From Phil B. on May 8, 2013 at 5:21 PM
Smells like a fake story to me...can't wait for the real announcement to find out what the real expansion will really, for real be.
From Aaron McMahon on May 8, 2013 at 5:36 PM
"I would think it would be neater and smarter to only be able to access both from inside IOA, keeps with the magic more"

You actually have it backwards! If you were to follow the original book, you start out in the Muggle World (Downtown London facade), go to Diagon Alley, take the train and then end up at Hogsmeade/Hogwarts(in Islands of Adventure).

From Bryce McGibeny on May 8, 2013 at 5:48 PM
The dragon on top of Gringotts will be a real thing...?

Consider me astonished.

From David Ackerman on May 8, 2013 at 6:04 PM
We have APs for WDW and Universal. While the Universal APs have gone up, it hasn't come close to the price increases at WDW. Further, Universal is actually nice to the APs - lots more than Disney.

I doubt that the increase in AP price after WWHP 2.0 will be that large.

From 65.61.91.7 on May 8, 2013 at 8:29 PM
Super pumped for this news. I'll be booking a trip to Orlando in late 2014 just to see the expansion. I'll happily fork over money if they keep doing projects like this.
From Todd Donahue on May 8, 2013 at 8:55 PM
I'm wondering why the nay sayers come out of the wood work when this non issue has been discussed for 2 years on here. Of course they are annoynomous, you know you could use a fake name geniuses! Like TH said its best for everybody in Orlando where I'm planning a trip in the fall of 2014, my family is spending most of the time at Universal but spending a day at Seaworld and a day or two at Walt. It's a win win and if You don't like it don't go to it, you have plenty of things to do in Orlando. For the rest of us, 98% of the population, will enjoy seeing what the theme parks have new that's coming out.

From 65.33.226.3 on May 8, 2013 at 10:03 PM
To the people that complain saying you have to buy tickets to both parks now... Who goes to Universal and only visits one of the parks anyway?
From 24.196.39.15 on May 9, 2013 at 4:02 AM
Well it's finally official! I am also a little surprised by the timing of the announcement, but it was going to be pretty evident soon as the facades started going up. So I guess it was going to happen soon enough. I think they will hold of on big details until after Transformers opens up and the summer whines down. I really missed Jaws the last time I was there, but I think I will get over it! I will be planning a trip most likely in September this year to ride Transformers and Despicable Me (it opened a month or so after I visited last) and then will have to plan a trip for fall 2014 for this new expansion! Maybe I should just send my fall paychecks direct deposit to Universal the next couple of years to make it easier! LOL CAN'T WAIT!!!
From Bob Liebe on May 9, 2013 at 4:35 AM
For those of you wondering if a park-to-park ticket is required to experience the Hogwarts Express, I just checked Orlando Informer and they posted an email from Universal that states:

"You'll be able to travel between the two parks, from King's Cross station in London to Hogsmeade, aboard the Hogwarts Express with a Park-to-Park Ticket."

So that should clear up any confusion.

Great job on the reporting as always Mr. Niles!!!

From 173.65.142.110 on May 9, 2013 at 7:58 AM
I understand the train will be a ride in itself. In place of windows there will be video screens to give you the feel of traveling through the countryside instead of a back lot. And yes the train will go both ways, you will need park to park tickets and it will be a GREAT sore foot saver for those of us whom like to go to both parks in a day!
From Doug Jenkins on May 9, 2013 at 8:12 AM
Universal continues to raise the bar on theme parks. This is a 750 million dollar expansion that is unprecedented. You will need 2-park passes, the train will go both ways and will be a ride itself. I understand the windows will be video screens so they will be able to change your ride experience and not just look out on the back parking lots. it will be a welcome addition for those of us with tired feet whom like to go park to park occasionally.
From Don Neal on May 9, 2013 at 8:37 AM
Anon said: bad idea, Potter will fade (summarized)

All my kids watch are Disney movies, Pixar movies, and Harry Potter. Orlando has them locked up for the rest of their lives. Potter was a phenomenon on the level of Star Wars for the children (and adults) of the past ten years. It will live on like Star Wars did. Star Wars didn't have another movie for 17-18 years and was wildly popular. HP will definitely live on. We are doing Disney World this year and skipping Orlando next year. So we will be there in 2015 when everything is finished...well until something else goes into construction. :)

From Tom Walljasper on May 9, 2013 at 9:56 AM
We went to Florida in 2011 (WDW and UOR) for the sole purpose of visiting THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HP! LOVED IT! We have totally been following ALL of the rumors...and became extremely excited with the official announcement. So now...planning to go back JUST to UOR in 2015. (Disney's slow pace of adding new E ticket attractions is a whole other story) BUT...my point...if there are A LOT more people like OUR family; who have been to "HP" and are now planning a return trip to see the expansion, I think universal will be just fine. And I have NO doubt the expansion will be fun, creative, and most importantly, fulfill the expectations we all have...just as "the original" did.

And, in my opinion, I think the HP story is pretty captivating, and should delight readers, and generations to come.

Conclusion: This will be money well spent! By Universal, AND us!!!

From TH Creative on May 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM
Doug Jenkins writes: "Universal continues to raise the bar on theme parks. This is a 750 million dollar expansion that is unprecedented."

I Respond: Um ... you got a source for that $750 million assertion? Because ... I really, really, really doubt the cost is that high.

From N B on May 9, 2013 at 12:13 PM
TH, I'm not sure about that figure either, but it is plausible. The first HP land was somewhere in the 250 million range if I remember correctly.

Yes, they built a brand new ride and some stores, but there were two ride re-brandings and the HP area is pretty small for the area they had to shoehorn it into.

There is also the new London themed concrete structure along the lagoon.

Gringotts is supposed to be incredibly advanced, the Hogwarts Express, track and two stations cannot be very cheap to build either.

If I had to guess, I would say 500-750 at the high end.

I'm sure someone will release an official figure soon.

From Daniel Etcheberry on May 9, 2013 at 1:29 PM
It would be nice if the Hogwarts Express went from Diagon Alley to MK's New Fantasyland.
From TH Creative on May 9, 2013 at 3:01 PM
Ain't no way this project costs much more than $300 million.
From N B on May 9, 2013 at 3:19 PM
TH, I read an article (not a post) on Micechat that puts the tally for all of the expansion at 1 billion. That includes all of Potter 2.0, Transformers, the Cabana Bay, Springfield and the fact they are repainting just about everything.

I am sure that figure includes the cost of removing Jaws and the studio building where Transformers now stands as well.

From TH Creative on May 9, 2013 at 4:18 PM
NB, would love to see the link to that article.
From Sylvain Comeau on May 9, 2013 at 4:52 PM
I don't mind if you say "I told you so". Very happy to see this confirmed, since we are likely to visit Orlando next fall. We'll be very excited to visit the completed New Fantasyland as well as the Harry Potter expansion.
From N B on May 10, 2013 at 12:59 AM
http://micechat.com/13988-universal-orlando-3/

This was the article I was referring to:

From Rachelle Beaney on May 10, 2013 at 1:04 AM
No offense 173.2.246.112, but Harry Potter is one of the world's biggest franchises and has been waayy before the movies ever came out - millions of people around the world continue to love and buy the books and will want to relive the world for a long time - I would say it's a much longer lasting franchise than Jaws or Jurassic Park in the long run and Universal are smart to capitalize on that - remember that the first Harry Potter book come out in 1997 and 15 years on there is as much interest in the franchise as there was then!
From Rachelle Beaney on May 10, 2013 at 1:07 AM
Also this is the most exciting news i've had all week - we are planning a trip in November 2013 but will now be going back in November 2014 as well, provided Harry is open by then! I can not wait - although i'm not really surprised...they probably announced because of all the speculation regarding the construction going on which was so obviously Harry Potter related :)
From Sylvain Comeau on May 10, 2013 at 11:49 AM
Maybe Anonymous above is a shill for Disney...how else could he seriously believe that this is a terrible idea?
From 99.254.60.108 on May 10, 2013 at 4:35 PM
I've been a die hard Disney fan for years. But even the most die-hard Disney fans like me have to admit that Universal knocked it out of the park with Potter. My family will go to Orlando next summer because of this. We are so impressed with how committed Universal has been to adding new rides and impressive experiences to their parks that this time we will be staying at the Universal resort. First time ever for this Disney family.
From TH Creative on May 10, 2013 at 9:24 PM
Not sure how being a social media/marketing person makes Eric Davis an expert in commercial construction estimating and/or project management.

From N B on May 11, 2013 at 12:37 PM
TH, no one but you is doubting the construction budget estimates. You also had a problem with theme park attendance numbers a while back, and they were official.

Your posts are entertaining if nothing else.

From TH Creative on May 11, 2013 at 3:39 PM
NB writes: "TH, no one but you is doubting the construction budget estimates."

I Respond: Respectfully, speaking as someone who has spent the last 20 years working as a commercial construction project manager/estimator in Central Florida (which includes estimating costs and managing the construction of theme park attractions and resorts at WDW and UO) my professional experience causes me to question a dollar value advanced by a marketing/social media expert who is not directly affiliated with the project.

NB writes: "You also had a problem with theme park attendance numbers a while back, and they were official."

I Respond: The only attendance figures I have questioned were those published by TEA/AECOM -- and that report was NOT official. Neither Disney nor Universal releases attendance figures. TEA/AECOM compiled an estimate of what they believe attendance figures to be. Further the report publishing those numbers provides limited information related to their methodology.

From N B on May 11, 2013 at 9:28 PM
How did Disney manage to spend a billion at DCA? USF is putting in a new land, a new resort, three new E ticket rides etc....

Does Disney just use the slowest, most expensive contractors available?

From TH Creative on May 11, 2013 at 11:48 PM
I have no experience working on construction teams managing projects in the state of California. Nor am I aware of a credible source that might verify the budgets associated with any California projects. So I wouldn't be able to comment on the accuracy of costs or schedules related to DCA's expansion.
From 75.118.227.34 on May 12, 2013 at 7:50 AM
Just an FYI to the ones who said with the Harry Potter movies done, they wouldn't last and Jaws and Jurasic Park were "classics"....Jaws (first movie) came out in 1975 and JP(first movie) in 1993. They seem to have lasted, why won't Harry Potter? Harry Potter IS the new classic!

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