Theme Park Insider

What's Next for Universal Orlando's Potential Expansion?

December 5, 2015, 12:17 AM · This week's news that Universal Orlando is in position to buy more than 400 acres of additional land near its resort provides an invitation for fans to speculate about what Universal might do with that land.

The 474 acres of the Sand Lake Road complex are spread across several parcels, but the main parcel, located northeast of the Orange County Convention Center, is about 340 acres. For comparison, Universal Studios Florida occupies 107 acres. That's plenty of room for a major theme park, or even for two parks of modest size.

Sand Lake Road complex
You can see the multiple parcels in the GrowthSpotter map it tweeted in breaking the story.

However, the main parcel of the new land lies nearly four miles away from Universal Orlando's main parking garage. So, ultimately, the story of what Universal does with this new land — if it goes ahead with the purchase — will not begin with the potential themes, rides, and attractions of a third Universal Orlando theme park. The story will begin, instead, with transportation. How will people move between the "old" Universal Orlando and the new?

This isn't a trivial detail to be addresses later in development. It is the core challenge that will determine whether this purchase succeeds or fails for Universal Orlando. If people can't move effortlessly between the various parks of the Universal Orlando Resort, that inconvenience lessens their appeal. An if staying on-site at Universal provides no more logistical advantage for guests than staying off-site at another hotel located in between the properties, Universal's plans to emulate Disney through the introduction of thousands of new hotel rooms will be weakened.

Of course, Universal knows all this. This is no longer the undercapitalized division of a company bouncing from one corporate owner to another, as it was back when Universal originally sold the property that it now looks to buy. Universal knows what it is doing now, and has the resources to do it. But as fans try to figure out what that is Universal will be doing next, it will be helpful to start with the question of transportation. By considering the logistics of how this new property will "fit" with Universal's existing land, fans can understand the physical context that will guide everything Universal does with this expansion.

Let's imagine what the vacation experience looks like at an expanded Universal Orlando Resort. How do you get there? Where do you stay? How do you get around? Almost all visitors arrive at Universal now by driving themselves or being driven there in a paid shuttle, bus, or taxi. Unless Florida decides to actually build that long-planned-and-debated train from the Orlando airport to International Drive, driving (in one form or another) will continue top provide the dominant means of arrival for future Universal Orlando visitors.

But what then? Now, you park your car at Universal and can forget about it until the end of your visit. As Paul Danner described earlier today, Universal's hotels lie within walking distance of the parks, and can be accessed by complimentary water taxis or (in the case of the Cabana Bay) buses. That won't be the case if Universal develops another parcel, four miles away. Either Universal will have to ask its guests to get back in their cars and drive to the other half of the resort, or Universal will need to develop some transportation system to link the two.

Universal Orlando of the future?
Universal Orlando's current property, shaded in the upper left, plus its potential main new property, shaded in the lower right

Universal's two properties actually would lie closer together than Disney's Magic Kingdom and Epcot. But Disney owns all the land between those two parks, which eliminates any non-Disney distractions that might lure away a family of tourists moving between them. That won't be true for Universal. Now do you understand one of the reasons why Universal might not have wanted the "world's tallest roller coaster" built between these parcels?

And let's not get started on how long it takes anyone to drive four miles anywhere near I-Drive, and that's without another Universal theme park in the mix.

All this gives Universal even more incentive to build and control the transportation between the two properties. Buses might seem the easy solution, but they remain prey for the I-Drive neighborhood's notoriously bad traffic. And, as Paul wrote, buses are boring. Yet thousands of visitors each day at Disney endure those buses because, well, they don't have a choice. Disney picked them up at the airport and bused them (for no additional charge) to their rooms at the Walt Disney World Resort. They don't have a car. If they want to get around, they are dependent upon Disney Transport. And, in many cases, that means a bus.

If Universal wants to keep people out of their cars when traveling between its two properties (and it should, for the reasons above), then Universal can best do this buy making it so that visitors don't have to bring a car to the Universal Orlando Resort. That means either matching Disney's free bus ride from the airport, or one-upping Disney (and the state of Florida) by paying for its own rail route between Universal and the airport.

Given that Universal has looked for tax money to build a pedestrian overpass on its property, it's hard to imagine Universal pouring its own money into a partnership with the state and federal governments to build a rail line across southern Orange County. But that's as easy to imagine as another Minions flick when compared with Universal building that rail line itself. So let's go with the bus plan for now.

With thousands of visitors arriving daily via buses from the airport, instead of driving rental cars, Universal could reduce the demand for parking spaces at the resort, while leaving those carless visitors as stranded on Universal property as Magic Express riders now are on Disney's. That provides Universal with a powerful one-two combination punch of extra space for expansion coupled with extra demand for services, including restaurants, entertainment, and retail.

So an expansion will include much more than another theme park (or two). Yes, we know that Universal wants more hotels. But with more (and more captive) guests, Universal will need to build more resort, spa, and CityWalk-style attractions, too — to feed, entertain, and sell to those visitors around the clock.

The more than Universal can build walkable new developments that do not require the use of cars, buses, or boats to move people between them, the less strain that development will put on its transportation system. So as you think about what Universal will do with its new property, consider that.

But, ultimately, Universal still needs a way to move people those four miles. Could Universal work with the City of Orlando and Orange County to build a rail line down Universal Boulevard? A dedicated rail line, especially if it were an elevated train or monorail, could move more people than a bus system that had to run on congested local streets. But such as system would be wildly expensive. Would Universal trade some of the smaller parcels in its purchase to local governments in exchange for right-of-way, bonds and construction help for a new rail system? Or would Universal opt for the cheaper option of widening Universal Boulevard with dedicated bus lanes, reserved for Universal's buses?

Universal brilliantly leveraged the Harry Potter franchise to encourage visitors to upgrade to Park-to-Park tickets, as that's the only way to ride the Potter-themed Hogwarts Express train that runs between its existing two parks. But with a third park four miles down the road, perhaps Universal won't want to encourage same-day park-to-park visits anymore, as that would just add to the demand for transport between the properties.

Does Universal end up with three ticket options, then: one park per day, park-to-park between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure but not the third park, and then maybe park-to-park-to-park for all three?

This finally brings us to start thinking about themes and IP for a third Universal Orlando park. What would be distinct enough from Universal's existing parks that fans would want to experience it apart from the other two parks, but closely enough related that fans who want to visit USF and IOA would still want to experience it, and not skip the third park? Again, transportation drives this consideration. (Apologies for the pun.)

Also consider that the park would need to be included within a well-developed complex of hotels, restaurants, and retail, with transportation depots connecting the new development with both the old and the airport. And with any on-site parking being less convenient for people than Universal's on-site transportation network? (Something that Universal Orlando currently does very well, by the way.)

For what it's worth, no one has leaked us any plans... yet. (You know how to find us, Universal insiders!) But I hope that this series of questions will help you to understand better the development process that will soon begin to happen if Universal does proceed with this purchase. By understanding the "why" of what Universal is about to do, we have a much better chance of correctly guessing the "what" of what eventually will happen.

Support Theme Park Insider This Holiday Season:

Replies (68)

December 5, 2015 at 1:56 AM · I really hope Universal buys this property. The bus system is the obvious choice and will still be quicker between parks then Disney World. It's amazing how similar the Uni Orlando resort is to the Disneyland resort. I have always thought that these expanding yet land locked resorts would do best by moving all parking off site somewhere in one central location and having 1 shuttle service circling the major theme park and resort locations.
December 5, 2015 at 2:07 AM · Interesting challenges ahead. I personally think they'll have to bite the bullet and invest in some elevated train/monorail option.

Discouraging park-hopping and having difficult transport between the parks essentially sets the 2 areas up as competing parks (like DLR and Knott's Berry Farm) rather than a cohesive whole. This means that one of the park areas becomes optional.

December 5, 2015 at 6:06 AM · Lord of the Rings and the Ministry of Magic? Granted, it wouldn't make a ton of sense to break up some of the theming, but placing popular attractions at a third location would at least drive traffic to those areas.
December 5, 2015 at 6:51 AM · The traffic on Universal Blvd is not congested right now to encourage them to invest in a dedicated rail line. A bus system might be sufficient. Four miles is a short ride. I would also assume the new property will have its own parking lots like what Disney's theme parks have. So the transportation system will only transport onsite guests, which is a smaller number than simply moving tons of guests from one resort to another. Universal can encourage guests to drive from one park resort to another by allowing parking privileges to transfer. For other guests not staying onsite, they can charge a nominal fee or have the park to park passes include the transportation costs. I don't see any deal breakers. Dreams require a lot of investment and detailed planning.
December 5, 2015 at 8:02 AM · Anon makes some good points. Essentially, transportation is just needed for on site guests since the others would be, for the most part, arriving by car or off site hotel shuttles, as they do now. That cuts down the numbers using a dedicated system. Some posters on OU, familiar with the local government maps,have pointed out that there were easements on much of the property along Universal Blvd. when they originally owned much of that land before selling it previously. If those easements still exist, it could provide a means to establish a dedicated bus lane or elevated train type system. So much speculation at this point though. I would think Universal has some ideas in mind, but they may be at a real blue sky state at this time.
December 5, 2015 at 8:14 AM · I drive Universal Blvd from Destination Parkway to Hollywood Way several days a week and that bottleneck at Sand Lake Road and Universal Blvd is a nightmare in busy season. The intersection is already slow in off season and I cannot imagine what a mess it is going to be if they add another park on south Universal Blvd.

I think they would be better off biting the bullet and building a monorail / train now rather than trying to do it later on when the park /hotels etc have been built. Can you imagine what a mess that would be?

December 5, 2015 at 8:46 AM · Honestly, just by looking the google maps image of the two properties above, it seems to me that universal would probably go with the rail/monorail line. Remember that universal also owns the (soon to be closed) Wet-n-Wild property. If they were to develop on that land another citywalk and other resorts, then universal would want to connect that with it's other properties as well. All of these properties are connected through Universal Boulevard which contains a lot of lights and congestion since it is one of the key ways to get into the current resort. By creating a rail/monorail system for Universal Boulevard they could avoid the traffic, which turns off visitors. Also if they were to connect the resorts with a rail/monorail line, then maybe universal could also build a massive garage complex on the new property. If they were to build that and a new theme park, guests could leave there car there and go to that park or take the monorail to the other parks/properties. Just a thought. I really enjoyed this article btw and keep up the great work!
December 5, 2015 at 8:58 AM · Thank you for the article, Robert. My imagination is working in overdrive... Are we certain that a third gate (or even fourth) will be built on the main 340-acre parcel of land if they, in fact, purchase it? In order to keep all parks within walking distance of each other, here's my wish list:

1) Tear down current parking areas at City Walk & build third gate
2) Move all off-site parking to Wet & Wild's site & provide shuttle to & from parking
3) Use the 340-acre parcel for new hotels/resorts, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, etc.

I'm sure that there are plenty of reasons why this plan wouldn't work, but it sure would be convenient having three parks a hop, skip, and a jump away from each other!

December 5, 2015 at 9:09 AM · I believe that Universal's best option would be to:

1. build an elevated rail/monorail system going along Universal Boulevard. By doing this rather than bussing, you would not have to worry about traffic or the many lights on the Boulevard.

2. Build a new large parking garage (similar in size to the current city walk ones) on the new property along with a new theme park. Also if there was a monorail connecting the properties, then people could park in the new parking lot and either go to the new theme park or take the monorail to the new properties.

3. I always forget about the wet & wild property. Anyway, they should use that land to build a new resort and 2nd citywalk but with a different theme. For those people who have visited the current citywalk, they would not be willing to hop on a monorail to another place exactly like citywalk. By having a second citywalk but with a different theme, more people woud be enticed to go there because it is new and different.

Ultimately, even if Universal were to build a monorail system, they probably would also use busses and possibly make seperate bus lanes as well. Universal would do this to maximize the amount of people being moved around to the other properties at the reseort.

Question though? What would Universal do with all those little parcels of land?

December 5, 2015 at 9:19 AM · Thanks for another great article. One thing you forgot to mention is the existing land Universal owns at Universal Blvd and International Drive.

With Volcano Bay, the distance between parks and hotels is already going to increase. 1.5 miles from Portofino to Volcano Bay. That's about the same distance as Portofino to Wet n Wild. If I understand the new location correctly, it would only be about 2 miles from Wet n Wild to the new property so not much worse that what is already happening although you are right about traffic congestion outside the Universal bubble.

Although it's probably ten years before anything starts to happen at any future property, it will be interesting to see what happens in 2017/2018. If the rumors are true that Volcano Bay guests will have to park at the main garage and take buses, Universal is already going to have to expand their transportation system beyond Cabana Bay buses. I'm assuming by 2017 we will hear what is happening to the old Wet n Wild.

Any clues how quickly Universal can act on the Colony Capital option?

December 5, 2015 at 9:22 AM · The new land going to be : Lord of the rings ' or NiNteNdo theme park
December 5, 2015 at 10:15 AM · If Universal does transportation to and from the airport, a monorail-type thing would probably work as the use of buses would probably just make it look like they'd be saying to Disney "hey I can do that, to!" Yet something about that whole idea just rubs me the wrong way...but I don't know why.

I'm glad that Universal's expanding, but is really wish it didn't have to be an entirely separate property. Say what you want about Disney's transportation, but at least they've never had to worry about outside influences since they have everything on one property.

December 5, 2015 at 12:08 PM · It's pretty obvious that Universal will build a third theme park. The are dead serious about competing with the mighty Mouse across town. Even with two parks and a water park, most people do Disney for a week or more, and then squeeze in a couple days at Universal.
December 5, 2015 at 12:17 PM · A win-win for the whole area would be an elevated train jointly funded by the city and Universal. Route would be a set of both local and express trains. The express route is dedicated to Universal and the local route is funded by the city of Orlando. Universal supports its private rail service, whereas the city provides the local service, local stations, and property via eminent domain as needed.

The local route could travel from the south convention center to the north convention center routing directly along Universal Blvd or I-drive from the North convention center with a Rail Hub at the Universal property at the 20 or 15.5 acre lot in the map.

From there, dual local and express Universal routes straight up Universal drive to Wet and Wild and on to the existing Universal property. Even more interesting if one direction is down I-Drive and the other direction is up Universal Blvd.

Later, add a route funded by the city from the Airport down the Bee-Line to the hub servicing the convention center, an extension of the Universal express route. The airport is supposed to have ties to the other area rail services in the next few years anyway.

From the city's perspective, significant traffic easing on the I-drive mess with availability of better mass transit. Adds another draw to support the already strong convention business. Local rail stations are sponsored by the attractions that want nearby stops reducing costs to the city. A long term contract with Universal providing the service to all Universal hotel guests from the airport guarantees a base amount of operating funding. Offer can be extended to other resorts and to Conventions at a competitive per guest length of stay/convention price.

From Sea World's perspective, it would need to sponsor adding a route from the hub, if they can afford it. Even if they can't add afford it, they are still much better off.

From Disney's perspective, they still have their guests locked in with bus service only. However, they now are competing with a much more integrated region with 4 theme parks plus other attractions. Pressure is stepped up on the mouse. Possibly, they eventually end up with a route down from the convention center to the mouse.

GG

December 5, 2015 at 2:51 PM · While transportation is critical, it would be interesting to see Universal sell off the Wet n Wild property to fund executing their option and then expanding their new property by buying the Lockheed Martin facility.

December 5, 2015 at 3:22 PM · If they do develop that land and create a massive linked resort then they should also buy SeaWorld and add Aquatica and Discovery Cove to the mix. Talk about creating a worthy alternative to Disney, and Universal could add some relevant (and needed) IPs to SeaWorld. I mean, could there be a better place to build a new JAWS ride?!
December 5, 2015 at 3:24 PM · Some how, some way the new theme park would need to include Nintendo , dream works , lord of the rings , and maybe like a monsters land or something .
December 5, 2015 at 4:01 PM · How about a fleet of purple Knight busses with windows like the ones inside the Hogwarys Express to keep the illusion alive on the trip?
December 5, 2015 at 4:09 PM · On Orlando United, they suggested making Wet and Wild a TTC with busses, monorails, etc. connecting the resorts.
December 5, 2015 at 5:57 PM · With land of that size, maybe Universal is thinking of something completely unprecedented - Perhaps a completely immersive themed entertainment park that is not specifically connected to their other parks. Hotels, restaurants, settings and rides all based on a single immersive intellectual property. It would have to be something of the magnitude/longevity of, say, Middle Earth - but imagine a Westworld-like entertainment destination, where you spend a few days before you go to visit their other parks/hotel for the rest of your vacation.

Universal has, in recent years, shown that they can take the creativity and immersive theming that Disney invented and crank it up to the power of three.

I'm just speculating if they're thinking of cranking it up to the power of 10.

December 5, 2015 at 6:08 PM · Wouldn't it be ironic if Universal's own arguments against Skyplex were used to oppose this expansion. After all, a new Universal theme park and/or hotels would generate far more traffic than Skyplex ever will.
December 5, 2015 at 6:30 PM · I don't think any park would tear down some of the largest parking garages in the world that are already built and paid for. I know the one garage can have whole another floor added if needed. My guess is that they stay and possibly cost more to park in as your car is covered and your are closer. I could see them taking some of the back stage parking, storage and office space for IOA and USF like Disneyland is doing with Star Wars land but not until many years later.

I wonder if Universal is waiting out Sea World to see if they decide to sell. They got Wet N Wild at a rock bottom price and quickly sold off the other parks. Sea World would be the fastest option as they could quickly retheme it and the park is already built and in a prime location right by the convention center and only a few miles from Universal. It would also be a great PR move if Jaws frees the whales.

Crazy how Universal rumors I read as a kid are actually coming true.

December 5, 2015 at 8:06 PM · It seems a no-brainer that an elevated train system/monorail would be the way to go. Sure, the traffic around that area right now isn't the greatest, but with a third gate (surely, that's part of the plan), and probably a second CityWalk and at least a hotel or two coming as well....commuters and resort guests will only WISH traffic wasn't the greatest.

Universal is smart. Buses work for Disney because they own as much land as a college town, but Universal is really missing the boat (missing the train?) if they go the bus route.

Taking a bus from the new area to the old, or vice versa, will really put a damper on the guest experience, even if only for 20 minutes.

Though a monorail would be quite expensive, it's a relatively short distance, and to really compete with Disney World, they need to give guests the best experience they can, and however expensive it is now, it's the better bet in the long term.

I really like the idea that was mentioned before from some other site I've never heard of (hehe). Use Wet N Wild as a TTC type place, plus an entertainment complex. This area would connect not only to the new and old resort areas, but eventually could connect to the airport.

Train to Universal's properties, connected by monorail?
Bus to Disney's properties, connected by buses?

Uh. Yeah. No brainer.

Pony up the cash, Comcast.

December 5, 2015 at 9:42 PM · Nintendo and Lord of the Rings is plenty of IP to anchor a 3rd gate!

I agree a monorail is slicker than bus. They could always start with bus and develop monorail as a more long term plan.

December 6, 2015 at 12:04 AM · As Robert has pointed out in past articles, the theme park rights to LOTR are tied up in seemingly endless litigation. And Universal didn't even do the movies. Sorry, folks, that won't happen, at least until many of us are too old to do many rides anyway...
December 6, 2015 at 12:38 AM · Ideas for a third park: Jurassic World "the park is now open" enough said. Connected via monorail of course.
December 6, 2015 at 5:27 AM · How about making the new park a dark park, they have great success with Halloween horror nights so why not look at some of those ip's and see if they can add this to this area, ok it may have to be toned down a little to make it a little more of a family attraction but I am sure the creative minds could come up with something, not saying chase everyone around with chain saws etc, in the UK there is a dark roller coaster based on the Saw franchise so why not at universal.?
December 6, 2015 at 7:02 AM · I would like to see : lord of the rings theme park / mega luxury themed hotel
December 6, 2015 at 8:34 AM · My college thesis is going to be about how to fix I-Drive. I've been so fascinated in doing this since I was a kid. I-Drive is polarizing and is only going to get bigger. How would an underground system do in this part of Fl?
December 6, 2015 at 9:29 AM · Could this be the next location for Wet n Wild? I feel that buses are the only option unless Universal (and Disney) really push the light rail from the airport.
December 6, 2015 at 9:30 AM · I believe that Universal already has an effective parking/central hub on its current property, with two existing parking lots and a third currently being built next to Sapphire Falls/Volcano Bay. An elevated rail system seems like the most effective and efficient transportation choice between the two properties, keeping the current parking hub in place and allowing guests to easily travel between all the parks with ease. I just can't imagine that if a third park was built, that Universal would plan to make the primary mode of travel busses. Seems like a recipe for disaster from the start.
December 6, 2015 at 12:10 PM · Wet and Wild is being replaced by the water park they're constructing now. Why would they build another Wet and Wild not far away?
December 6, 2015 at 12:10 PM · Sorry, double post.
December 6, 2015 at 12:17 PM ·
Makes no sense to do another Wet & Wild. Plus, they didn't really care for the demographic they had for a water park that was so readily available to problem population areas.
December 6, 2015 at 12:53 PM · Don't really know how planning works in the states but how about a subway system for park to park
December 6, 2015 at 1:21 PM · For a third park to work on this land, unless Universal is gearing it primarily toward locals I think it is necessary to create a mini-resort around it. Build the park, build a smaller CityWalk (with a different theme), build a new parking structure, and build a couple hotels to support it. As for transportation between different parts of the resort, busses could be used but that would be highly inefficient. A monorail or elevated train is a possibility, but I'm not sure how much development is in the area and this would be very expensive. My alternative...how about an aerial ropeway, such as a gondola? This would probably be cheaper than an elevated train, less disruptive for existing developments, and depending on the design could probably transport 3,000-4,000 people per hour in each direction.

The other big question here is whether Universal Orlando has enough demand to support a development of this scale. With everything listed above, this expansion would likely be a $2-3 billion dollar project and I don't think there's enough demand at the moment for Universal to justify spending that amount of money. They could always start smaller and work their way up, but the realist part of me says Universal may buy this land for bargaining power. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see any development on this property for 10+ years even if Universal purchases it now.

December 6, 2015 at 3:22 PM · I think a $2-3 billion investment is definitely in Universal's realm of possibilities. If I understand correctly, Comcast is already investing $500 million a year in the parks (above existing operating expenses). And the USH Evolution plan is a billion dollar project for a very landlocked location.

I could easily see Universal jumping on this if they continue to see increased customer spending like they did with DA.

I agree though about demand. Does Orlando really need another park or does Harry Potter just siphon existing customers from other locations? It will be interesting to see if Volcano Bay and Sapphire Falls turns UO into a 3-day destination. If so, I could see Universal going aggressively after Disney with a new theme park -- "Forget Disney, we have just as many parks and hotels. Spend the whole week with us."

December 6, 2015 at 4:00 PM · A transportation system is an expense. Universal won't make money from it. I doubt they are willing to spend millions developing something more expensive than a bus system since a monorail or elevated rail system or a trolley system will go on public land. It also makes no sense to serve merely the Universal Resort for a more comprehensive system will also bring customers from the outside resort areas. I imagine a Metro-like public system will result in a public response that will be even worse than shown from the Skyplex campaign. Many more neighborhoods are involved.

This is way too early to suggest solutions to a development that is yet to be announced and planned. I would assume Universal wants to minimize its risks and not inadvertently create a white elephant if the future development proves to be a failure. A monorail to nowhere? It could happen. Even in Las Vegas, the monorail is little used. I suppose this is due to not being connected to the airport in the south and the few notable casinos at north end of the strip where the monorail ends at SLS (formerly Aladdin casino) has little business. Also, the monorail doesn't have a stop at the high end Wynn casino.

Again, Universal will do what's expedient and invest their money in their theme parks. The off-site guests can find their own way. Maybe the city will add a bus stop. Why not use what's already there?

December 6, 2015 at 6:34 PM · I can almost guarantee all this will do is cannibalize attendance at US and IOA... and perhaps even WDW. I don't think USO is ready for another theme park for another 10-15 years. Far too often (aside from the usual peak times) I show up at Universal and walk-on to almost every ride except Potter.
December 6, 2015 at 11:42 PM · Jeff D, in my opinion, UO is already a 3-4 day destination, even without the water park. We spent three days there last year, and we still skipped some of the attractions. We did one day at IOA and two at Universal Florida, to have plenty of time for Diagon Alley.
The question is whether Universal wants to make their resort a week long destination, and it seems that the answer to that is yes. Three theme parks plus an impressive new water park, and people's average stay could be 5-7 days. To me, that would mean that people would come to Orlando for two weeks, one week each at Disney and Universal.
Now, does Orlando really need yet another theme park? Not really; can their infrastructure even handle an ever greater influx of tourists? But if Universal is determined to be another WDW, they probably think they need the third park.
December 7, 2015 at 7:11 AM · Universal Orlando is seriously considering what Disneyland Resort in Anaheim was not able to commit to in the past, expanding their resort between two separate plots of land. The same issues that DLR had with Anaheim and the proposed Long Beach/DisneySea project are the same issues UO will have. And why would either resort even consider doing this? $$$! More theme parks, resort hotels, and restaurants means more for guests to see and do, which means more days for guests to spend at the resort, about a week's worth.

Though to do this, AJ is absolutely right, both plots will have to be self sufficient from one another to be successful. Both plots will have to be an all encompassing resort with theme parks, hotels, restaurants, parking, and other suitable entertainment and infrastructure to support themselves. The key is to connect the two as seamlessly as possible to create a mega-resort and gain the week long commitment from their guests.

If Universal Orlando finds solutions to their potential transportation issues...look out WDW!

December 7, 2015 at 7:47 AM · I think a better option for transportation would be south on Kirkman Rd and come up on the east side of the new property. Kirkman Rd has a fairly wide centre that extra lanes, either bus or, fingers crossed, monorail/light rapid transit could accommodate. It's also mostly light industry in that area, less distraction.
December 7, 2015 at 7:48 AM · Orlando visitors are not going to visit for 2 weeks. That is why Disney stopped at 4 gates. Americans have little vacation time and limited funds. Will they fix the parks, add attractions, add a fifth gate to compete? Doubt it. While they will have a e-ticket Star Wars ride and hopefully something nice with avatar, don't see any thing close to them competing with the universal expansion. Of course there not fixing epcot. Theme parks are certainly needed in orlando as long there from a quality investor. I presume they will expand shows, fireworks, kids section. Should we start guessing the year universal leads the attendance of wdw? I think it will be dramatic. Likely 4th gate. I have already switched to 4 day universal and 2 day disney.
December 7, 2015 at 9:18 AM · I agree with AJ Hummel: a cable car or aerial tramway could be a solution. With today technologies, each cabin can have a huge capacity and the length between two stations or supporting towers can be huge.
December 7, 2015 at 9:54 AM · Totally agree, Sylvain. I realized after posting I should have worded that differently. I spent a week myself at UO during my last trip. Unfortunately, I'm probably not a near future big win for Uni. I will return to UO for another week with or without Volcano Bay. I probably won't add an extra day, just adjust my schedule to include Volcano Bay.

However, for people currently staying a week at Disney and a couple of days at Uni, how much will it take to push those visitors to a 3rd full day at Uni?

December 7, 2015 at 12:37 PM · I think we are looking at Lord of the Rings, Nintendo, Hunger Games (they have announced that someone has the theme park rights, but no one has come forward with an announcement), Wizarding World's Dangerous Creatures and Where to Find them. Wouldn't it be interesting if Universal did the same kind of elevated train/attraction that currently moves guests between the different Harry Potter Lands...between Kings Cross Station and the new US based Ministry of Magic? I could also see the relocation of Minions to the new park in grander fashion than just the one ride...
December 7, 2015 at 6:35 PM · Um ... "problem population areas?"
December 7, 2015 at 2:22 PM · Partially wishful thinking, but given that there was a lot of talk about the themepark staff being heavily involved in the look & development of the 'citywalk' seen in Jurassic World, what are the odds that they would transplant a fully formed Jurassic World section down into the new development.

Given the monorail in the movie (and how they already themed one park-to-park transportation option as the Hogwarts Express), they could do the same with the monorail and utilize video screen technology to make it into a 'ride' in of itself before you even get to the park. The four mile ride would give ample time to 'ride' through several paddocks of dinosaurs, while keeping visitors from ever paying attention to the actual surroundings being passed through (non Universal property).

December 7, 2015 at 8:47 PM · Hello. I'm new and signed up for an account to voice disgust with Universal. First of all, I understand theme parks are a business that needs to protect its interest and generate a profit. However, Univeral seams to have become crooked in the past few years.

Yes, Disney has done some unkosher things in the past, but using political tactics to block development and sue reasonable entrepreneurs from developing IDrive disgust me. If they wanted to control the development, they should have just bought out the property or negotiated privately, not tried to ruthlessly destroy the competition. That would have been ethical. Additionally, they have sought out tax dollars to build out private infrastructure that would exclusively benefit them.

This company has gone from being an ethical competitor and responsible business to a crooked bully in just a few short years. It is sad because I loved the Univerasal Parks and they were my favorite. They lit a fire under Disney when they got complacent. However I cannot support the company any more.

Like I said, I know Disney is not perfect themselves, but at least they are not trying to distoroy the community in thier quest for growth.

Edit: I typed this on a phone so I know there are spelling and grammar mistakes.

December 7, 2015 at 10:39 PM · It's no secret that Universal's been very vocal about opposition to I-Drive, but are there verified reports that they ever "used political tactics" and "sued reasonable entrepreneurs?" I looked for some, but was unsuccessful.

I don't know how monorails work during inclement weather, but I do know that cable cars will shut down for thunderstorms and even moderate sized winds. That could pose a problem if they need to move lots of people at any time.

December 8, 2015 at 4:05 AM · My last trip to Orlando was 2 days Disney and 1 in Universal. If they did build a Middle Earth/ Nintendo park I gotta say those days would definitely be reversed. Epcot is the only Disney World park I feel is truly worth visiting. I feel Disney's best work is found in CA and Tokyo.
December 8, 2015 at 5:04 AM · Thanks James. Looks like I've learned a lesson about doing my own research before reposting information I hear.

Political tactics can be interpreted a number of ways, so that is a gray area. I heard about a lawsuit on another theme park forum. I was wrong.

December 8, 2015 at 5:27 AM · If Universal were to acquire this land, it would be a total game changer. Up until now, Universal has usually been seen as the secondary or alternate destination for most theme park visitors to Orlando. If they were to add a second resort area with two more parks, they might possibly supplant Disney as the theme park resort of choice in Orlando.

Here's my prediction for what will happen if Universal does acquire and develop this property. They'll probably develop a two park resort over a 10 year time period with it's own parking garages and a comparable version of Citywalk. Orlando and the State of Florida will be asked to pony up for infrastructure improvements to the existing roadways since traffic flow will become a nightmare around the property. During the infrastructure improvements, Universal will secure rights to build a private form of mass transit between the two resorts and charge a fee for using it since it will save time and money over moving from one parking garage at one resort to a parking garage at the other resort. (And TH Creative and James Rao will point out the upcharge for the use of the parking garage or the transportation system in every post of theirs for the next ten years. ;))

December 8, 2015 at 6:34 AM · Interesting thought is that Volcano Bay along with a third park would have made more sense on this property than Volcano Bay's current location. Where and expansion of Cabana Bay in the long term would have made more sense.

December 8, 2015 at 9:00 AM · @Tim: Your timetable is much too fast and it doesn't allow guests to warm up to the resorts over time. How long did Disney build up its parks? It took decades.

In the first phase, one park and maybe two hotel resorts will be built. A small and less ambitious CityWalk complex will be built next to the hotels. They will have a small internal bus system that will serve Universal resort guests only. The resort will have a flat parking lot to save costs.

The second phase is an expansion of the new park, the entertainment plaza, and one additional resort. This will happen 8 to 10 years after the first phase. This new phase will make the park about 80% of what we consider to be a full day park.

The third phase is plans for the fourth park, which will open 20 years later. Plus more attractions at the third park.

As for transportation, the same bus system for hotel resort guests and for park to park ticket holders.

December 8, 2015 at 9:45 AM · A few years ago, Anon, I would have agreed with you, but watching the aggressive expansion and modification of the existing Universal Orlando parks over the past few years has changed my perspective.

Universal has to keep the Harry Potter momentum going, so we'll probably see a 15-18 attraction, 5 land park built over the next 5 years that will most likely include a third Harry Potter area and a rudimentary Citywalk-type of entertainment district. Once that is complete, Universal will add a major ride or modification every year to one of the existing (at that time) parks while they are building the fourth park, fleshing out the Citywalk II development, and completing more hotels and a waterpark in the second resort.

And while all of this is extremely optimistic from the viewpoint of a theme park enthusiast, I don't see them as having much of a choice. Disney is making huge improvements to DHS and AK and inevitably Epcot, and Universal has to offer a game-changing situation to break the lockhold that Disney has on the position of being "The Destination Resort" in Orlando. Building a new resort with 2 new parks, an entertainment district, a waterpark, and multiple new themed hotels offering front of the line access for patrons in a 10-12 year time frame is just the ticket that changes Universal from Avis to Hertz.

December 8, 2015 at 9:50 AM · Love those server crashes where you end up with a double post.
December 8, 2015 at 9:52 AM · It's all good Sy82, welcome aboard. :)
December 8, 2015 at 3:49 PM · Adding resorts and attractions at a rapid pace won't necessarily translate to adding two new complete parks in ten years. That's just too much risk. Comcast added $500 million to their budget for new attractions. This is peanuts compared to how much Disney is spending to upgrade their parks. Universal will have to tie up billions without any consideration of the economic conditions in the next few years. It is predicted that a recession is overdue in the next few years nevermind that we never really had a economic recovery as employment is stagnant. Orlando construction must be conservative.
December 8, 2015 at 4:17 PM · I agree with most of your ideas Tim, except 1. I feel like 1 large Epcot size theme park along with hotels and shops would be better than 2 smaller parks. Universal has yet to show that it can build a successful Disneysea or Epcot sized park. That would be a true gamechanger imo.
December 8, 2015 at 9:55 PM · Huh? What in the world does size have to do with it? I totally don't follow your logic, Daniel. Both USO and IOA have more rides and attractions than Epcot does, what more does Universal need to do?

Keep in mind that TDS is 176 acres and TDL is 115 acres. With the main parcel being 340 acres, I'd say there is plenty of room to build two awesome parks and a Citywalk type of development on the main parcel plus put the parking garages, waterpark, and hotels on the remaining parcels without much difficulty.

December 9, 2015 at 4:38 PM · T. Hillman writes: "If they were to add a second resort area with two more parks, they might possibly supplant Disney as the theme park resort of choice in Orlando."

I Respond: That's a bit too optimistic.

December 9, 2015 at 8:01 PM · First of all the new area will get 2 theme parks, a shopping/entertainment/restaurant hub and hotels.
It beeing close to the convention center makes having an elevated lightrail a No brainer. As I said before every Universal hotel would become a convention hotel. It's convenient for guests to take their families.
The convention goers need a nice relaxing Space to wind down to the entertainment district will help with that.
But the costs, you say. Unlike swampy Disney land this land is developed. Follow the 435 from the back of the parking garage and you can draw an almost streight line down to the convention center. It leaves the wet and wild area allone but with the tower beeing build there they probably want to sell it anyway. Some prefab concrete pillars and a horizontal concrete slab on it with lightrail tracks on it are not going to cost them that much for 4 miles. I'm sure they will use Hogwarts train Windows to make your ride as fun as can be. Maybe they even could convince the convention center to build a parking structure on their parkinglot in the back and use the lightrail and garage to cross the street to their properety saving space.

With the wheel and polercoaster there will be no problem (I guess) to use fireworks nigtly making a fantasy themed park likely. The park could house Lord of the Rings (Warner is 1 step closer after the ruling to have these rights to sell and Universal and Warner do great with Potter), monster land with the clasic Universal monsters in an old German village setting with Dracula's castle, Frankensteins mansion, etc. Digital dreams, videogame land with Nintendo and Potter spin-off Mythical Beasts could have a space there.

Due to the area the hotels should enclose the park, beeing high enough and in the right theme to take away from surrounding buildings/attractions like Phantasialand in Germany does very effective. A waterway around the resort connects to the new entertainment hub and via that to the lightrail. In 15 years time the fourth park could be ready to expand it again.

December 9, 2015 at 8:32 PM · Universal can usually build a new attraction at a fraction of the cost that Disney can. So generally, Universal will get more bang for their buck. They can put a Forbidden Journey E ticket attraction in for less than it costs Disney to do a Little Mermaid Under the Sea D ticket ride. That $500 million a year goes pretty far.
December 11, 2015 at 5:38 AM · ...I didn't think it was that difficult. 1 big park instead of 2 smaller parks. Epcot is 300 acres and you still need room for the hotels/shopping/entertaintment. And size has a lot to do with it. Their smaller parks may have more attractions, but there is an awe and grandiosity when walking through a Disneysea or Epcot. Universal has yet to build a park with that kind of draw imo.
December 11, 2015 at 10:43 AM · Much of the footprint at TDS is wasted on water, Daniel, and while that does allow for some grand vistas, it really doesn't add any complexity to the park. Universal could easily accomplish something like TDS. (In hindsight, I guess that's what you're asking them to do. [open palm headslap] My bad.)

Epcot, on the other hand is an abysmal mess, and is a poster child for how to build an expensive park with high operating costs and limited appeal. I fully expect that when Disney is done with the AK and DHS expansions, they will announce a grand plan to totally update Epcot and split it into two parks, so they can enhance revenue.

Anyway, one grand park is totally out of the question. Universal is going to make a multibillion dollar investment in this property if they purchase it, and they will need the revenue from 2 gates to pay off the loans that they are going to have to obtain to build the resort.

December 11, 2015 at 7:16 PM · I would say that none of Disneyseas space is "wasted on water". Despite being necessary for the creation of believable themeing, the water way that encircles DS is used also for the transportation/attraction Disneysea Steamer line. And the large lagoon in Mediterranean Harbor is also used for multiple water shows throughout the year, including Fantasmic.

Regarding Epcot. It may be a huge waste of space to you, but it still enjoys a higher attendance than any of the Orlando Universal parks. It's weakness is it's lack of attractions and investment. Not its size. If Universal truly wants to compete with Disney, it will have to show that it can create a large theme park. Otherwise it will always be a really good 2nd place.

December 11, 2015 at 10:20 PM · Size matters not - Yoda.

In all seriousness, though the two parks would be somewhat on the small side, it's all a matter of maximizing the space you have.

I agree with Tim that Universal will need the income from two new gates to help cover the loans, and I have no doubt that they'll be able to make it well worth the price of admission by being efficient in their planning and implementation of the new parks.

I'd like to see one park geared toward the kids, and one toward the adults. Make them distinct entities.

No matter what happens, if this land is in fact purchased by Universal, it'll be interesting to watch unfold over the years.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Twitter Instagram Email Newsletter

Rate & Review

Walt Disney World

Universal Orlando

Disneyland

Tokyo Disney Resort

Plan Your Vacation


Newsletter

Email

© Theme Park Insider®   About · Rules · Privacy · Contact
Facebook YouTube Twitter Instagram Theme Park Insider T-shirts and Hoodies Email Newsletter