Let's take a closer look at Universal's hotel plans for the Wet 'n Wild site

July 3, 2017, 11:15 PM · The City of Orlando has posted a detailed staff report on Universal Orlando's proposal to build 4,000 hotel rooms on the site of the former Wet 'n Wild water park.

The report includes detailed site plans for two hotel complexes, one on the former water park site and the other across Universal Blvd., on the park's former parking lot.

Aerial view

The site plan includes three parking garages, two lobby areas, and multiple hotel towers, facing pools and landscaped areas.

Site plan

It also includes rough artist renderings of what appear to be 10-story hotel buildings.

View of hotels

Another view

The report recommends that the city approve the project, subject to several conditions, including landscaping, fencing, lighting, and sewer analysis requirements. In other words, apparently nothing major enough that it would jeopardize the project. The report notes a planned city council vote on the project July 24.


Replies (13)

July 4, 2017 at 11:20 AM · I love that the city is going to force some visual upgrades that will help beautify the north end of I-Drive. I don't love the designs of the hotels. Not even close. Hopefully they are just to show scale, and not any kind of representation of how they'll look. There is absolutely no theming or personality, and that seems very un-Universal.

The big question is how they will connect these hotels to the parks. I vote for the ABB option. Anything But Buses.

July 4, 2017 at 2:09 PM · The problem with Orlando, is the development companies are squeezing the most of the land to lure tourist and business in a city the is so crowded, who wants to paid for a luxury or modern vacation when the traffic is so jam, everything is so pack
July 4, 2017 at 8:51 PM · Do these images show how they plan to build it, or could they surprise everyone with a themed hotel?
July 5, 2017 at 7:51 AM · I simply don't understand why this part of Orlando needs MORE hotel rooms. Certainly not gigantic resort towers across the street from each other. While the sites are not far from UO, they are decidedly "off-site", and would need to have some special rooms and features for Universal to price them over Cabana Bay.

I get UO's vision to increase guest spending by having more rooms available for "on-site" guests, but without another gate to extend the average stay beyond 2-3 days, these resorts could hurt their hotel brand with low occupancy, frequent sales, and additional perks that would undercut Cabana Bay, Sapphire Falls, and Aventura. It's a "build it and they will come" gamble that I simply don't see succeeding without another theme park.

July 5, 2017 at 11:59 AM · Its crazy
July 6, 2017 at 9:13 AM · I am fairly sure those renderings are purposely bland. Universal has given surrounding, not so great hotels (Holiday Inn) the majority of their business, and they realized Disney's hotel model works.

Just keep building them and people will show up. All they need is one or two little perks and a shuttle.

July 6, 2017 at 10:46 AM · "Just keep building them and people will show up. All they need is one or two little perks and a shuttle."

I don't think it's that simple. The market is near saturation in this area, so Universal is proposing to add inventory that would further saturate and depress the market. Their existing hotels have the advantage of being truly "on-site", and while Cabana Bay has a shuttle, most guests can reasonably make the walk to the parks. However, the location of these new hotels is definitively "off-site" where many guests would be intimidated by walking to the parks, a 20-30 minute proposition each way. I've done it before from the Hampton Inn adjacent to these properties, and the Laquinta and Extended Stay America (Major Blvd) that are all about the same distance away, but it is quite a trudge especially after a long day walking around the parks. That means Universal would need to provide significantly more transportation support than their existing hotels. If these resorts have 4,000 rooms and assuming an average 70% occupancy rate with 2.5 people per room, you would have to transport 5-7k people to the parks during the peak morning hours (evenings are easier because departures are more staggered). Assuming a 10-minute trip each way, you'd need at least 25 jammed packed coach buses running continuous loops over the 2-hour morning rush period to ensure guests could get to parks. That's a pretty serious investment in transportation, and an inconvenience that's going to have to be offset by some sort of perk or lower nightly rate.

I'd say it's unlikely that Universal would include any sort of breakfast for guests (something many of the hotels within a few blocks of this area do include with a nightly stay). It's also unlikely that Universal will allow for free parking, though that may be something that could offset the busing inconvenience. They're not going to give Universal Express to guests in these resorts since they aren't giving that to Cabana Bay, Sapphire Falls, or Aventura. They'll likely give guests the early entry perk that other resort guests get, but as Universal continues to add more and more hotels, you'd have to wonder at what point the perk becomes useless to guests because the parks are at or near capacity during the early entry period. They can only cut their rates so far as Cabana Bay's rates are already pretty competitive with nearby major chain hotels, so if rates cannot go any lower, why would someone stay at these hotels when they could stay at a true on-site hotel like Cabana Bay or an off-site hotel that gives you free parking, park shuttle, and free breakfast for virtually the same rate. Rates in these new hotels would have to be 10-20% lower than nearby hotels, which would put them into the decidedly "economy" category, somewhere I don't think the Loews brand wants to wade into. The only other places you could demonstrate value would be to offer guests of these resorts exclusive discounts on admission or offer an experience that nearby hotels (including Cabana Bay and Sapphire Falls) do not. Perhaps these two resorts will have special pools/mini water parks, night clubs, or dining opportunities exclusive to resort guests. Other than that, I just don't see the economics of these resorts as part of the Universal/Loews portfolio. There's no non-allocated market share to capture until there's another gate to increase the average length of stay, so Universal/Loews would be either stealing from themselves (perhaps one of the older resorts closes permanently to make for additional "on-site" property for park expansion/3rd/4th gate), or trying to pry guests from existing brands, many with loyal followings and value/price that could not be matched by Universal/Loews. I think these new hotels are going to be a tough sell, and it's not as simple as "build it and they will come".

July 6, 2017 at 12:43 PM · Hopefully these renderings are not representative of what they actually plan to build here, because they're not attractive.

I don't know the details of what's near Wet N Wild, but I do think if the new Universal hotels are worth their salt, they'll cannibalize the surrounding hotels, forcing them to either cut prices further, refurbish their rooms and grounds, or possibly shut down. Reminds me of a bit of the scene in Atlantic City.

How far is it from WNW to UOR? Could they build a massive moving escalator, as they have connecting the parking structures with City Walk? People don't want to actually WALK, after all!

They could do moving escalators in pieces, connected by big rotundas (I think that's the word) where they could setup gift shops and little Universal stores. Or even a Starbucks.

I have no idea if that's even possible, but at the very least, it's probably a boneheaded idea on my part.

July 6, 2017 at 1:43 PM · "How far is it from WNW to UOR?"

It's almost a full mile from the intersection of International Drive/Universal Blvd to the entrance to CityWalk (obviously it would be an even longer walk if you were staying in a room in the back corner of the resorts). You could cut maybe a tenth of a mile off by cutting through the Royal Pacific, but the average person walking at an average walking pace of 3.1 MPH would take almost 20 minutes to get to CityWalk plus the time to walk to the park gate.

I don't see speed walks being very feasible since part of the route is across I-4. Bulking up the bridges across a major interstate would cost some serious money and, at least on the Universal property part of the walk, would destroy the current setting of the Royal Pacific surrounded by lush greenery and winding paths. Again, I've done this walk before when we stayed at the Hampton Inn on Kirkman Drive a few years back, and even walking at a brisk pace, it was a solid 20-25 minutes, though the Hampton Inn is about a tenth of a mile further away than these resorts would be.

I don't think the new hotels will affect the market at all. Hotel rates in the theme park district of Orlando are some of the lowest in any major tourist area in the country, predominantly because of the over-saturation. Adding more rooms is not going to dramatically affect the prices, because they really can't go down any further and owners remain profitable. Without giving visitors a reason to extend their stay, having more rooms just means occupancy rates will be going down, which might be Universal's end-game so they can have flexibility to either renovate aging rooms or demolish aging resorts on prime real estate in favor of another theme park.

When Volcano Bay was announced, everyone thought the Wet 'N Wild property was going to be Universal's 3rd (4th if you now include VB) gate, but what if the new resorts are not an expansion of their existing room inventory, but instead replacement inventory so they could tear down say Royal Pacific in favor of a new theme park. An existing on-site resort property could also possibly a place where backstage support areas could be relocated to so they can expand the footprint of the existing parks. There have been tons of rumors about tearing down Dragon Challenge, but what if they also took out the backstage area behind the coaster to expand the WWoHP since the existing coaster footprint isn't big enough for a land by itself? Those support areas would be lost, but could be relocated to real estate cleared by shifting rooms from the Royal Pacific to Aventura and the new resorts across I-4.

July 7, 2017 at 1:31 AM · RE: Russell Meyer

They just renovated Royal Pacific recently so they are not going to tear that down.

Dragon Challenge cannot be torn down until J.K. Rowling approves whatever Universal has in mind to replace it. She has final say on HP at Universal

If Disney can build a gondola system, so can Universal to connect these hotels rooms to the parks.

They will think of something to entice guests to stay at these hotels besides early entry. Free High Speed Wi-fi perhaps because Loews standard wi-fi is not for downloading.

July 7, 2017 at 8:14 AM · Dragon Challenge has been on the chopping block for over a year. It will be gone as soon as Universal finalizes plans for that corner of IOA, which likely comes down to how much backstage space they can utilize for an expansion. The question is not a matter of if, but when, and whether the expansion in that corner of IOA will come before or after the back corner of USF between Diagon Alley and MIB.

These new hotels are at least 3+ years from being ready, so it would not be out of the question that a resort renovated in the past 2-3 years could be slated for replacement by these new towers. Obviously the fact that RP is the resort's primary convention space would make it unlikely that it would ever get torn down, but stranger things have happened with Universal's property maneuvers.

Putting a gondola over privately owned property is one thing, taking one over I-4 is completely different. There's a greater chance of Universal installing a subway between these resorts and CityWalk than a gondola being strung across the Interstate.

Sorry, high speed internet (even if it is faster than the industry standard) is not enough of a carrot. It's going to take a lot of research for Universal to figure out a niche for these resorts without undercutting their existing inventory (Aventura already exists in a very awkward place among their current hotels). I just don't think you can give guests early entry and expect them to pay the same rates as Cabana Bay or Aventura (both within an easy walk of the park gates). 4,000 rooms is a lot of inventory to fill in a market already saturated beyond belief.

July 9, 2017 at 6:04 PM · Universal should build a Jurassic World resort similar to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Theme it to the Jurassic Park/World movies like you are staying at the resort in the movies. And include some areas that have animatronic dinosaurs here and there. They could have the rooms overlook a field or jungle area like the AK Lodge rooms do, but instead of giraffes and things they could have some dino animatronics in the distance. I'm amazed they have not done this already.
July 10, 2017 at 8:23 PM · It's funny how everyone is analyzing in great detail how they plan on transporting people to the parks. It's called buses, a lot of them, and it's done all over the world to get people from A to B (including Cabana Bay). Disney has several bus routes way longer than this (AK Lodge to Disney Springs is like a 20 minute bus ride, for example).

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