Universal Orlando buys more land for its expansion site

October 30, 2017, 10:44 AM · The Universal Orlando Resort has bought another 101 acres for its planned expansion near the Orange County Convention Center, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Universal bought the land for $27.5 million and the sale closed late last week.

This acquisition brings the expansion site up to 576 acres, ranging from the Beachline Expressway extending now all the way north to Sand Lake Road. Not all of the property lies within a single parcel, but the new 101-acre site does connect with the main 340-acre parcel within Universal's southern expansion properties. That gives Universal more than 440 acres to play with for a new theme park, hotels, or whatever else Universal chooses to do with the land.

Universal recently filed for a permit to develop 2,451 parking spaces on another of its parcels, the one nearest the convention center. Universal's application said that the lot would be used for temporary "overflow" parking, rather than being part of any permanent future use for the land.

The former owner of much of the land Universal now owns, a Georgia developer named Stan Thomas, is suing in an attempt to prevent the land's development, claiming that private restrictions against theme park development on the property placed back when Universal originally owned the land and sold it to Thomas still remain in force. Thomas' company lost the land in foreclosure in the 2000s.

Universal does not have much room left for expansion without replacing something else on its current site, now that it is developing a sixth on-site hotel with the Aventura tower now under construction and two more hotels under development on the old Wet n' Wild site.

Universal has announced that it will bring the Super Nintendo World land now under construction at Universal Studios Japan to Orlando, though it has not said where in the resort that land would be built. Universal also now owns the domestic theme park rights to the full catalog of Dreamworks Animation characters, following owner Comcast's acquisition of that studio. So Universal has plenty of IP to fill a new park, should it wish to use these franchises for expansion rather than replacing current attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.


Replies (17)

October 30, 2017 at 11:09 AM · 440 contiguous acres is great news for Universal fans. Now to figure out how to connect the current parks to the new land. My guess is that Uni already has a plan for this -- time will tell.
October 30, 2017 at 11:25 AM · Universal is much more aggressive in Orlando than Disney is in Anaheim. Disney sits on it's potential while Universal grabs it.
October 30, 2017 at 11:31 AM · Agreed Anton, but Universal is trying to catch up to Disney in Orlando, while Disney is still leaps and bounds above its competition in SoCal, so a bit of apples to oranges. Disney can sit on its hands in California while the neighboring business and city council debate ad nauseum, and it doesn't affect the company's bottom line one iota. Meanwhile, in Orlando, Universal sees the leader investing again in its product after they put a chunk into Disney's sector dominance over the past 10 years, and doesn't want to lose any more momentum to a company with grand plans already announced for the next 3-5 years.
October 30, 2017 at 11:40 AM · Disney is also lazy in Orlando. They did nothing for decades while Epcot, DHS, and AK deteriorate. AK ignominiously installed Dino land while building the similarly inspired DCA. Not apples and oranges. It’s the same spoiled apples.
October 30, 2017 at 11:49 AM · Well that sounds promising, even if it is years away from being completed. I just hope I can see some Nintendo stuff open in Orlando relatively soon.

Any chance anyone more skilled and knowledgeable than I can make a aerial map showing what the old and new land Universal now owns is to make it easier to comprehend what they have?

October 30, 2017 at 11:55 AM · Before UO started gaining traction, you could say that about Disney in Orlando, but since WWoHP, Disney got the kick in the pants they needed, and I'd say they're not taking the threat lightly anymore. With Pandora, Dinoland USA is even more of an eyesore to DAK, which would easily be the best WDW park right now if not for Hester and Chester's stupid dumpster carnival.

Disney can put things on cruise control in California and watch Galaxy's Edge cause backups up and down the I-5.

October 30, 2017 at 12:51 PM · If Universal is still working on land acquisition, one has to wonder how far off construction is for this project. I cannot imagine that this site would be the home to Super Nintendo World, for example, given that Universal wants to get it open here within a reasonable amount of time after its debut in Japan. (I put "reasonable" at no more than two-three years, BTW.)

How long would it take to finalize design, build, and open a park on land once it is acquired? I am thinking *at least* five to six years for something of Universal quality.

October 30, 2017 at 1:10 PM · You know they know what they want to do, and it will be interesting to see what it is. Their problem will be a disconnect from the other two parks, and it is not a self contained area like WDW, so I wonder how they pull it off. As to Anaheim, all parks are limited both politically and geographically, so I don't think you can really criticize them for that. Universal in Hollywood is a half day park, but very interesting as an active studio. You can make a vacation out of Disneyland, and it has history. Orlando is an evolving beast. Potter has changed the game, but I don't see Disney's problem as the deteriorating parks so much as the deteriorating customer service. The lines are awful. FP+ is awful, but the crowds are still there. You can pay extra to avoid this at Universal, and that is the conundrum. There is now no perfect time to visit a Disney park in Orlando, and help us all when Star Wars opens.
October 30, 2017 at 1:28 PM · Since Universal has been building hotel capacity in anticipation of this, I'm sure the planning for the park itself is already well underway. Also consider that significant portions of the park can be clones of Nintendo from Japan and various Dreamworks attractions at foreign parks. I imagine re-creating rides and entire lands takes less time than creating originals from scratch- certainly in terms of planning, but presumably in construction as well. The acquisition of this land may be more about making an entrance on the north (closer) side of the property than about acquiring necessary development space, so its possible this was a contingency that doesn't change the actual plans much at all. I believe Universal is a lot further along in this process than we know and they just want to minimize the turnaround from the big announcement to the opening.
October 30, 2017 at 1:46 PM · I don't think Universal can simply clone rides and plans from Japan and other parks and think the public will accept them in Orlando. Disney found this out the hard way, and I think Universal Creative is smart enough to know that the Orlando market demands something unique and special to complete head to head with Disney. With enough land now, I wouldn't be surprised if UC attempts to eventually build a second self-contained resort, much like UO is now with a 2-3 park complex with surrounding hotels and parking. The two complexes could then be connected with a bus or other transportation, but the idea would be that guests would stay 3-4 days at one and then hop over for another 3-4 days at the other complex, completely avoiding Disney altogether. Something on that scale is going to take some serious time to pull off (at least 5-7 years), so I doubt the initial appearance of Nintendo in Orlando would be included. The hotels on the Wet 'n Wild property are just starting construction now, but a necessary first step that is still another 2+ years off from completion (Aventura is still going vertical with occupancy expected 10 months from now). Full-blown theme parks are still a long ways off, especially since there hasn't been any indication of permits or other early-warning signs that any construction activity is coming. Universal works fast, but anyone expecting any new theme park from them before 2023 should not hold their breath.
October 30, 2017 at 3:40 PM · I think this is good for both Disney and Universal. And I think it is good for their patrons. I believe Robert said this or implied that Disney and Universal really need each other.

On the surface it really looks like showmanship but how much would their respective technology advance without competition and new revenue flowing in? Disney was out of money half way into building Epcot. Without those new attractions from both, you don't have that constant flow of money. They each help each other draw and someone coming a long distance with a limited budget and few prospects of returning frequently is still going to visit both.

Disney in Florida however, needs to borrow a page from Universal in Florida and from their Disney counter parts in CA.

Disneyland constantly refurbishes and adds new things to existing rides and when the technology is no longer prohibitive, they add old ideas or stuff left on the drawing board into the rides. (Like the new projection mapped opening Mara scene and affect in Indiana Jones the the head in the hatbox in HM) They also make a constant effort to upgrade lighting and sound systems.

As for line queue management and wait times, Universal and Disney CA are far more accurate. When you ride something you want to determine if the wait time is worth it. My last visit to Florida was filled with wait times at Disney that posted 25 minutes when the real wait time was 90. At Universal the wait time was in 5 minutes of what was posted or in an app.

Returning to the subject, whatever Universal builds, I think they will apply the same attention to detail that they put into the Potter IPs.

It's cool to see some of the comments people posted knowing you feel the same way about things. I appreciated the lack of attention that was called out on Epcot and DHS.

October 30, 2017 at 3:52 PM · Wow. Comcast is serious about catching Disney down in Orlando. Kudos to them! They seem to understand that it takes not only vision, but also a LOT of money, and they are willing to spend it. I can't wait to see what they have planned for a cohesive experience.
October 30, 2017 at 4:40 PM · Awesome news. Universal is cooking up something major. I really hope they get away from their small park playbook. They need to build an Epcot/Disneysea level park imo if they want to truly be the theme park resort leader.
October 31, 2017 at 9:36 AM · Kudos to everyone at Universal. They could have just rested on the first Harry Potter world, but they just keep pouring it on, and this is good for everyone.

The two blocks of land are separate but not by a lot. Could be joined by a gondola or monorail ... just need to pay for right-of-way.

I'm betting Uni has some more tricks up their sleeves and it's going to be amazing to see!

(Thank you 1000x for all the cool attractions and thrills and not just giving us a bunch of Starbucks)

November 1, 2017 at 5:40 AM · I've discovered the perfect time to avoid the lines at Disney World in Orlando but it's all about timing..before and after a hurricane hits!
November 1, 2017 at 12:45 PM · Universal need to buy the theme park rights for Star Wars from Disney. A 3rd gate at UOR filled with droids and wizards would be a great way to eliminate SeaWorld as the 2nd best resort in Florida.
November 1, 2017 at 1:31 PM · I'm sure Universal Studios will get a clone of Nintendo Mario World (or however it's called) from Japan. They are not only building a highly themed land and rides but also actual games into the rides and probably queue or holding areas. looking how deeply Nintendo is involved in this project it won't be a simple shooting arcade and will have depth if you are up to it. That costs an enormous amount of $ and time so a copy is welcome and expected.

I'm sure the new theme park on the other plot will also have a Nintendo expansion like Potter is divided over 2 parks and Disney sprinkles rides from 1 ip over different parks. The Nintendo IP has many different universes that would fit a theme and spread the fans.

I expect Universal to create the same buble at the new plot like they did on their current resort. Both resorts are very close and probably closer than some hotels at WDW to their parks.
I hope Uni will integrate their hotels into the rim of the parks. Rightly themed they expand the theming, save space, gives awesome views of the park and leaves space on the non park side to work on nice vista's.

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