Universal Orlando walks back daily opening for its Hagrid coaster

June 17, 2019, 8:45 PM · The new Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure roller coaster at Universal Orlando's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade no longer will open with Islands of Adventure each morning for the time being, the resort announced today.

In effect, Hagrid's is going to a "delayed opening" status until further notice, with the ride opening at some point in the middle of the day. Here is the official announcement:

Even since Hagrid's opened last week, crowds have been flocking to the park hours before its opening, flooding the ride's queue and backing up the wait time to three, four, five hours or more shortly after 9am. That has put Universal's operations team on the back foot with a ride that had no public soft opening period to allow ops and maintenance crews to fine-tune the ambitious "story coaster," with its synchronized on-ride audio, animatronics, and world-record seven launches.

Delayed openings will give those teams the opportunity to test and adjust in daylight and also while the Orlando-area weather tends to be pretty good. The flip side is that by opening at mid-day, you're running straight into prime time for Florida's summer thunderstorms, which have been closing the mostly outdoor ride almost daily since its debut.

Opening at an unannounced time in the middle of the day also should help keep crowds from overwhelming the queue, as fans will have dispersed around the park doing other stuff by then. But given the enthusiastic reaction of early visitors, it's possible that some fans will just hang around the Forbidden Forest's entry all morning, awaiting the delayed opening and defeating one of the purposes for the delay.

Universal's announcement might encourage some fans to delay their visits to the park to ride the new coaster, further relieving pressure on it until Universal can get it operating at its full, people-eating capacity.

Universal also could use the Virtual Line that it had said it might deploy for the ride as early as last Friday, but never did. A virtual queue would allow fans to enjoy the rest of the park while still holding a place in line for Hagrid's, satisfying some of the complaints about the new attraction. But Universal had said nothing about the virtual queue in recent days, including within this latest announcement.

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Replies (12)

June 17, 2019 at 11:27 PM

I really wonder if that'll work... The wait times seemed to be getting better, but this might just create a bunch of people clogging Hogsmead as they wait for the ride's opening. Also, seems like VL is off the table for now. That's sad, as it could SO damn useful

June 18, 2019 at 12:04 AM

Luke, I was thinking the exact same thing. We are going there tomorrow for our vacation, so I'll report back here if I can.

June 18, 2019 at 1:38 AM

I'm curious to see how this will work. It's clear that the ride wasn't ready to open and I suppose this is better than taking it down completely, but I've got a feeling there's going to be a ton of confusion and disappointment that could cause a significant PR snafu for Universal. I really think they need to create a working virtual queue if they discover this is going to take more than a couple weeks.

June 18, 2019 at 7:07 AM

Universal are obviously happy to operate into the early morning of the day after with this decision. 1-2am is going to be the norm while this midday opening continues. I don’t see the sense in it to be honest, they would be much better off getting the virtual line up and running, more than delaying the opening of the ride. Unless they try and stop people from lining up for the ride, then it’s not going to make any difference. Although I did see the wait time was down to 150mins for a short time yesterday. Then at 9pm (closing) it was ‘at capacity’ again.

It’s a nightmare for the vast majority of people in line, as they are either going to get burnt to a crisp, or soaked to the skin. What an introduction to Hagrid’s ride for all of the tourists visiting IOA. Of which most will only have that one opportunity anyway, so what can they do.

Of late, midday has coincided perfectly with the start of the rain, which has been going on well into early evening. All in all, a perfect storm to ruin someones vacation, that’s for sure.

June 18, 2019 at 7:21 AM

This is really bad. If you open under "technical rehearsal" as soft opening is called no one would expect the ride to be open all the time (hence some technical hiccups usual in the industry) but this is after the official opening and looks bad.

June 18, 2019 at 9:44 AM

I think the biggest issue here is that by not soft opening the coaster prior to the official opening, Universal has painted itself into a corner. Perhaps they were a bit too ambitious to ride the coattails of theme park announcements from around the country, and probably should have held off officially opening the coaster until later this month, allowing for a soft opening period. However, what's done it done, and unfortunately, Universal is going to take some serious heat for this. Guests specifically purchased on-site hotels to take advantage of the early entry perk to be able to ride this new ride, and with a "delayed opening", they are now not getting what they thought they were paying for.

This is definitely a Catch-22 here, because fans were clamoring for Universal to announce an opening date for the new coaster, and UO obliged, though much later than Disney. However, in doing so, UC was being a bit too aggressive in their testing schedule, and now have to deal with the consequences of a ride that is operating, but has not gone through enough paces to be able to run at optimal capacity. For those complaining that Universal hasn't announced an opening date for Jurassic World, this is why.

Also, this is not limited to Universal, as Disney opened an incomplete Galaxy's Edge with its signature ride still without an official opening date. Fans need to understand that as rides get more complicated and integrated with advanced technologies, it's getting more and more difficult to determine how long it will take to fully test and operate a new attraction until it is fully operational. Some of these rides are on the "bleeding edge" of technology, and utilizing components that are new to theme parks with no prototypes or other testing ground aside from the parks themselves.

June 18, 2019 at 8:33 AM

It could be worse...

John Hammond : All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked.

Ian Malcolm: Yeah, but John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists.

June 18, 2019 at 9:04 AM

This Disney drone is pretty happy about the news. Til the Forbidden Forest! Or... Wingardium Spire! Or... something...

June 18, 2019 at 2:57 PM

I was there yesterday to ride the coaster. Got there at about 7 am (2 hours before opening) and they opened the line in the park at 8am. At 9, they told us that the ride wouldn’t open till 11, which then that got pushed back to 11:30, and then finally the coaster opened at 12. We were one of the first there so we were off the coaster by 12:30 (Phenomenal coaster) however it rained on and off after and the ride stayed closed for much of the day. Then we went to get in line at 6 (park closes at 10), and they told us the ride was at capacity when the park was completely empty (Forbidden Journey was a walk-on and every ride was 10 minutes tops). It seems like the ride itself isnt prepared to hold as many people and run as much as it is doing.

June 18, 2019 at 2:58 PM

Have not seen it mentioned for any of these delayed or finicky new rides: did they do usability testing of the operator and guest interfaces? Including both the computer-type interfaces and physical interactions (in and out of ride vehicles). Large percentages of irksome (or dangerous) technology implementations run into process or safety issues. Yes, the "hard" engineering is tricky enough when integrating sound, video, mechanical, etc...but, how all the operators and guests (especially newbies) adapt and adopt is just as big.

June 18, 2019 at 5:37 PM

If I recall correctly a lot of Epcots attractions were 101 several times on opening day. I have always found it strange that it takes time for these things to settle down, but then again, I'm no engineer. Its my job to understand something more complicated - the UK benefit/welfare system.

I think though, its clear that Universal messed up in not having enough testing time or soft opens.

June 20, 2019 at 12:35 PM

For those of us that were in the industry during the "coaster wars" this kind of thing (sadly) was the normal schtick for a new ride. Test Track, Superman the Escape, DejaVu, X, Xcelerator, Top Thrill Dragster, Kingda Ka, Maverick, Son of Beast, Volcano, Hypersonic XLC, Dodonpa, all the impulse coasters that are still around but had to be modified, etc etc.

A lot of the people who were managers at the time and had to deal with the repercussions of all these unreliable rides are now higher up in the parks, and I strongly believe that's why we've seen far less new Intamins and more B&M and Mach.

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