Universal announces its next theme park, Epic Universe

August 1, 2019, 9:10 AM · The Universal Orlando Resort is getting bigger. As expected, the resort announced today plans for its next theme park, Universal's Epic Universe, now under construction near the Orange County Convention Center, four miles south of its current parks.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts made the announcement from the top floor of the convention center, overlooking the construction site. He was joined by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, and Universal Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Williams for the announcement press conference.

Universal's fourth gate promises to be the first major theme park (potential top 20 attendance) built in the United States since Disney California Adventure in 2001. It will occupy several hundred acres that Universal has reclaimed over the past decade to create its new south campus.

Proximity map
Images courtesy Universal

"Our new park represents the single-largest investment Comcast NBCUniversal has made in its theme park business and in Florida overall," Roberts said. "It reflects the tremendous excitement we have for the future of our theme park business and for our entire company’s future in Florida."

"We look forward to the new level of entertainment and innovation Universal’s Epic Universe will bring to one of our state’s most important industries," Governor DeSantis said. "We look forward to Universal’s continued contribution to our state’s economic growth and development. And we are especially grateful for Universal’s partnership in improving Shingle Creek, which plays a critical role in serving the Everglades."

Deming also noted that Universal is contributing $160 million toward expanding Kirkman Road south to Universal Boulevard, to help traffic flow into the new property. No one provided any other information today about transportation to and from the property.

To staff Epic Universe and its associated entertainment center, hotels, shops, and restaurants, Universal Orlando will add 14,000 team members to its current 25,000, Williams said. And the new starting wage for Universal team members when Epic Universe opens will be $15 an hour, he said.

As for that opening date, Williams declined to provide one... or even identify which IP Universal would feature in the new park.

"We are all battling for the time of visiting guests to come to our location," Williams said. "And to, frankly, share the details of what we have in mind with the competition is something that we have no interest in doing.

"I can guarantee you that it is going to be epic. And the last that I heard, a universe is a little bit bigger than a world."

Replies (35)

August 1, 2019 at 9:44 AM

MOOOOOORE! I wanna hear mooooooore!

(BTW, thanks Robert for tipping us off to this long, long ago - your guess was correct!)

August 1, 2019 at 2:22 PM

So much to unpack from what might be the biggest theme park news story in the past couple decades - one that surely will elicit a reaction from Disney and a lot of strategic reassessment from other parks around the country.

But the serious of this announcement didn't stop us from making jokes about it.

August 1, 2019 at 2:23 PM

What an interesting concept, a hub-and-spoke model where the interior is not ticketed. Looks like there will also be plenty of room for additional worlds to be built.

Something I wonder about is the balance of large, fully-immersive worlds with smaller experiences you might call "filler." In a traditional theme park, there is a wide range of experiences from a Diagon Alley-type location to carnival games and merchandise kiosks. This results simply because in the past, there was not a demand for such high-investment experiences, so as a result of history or nostalgia there are very different levels of immersion throughout a park. This new resort looks to fully theme each world, so you don't get the filler in between lands or attractions. Those in-between, quiet spaces are important as a buffer between lands and provide a space for guests to gather and take a break outside of highly-themed and crowded areas.

Presumably, the hub will contain those filler experiences and will be available to the public to spend money on, which may be a smarter model. It would also mean more crowds everywhere outside of a ticketed land. I think that part of the fun of a theme park is that special entry point, the place where you get that feeling of going into a special place with all sorts of experiences available. How will it feel when each of those experiences is separated by a gate? Not sure. I am very curious to see how Universal ties it all together and makes it feel like one cohesive experience. Otherwise, you might as well independently open lands, like if Universal just made the Wizarding World of Harry Potter its own gate rather than an important anchor of its existing parks.

Exciting times!

August 1, 2019 at 2:26 PM

Obviously, have to wait on more details as to what attractions and such but this is a big move to consolidate Universal's hold. Interesting to see how Disney counters it.

August 1, 2019 at 2:43 PM

Forget Avatar, forget Star Wars, forget the other planned Disney upgrades this will be the real game changer in Central Florida. Bring it on!

What's your response Iger? It will need more than raising the prices of everything three times a year.

August 1, 2019 at 2:43 PM

It's a good time to be a theme park fan, innit?

Disney's response will be very interesting. Sure, they can continue to improve their 4 existing parks, packing more top quality attractions into each one, but without a fifth gate, Disney having 4 parks and Universal having 3 parks is really leveling the playing field.

This really is a game changer, and with Univesal's recent track record, I have no doubt that this will truly be epic.

August 1, 2019 at 2:45 PM

Love the concept and the expansion plan, not a fan of the name- same as before the announcement made what many already know "official "

August 1, 2019 at 3:02 PM

When do they plan to have this up and running?

August 1, 2019 at 3:09 PM

Aargh! I waited with great anticipation over the last several days to learn that - brace yourself - Universal is going to build a third theme park in Orlando?

This is epic???? More like Epic Failure! Can we have a little steak with the sizzle?

What did we learn that we didn't already know?

Nothing! Nada! Zip! Zero!

Hiding behind the ol' trade secrets veil of secrecy. C'mon Universal, you can do better than this!

August 1, 2019 at 3:23 PM

I wasn’t expecting Universal to reveal every single detail of the new park (if you can even call it that. Hard to tell from the concept art), but I was expecting, I don’t know, a little more than what we got. Of course, it’s extremely exciting, but I feel like the majority of what they said, was info that was already out there and heavily rumoured. I will look forward to finding out more, in due time.

August 1, 2019 at 3:23 PM

Wow that looks awesome.
I also like the answer to the first question about recognizable locations from movies and books people are fond about. That for sure is a stab to Disney's Galaxy Edge :D

August 1, 2019 at 3:39 PM

I'll agree that it might have been better to at least mention what sort of attractions to expect. I know the park itself is the big deal but we all knew it was coming. Announcing, say, a Nintendo land or another Harry Potter section would have sparked it up more.

Of course, on the latter, already some grousing over a "Fantastic Beasts" section given the movies haven't exactly captured the Potter magic as well. Still, giving more hints what to see would have made this even bigger.

August 1, 2019 at 3:39 PM

Good on Universal for committing to that hourly rate. When an employer pays less than a living wage, its the rest of society that has to make up the difference.

August 1, 2019 at 3:48 PM

..Where is the JayBang?

August 1, 2019 at 3:52 PM

It`s great that they`re building a whole new theme park, but what an epically boring press conference. Zero details, zero info on the content of the park, zero timeline. Oh, and a gratuitous, mean spirited dig at Disney, to boot.

August 1, 2019 at 4:04 PM

Wait till they realize new name translates even worse in Latin languages key to Florida market;) and they'll be fighting harder to secure rights to the way better Universal's Fantastic Worlds name- got plenty of years till realistic opening to make that happen. For now, UEU sounds like "ewww" in English and Universal Universo Epica is way clunkier than Universo Mundos Fantastico

August 1, 2019 at 5:34 PM

The name is absolutely subject to change.
Anyone remember Universal Studios Escape? Here in this group - I'll bet yes. Among the rest of the world - I'll bet no.
Besides - what exactly is Universal's Epic Universe?
Is it the entire south campus?
Is it only the Theme Park shown in this concept art?
What does this mean for that which is now called Universal Studios Orlando? This new property is also in Orlando. Will the South Campus also be part of USO and this park is the Epic Universe????
I think everyone will agree a Universe is bigger than a City, Tom.
When you get down to the core of it, does any of that really matter?
You ask the average person on the streets where they go to ride Space Mountain in Florida and they will say Disney World. Ask them where they go to ride Tower of Terror and they will also say Disney World. Both answers are right...but not entirely specific enough for you and me.
As much as we will enjoy debating this new name, and as much as the Marketing team at Universal will fret about it, the general public will still drift through their vacation blissfully uninformed and simply enjoying themselves.

August 1, 2019 at 5:48 PM

Universal Studios Escape is still the absolute worst name used ever and I posted that in the comments here for the "epic" thread. Actually was used and ignored by everyone. When it was replaced, no one needed a media event to announce it's depature. Even crappier translation too! Plenty of time to adapt the better Fantastic option!:) and to save all of us from having to explain the answer to " Donde es el Sows Campus? Antes del Yon Yong?"

August 1, 2019 at 6:14 PM

I liked this hub area. It's Universal's "Epcot" Universe.

August 1, 2019 at 10:33 PM

I like what I see, but I wish Universal had revealed a bit more. No, I do not expect tons of details 4-5 years out, but it would have been nice to give a general timeframe for the project and the headliner IPs represented. Is this going to be done in the early 2020s, mid 2020s, or more toward the end of the decade? Is it going to have something worth delaying my tentatively planned 2021 trip, or can I safely wait until the next time I feel like visiting Florida after opening to check it out? I was hoping enough would be announced today to help make those decisions, but hopefully by late 2020/early 2021 they'll feel more confident about dropping said details. My biggest fear about this project are Universal being so secretive that they fail to capture the attention of potential visitors and it becomes a disaster. My other big fear is whether the IP used is popular enough to still have drawing power 5-10 years from now. Other than Nintendo, nothing jumps out as something a large majority of visitors will be chomping at the bit to see.

Unrelated to the above, but I'll go ahead and throw it out there: If an admission ticket is not required to access the central hub and each world is completely isolated from the others, is this truly one theme park or is it several mini parks? Will be interesting to see where the verdict falls on this.

August 1, 2019 at 11:35 PM

I think Universal will announce the attractions at the park a little over a year before the park opens before so guests can start planning a week long Universal vacation. It makes sense for Disney to do the four year D23 hype shows since you can buy into DVC and be committed to coming back to Disney.

I hope the “gateless” hub idea was quickly abandoned after Universal went through that phase of trying to reinvent the theme park wheel with Tapu Tapu and Fallon’s Virtual Queue. I do see a gate at the front of the park and one at the hotel

August 2, 2019 at 6:22 AM

I dont mind the lack of details. Just gives us more to look forward to. I agree that the "Universe is bigger than a world" comment was a pretty tacky cheap shot given how much larger Disney World is , and would continue to be after this new park, than Universal Resort.

August 2, 2019 at 6:42 AM

Reminds me of God of War with the central hub ..... had to keep going back to Midgard to get to the other realms .... :)

I hope this isn't going to be the case with the Epic central hub at the new park.

August 2, 2019 at 8:11 AM

Am I the only one who thinks this just looks like a larger, more elaborate version of Universal's other two parks? Where is the theme? One of the things that makes the DW parks nice is that they each have very distinct themes (we can argue about how consistent they are and how well that theme is executed) that give them indvidual character and a particular vibe. This just seems to be another place to go to immersive IP-based lands that have no relationship to each other or to some larger idea that holds them together. In other words, it's IOA 2.0. I think it sounds kind of exhausting to go to the three Universal parks one after the other. I'm sure the individual lands and rides will be amazing but the kinds of experiences are all the same.

August 2, 2019 at 8:26 AM

@cleverboyjack - if you find it exhausting to go to three different world-class theme parks, you may not be a theme park fan.

In all seriousness, IOA does have a very loose theme, but it doesn't really bother me. The experiences found in each land are far more important, something that Universal recognizes and is moving toward with this new project. Heck, when Disneyland opened in 1955, it had a loose theme of Disney with highly-themed lands and no apparent relationship with one another.

August 2, 2019 at 9:22 AM

My two cents is that the park will open 2023. The ground work and infrastructure going from universal to epic is already being built. No way is this 10 years out. If they would give us just a drawing of a vague Epic Universe and tell us its going in Orlando with no actual dirt moving then it would be 10 years out. Property has been bought, dirt has been moved for several years, and infrastructure (roadways) is currently under construction to and from Epic. Plans have been set for awhile now my friends and it’s coming sooner than expected! I can’t wait. Also on the vague pic that everyone and there grandmother is commenting on, it’s vague for a reason. I think Nintendo land is going to be in the left and I would love to have a Classic Monsters themed area a kin to the detail of Harry Potter attractions. Those two ips I think are timeless and should be included in the new park. What I’m looking at is the futuristic looking space ship building to the right. Could this be the return of Star Trek to a theme park? I was at the Star Trek experience in Las Vegas and was pleasantly surprised of the theming. Since that has been closed/mothballed there isn’t a good substitute at a theme park? Does NBC/Comcast have the rights or could borrow the rights for an up like Harry Potter. The picture is vague but it does look like a starship. Anyway I’m excited to actually see a company that knows it’s audience and ip’s to bring out the best of immersion instead of a made up one with a 200 dollar light thingy that breaks. Thanks for the memories in the 80’s and 90’s big ears but I’m putting on my big boy pants and going Epic!

August 2, 2019 at 9:16 AM

@Dave Bakas I agree but it would be "Universo Epico" (Universo is masculine in Spanish), it does sound so weird... "Mundos Fantasticos" sounds much better...

August 2, 2019 at 9:44 AM

3rd Park confirmed! I'm not surprised they won't reveal the contents yet.
You''ll have years of announcements to keep people's interest. It's rather awesome they stated the starting pay will be at $15hr. Maybe turnover will slow down and more experience will return to the parks.

August 2, 2019 at 10:10 AM

This is fantastic and very exciting news, it definitely makes me (and family) want to cross the Atlantic to visit !
Also, could the dueling coaster on the right side be related to Batttlestar Galactica ? (if it is sci-fi themed like the one they have in Singapore…)

August 2, 2019 at 11:22 AM

Robert, since you schlepped cross country for this "epic" press conference, did you also get a preview look inside the Florida version of Star Wars:Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios? Next "hype train" had some of your peers there so figured you well might have...

August 2, 2019 at 12:41 PM

Ooh, good question, Dave! Inquiring minds want to know!

Also, I'm late to the party, because I'm one of the Disney drones, but, I didn't realize the land on which the new park is being built is so far from the existing resort. I would/will be a bit frustrated by the trek.

August 2, 2019 at 1:27 PM

I often have to drive around that stretch and it is often a pain long before any epic additions near Convention Center. I Drive and Sand Lake tend to be congested and Orange County has failed to make good on promises to get ahead of anticipated draws that they are aware would increase traffic repeatedly. Westwood and Central Florida Pkwy, and the entire Beachline/I4 interchange, awful daily. Palm Parkway tends to save those of us commuting between Disney and Universal. It can easily take half an hour to go the relatively short distance between the 2 Universal Orlando properties depending on time of day.

August 2, 2019 at 2:49 PM

Dave we do NOT talk about the Palm Parkway!!!!!! (They'll start using it!)

August 2, 2019 at 2:55 PM

Cause Palm Parkway is hidden so well, mostly parallel and in full view of I-4:)

August 2, 2019 at 10:15 PM

I agree transportation is a huge pickle in Orlando and its going to be extremely difficult to fix. Virgin Trains will get people from the airport to the attractions and back, but because of how cheap Uber is it won't be doing much more than that. If you think about it for most hotels if you are going somewhere off your parks property (Universal to Disney for example) you will probably need to take a bus to a train station, get off at the train station and hop on another bus. Considering how short the distances area people are going to opt for Uber instead.

Also there are tons of hotels in Orlando that are not I-Drive, Convention Center, Disney, or Universal (Palm Pkwy being a good example of that) and nothing is going to change for those people. Its either uber, rent a car, or take the hotel shuttles (which usually are really crappy service and go like once or twice a day and drop you off at some random park then you have to navigate Disney's transport to get where you actually want to go).

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