Universal Orlando Asks to Reopen on June 5

May 21, 2020, 1:48 PM · The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force today approved Universal Orlando's proposal to reopen its theme parks to the public on June 5. No members of the task force opposed the plan, though representatives from Walt Disney World and SeaWorld abstained due to conflict of interest regulations.

John Sprouls, Chief Administrative Officer for Universal Orlando, presented the resort's plan to the Recovery Task Force in an online meeting this afternoon. Under Universal's proposal, which also must be approved by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the parks would reopen to team members on June 1 for testing of new health and sanitation procedures, with invited guests such as annual passholders returning on June 3-4. Team members would begin training on these new procedures this weekend, Sprouls said.

Guests will be required to undergo temperature checks and to wear masks while visiting, with Universal providing free masks for people who do not bring their own. Valet parking will not be available and self-parking will be staggered so that there will be one or two empty spaces between each car.

Inside the parks, capacity will be "managed" in order to manage social distancing, with an attendance maximum for the park and for individual attractions and locations within the parks. Universal has marked its queues to maintain at least six feet of distance between parties, including side-by-side space as well as front-and-back spacing.

Interactive play areas will be closed and most water and mist elements in attractions will be eliminated in order to reduce opportunities to transmit the virus. On 3D attractions, team members will hand out glasses individually rather than allow guests to pick them up from bins.

Virtual line technology will be expanded to more attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, and single rider lines will be eliminated. Parties will be kept together, but no separate parties will be sat together on rides. There will be no post-show character meet and greets nor will parades run.

All restaurant menus will be on paper and single use, with mobile ordering set up for all venues. There will be no self-service of food or beverages. Contactless payments also will be supported, with Google Pay, Apple Pay, and through the Universal Orlando app.

Volcano Bay would reopen as well, with enhanced cleaning of ride vehicles, rafts, and life vests. The number of tubes in the lazy river will be reduced to promote social distancing. Lounge chairs also will be spaced in clusters to keep parties at least six feet apart and separate parties will not be placed together on raft slides.

Universal representatives provided no additional details on the percentage of capacity under which it would operate, beyond to say that the resort would look to increase that percentage over time. Nor did Universal announce a targeted reopening date for its hotels.

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Replies (14)

May 21, 2020 at 1:57 PM

Wow, this soon? I mean, you'd think they'd need at least a few more weeks of prep in terms of distance signs, staff training, screens and more. I get they want to get back on track soon but the common belief was later in June or early July at earliest, not in just two weeks.

May 21, 2020 at 2:12 PM

I love the idea that restaurant menus will be on paper, and will be single use. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic they were one of the worst sources of bacterial spread. Restaurant menus should always be on paper and single use or written on the wall or available to you on your smart phone.

May 21, 2020 at 2:39 PM

My number one question will be how they will limit capacity. USF has much wider streets so it will be easier to have less people in queues due to virtual queues. IOA may be tougher in this aspect. The real key will be to keep in-park numbers low at first. Of course the fewer guests, the less money is made.
I am very glad to see they are expanding use of contact-less payment and using their app to make payments as well. I've used Apple pay more in the last couple of months than I have in years and honestly expect it to be my preferred way to make payment going forward.

May 21, 2020 at 3:11 PM

I am wondering if the HP Train will be running between the Two parks.

You have X number of people in One park, they Train over to the other park, now that park has too many visitors...

Maybe there will be no park hopper?

May 21, 2020 at 3:26 PM

Providing masks can be helpful as presumably, this means replacements for any lost. If they can add fun characters or such for the kids, that'd be a nice touch and saves some trouble with some guests who may be wary.

May 21, 2020 at 3:55 PM

With the CDC now saying the virus is not easily spread through surface contact, this has got to help the parks in terms of loading and wiping down surfaces. For example, on rollercoasters every other car could be loaded, then when the train comes back in for the next group, the empty cars would now be loaded, giving the ride attendants time to quickly wipe down places where hands are placed from the first ride and not have to do a thorough wiping where backs and butts make contact every single time. Do it this way will give empty cars time to “air out”. Not sure if this is the plan, but I do think it is a good one for many rides.

May 21, 2020 at 5:17 PM

I'm surprised Universal feels they'll be ready in less than two weeks, as I've been assuming mid June would be the earliest any major park in the US would be opening. That said, I'm exciting to see this play out. Someone has to be first, and hopefully Universal will provide a good model for all other parks to follow. I'm sure tweaks will need to be made as they learn what works and what doesn't, but hopefully this means there's a good chance all parks in the US will be able to open by mid-July and we'll get at least half a summer.

May 21, 2020 at 6:25 PM

Do people from NY, NJ and CT still have to quarantine for 14 days before going to a themepark?

May 21, 2020 at 7:13 PM

Sure, somebody has to be first... but is it really a good decision to be re-opening so soon?

Didn’t City Walk just re-open last week?!

I’m not suggesting that the parks must stay closed until 2021 - but why is there such a rush to re-open in a staggered manner that doesn’t appear to be based in solid data and science.

Why aren’t these companies giving more time to allow to see how these partial re-openings are affecting the virus spread before plowing ahead with more re-openings?

May 21, 2020 at 8:32 PM

NY PARK--at the left likes to point out it's a problem of fairness and justice. Being that they have over 500 employees, no one from either party wants to advocate for free money to them, only loans. There is only so much loans you can take before you make your health (as a company) pretty low. Also. Extensive studies will have to be made in time but it seems like theme parks are not big spreaders of the virus. I know intuitively it seems like they would, but if they were Orlando would be New york city right now. And. they are far from it. In fact they have the 3rd lowest death rates of the big states behind texas and (barely) behind Calif. Despite having a much higher elderly population then those states. The gov of florida has really done a fantastic job.

I have been following the stats. Death rate in fl, no higher than last week. As long as there are ICU beds, the country really needs to move forward or we will all be in poverty. Well all but the most wealthy 10 percent anyway. We don't want to be like Brazil where only the top 10 percent have the ability to go on vacation.

Unless a vaccine is proven effective in 2020 and mass produced. kind of unlikely. We are in this for the long haul. We might as well manage the hospital beds vs civil liberty constraints and proceed.

The water elements should be turned on. I dont get it. I have not read anything anywhere that water is a particular spreader. Not even by the more alarmist governors or commentators

May 22, 2020 at 7:36 AM

If I'm wearing a cloth or paper mask, then I don't want it to get wet. That would cause me to want to take it off or have it come off on it's own (like on a big splash ride).

May 22, 2020 at 11:06 AM

@NCPete: Especially considering how you get soaked on those Universal water rides (they even need phone booth sized heating booths outside them for people) so pretty much impossible not to need a new mask getting off Jurassic Park or Popeye.

May 22, 2020 at 12:07 PM

I am curious what water elements might be affected. Pretty much every single indoor ride at UO has some sort of water spritzing element. Guests are not drenched, but the perception of having water dripped on you might be negatively perceived. Then there are the fog effects that can also involve transportation of water vapor.

I bring these up, because all of these elements help to provide immersion for the rides as well as maintain the illusions to the guest. Imagine riding Gringott's without the fog effects in that final encounter with Belatrix and Voldamort. What about the mist on M.I.B. when you enter the bug's mouth in the finale? How about the drizzle after the unload station fake-out and intense fog in the subsequent pit on Revenge of the Mummy? How about the dripping effects for the Hydro-man scene on Spider-Man?

Universal uses a lot of environmental effects on their attractions that involve misting guests with various amounts of water/moisture, and those effects are often essential to delivering immersion on those attractions. Having those effects missing won't necessarily take guests out of the story, but will definitely be noticed by those that have ridden the attractions before.

I wonder if the Bourne Spectacular will still debut this summer and whether or not any major water effects were planned for the show. T2 used one of the most impressive fog effects of all time, which caused moisture to precipitate on guests, so it's possible that a similar effect may be part of the new show. Will that have to be re-worked if UC can't use water/fog effects for the foreseeable future?

May 22, 2020 at 4:27 PM

Russell-Look on the CDC website. I believe they said a couple of days ago that it is very hard for the virus to spread on hard surfaces (although possible, but to not be a poor country we have to go with the percentages) and even harder through water. Yes they are either going to have to give people ziplocs to put the masks in (disney was going that for a while a few yrs ago on spalsh mtn), or give them a new mask upon exciting the ride. the chance of the virus spread during the actual ride time is very minimal. Don't go to your grandma or grandpa's house within 14 days of visiting or do go to a theme park if you live with them. It is about keeping ICU bed capacity. It is not about not having cases at all because no vaccine is guaranteed by the end of 2020 if ever. A vaccine may never happen. I hope some of the people who told me we were months and months away from opening just a few weeks ago, will admit their error now. Not as a debate point. I will respond that it is understanible that extreme fear clouds one's proper judgement and move on with all online friendships

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