Universal Parks & Resorts is coming to Texas.
Universal announced this morning that it will develop a new concept for a smaller, child-focused theme park on 97 acres in Frisco, just north of Dallas.
"We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the city of Frisco... as we work to bring this innovative, new concept to life designed specifically for a younger generation of Universal fans," said Page Thompson, President, New Ventures, Universal Parks & Resorts. "We think North Texas is the perfect place to launch this unique park for families given its growing popularity within this part of the country."
The as-yet-unnamed park will focus on families with small children and "will be full of family-friendly attractions, interactive and playful shows, character meet and greets, unique merchandise and fun food and beverage venues," according to Universal's press release. The park development will include a hotel and room for expansion within the 97-acre site, which is located east of the Dallas North Tollway and north of Panther Creek Parkway.
In addition, Universal will partner Area15 in Las Vegas to develop a year-round, horror-focused attraction in a 20-acre expansion of that entertainment district. The 110,000-square-foot attraction will be the anchor tenant of the expansion for Area 51, which perhaps is best known as the home to Meow Wolf's Omega Mart.
"With a variety of unique, immersive, fantastic horror-centric experiences that surround high energy food and beverage spaces by day turned haunting bars and eateries by night, the new concept marks the first time Universal has created a permanent horror experience beyond its theme parks," Universal said in its press release.
"AREA15 curates a constellation of best-in-class experiences. Universal's never-been-done-before concept will be a perfect fit because our guests know they can expect fresh, exciting entertainment at AREA15," Area15 CEO Winston Fisher said. "We are enormously gratified to have an extraordinary company like Universal as our partner as we embark on the next phase of growth for AREA15."
Details on both projects, including timelines for completion, will be announced later, Universal said. But looking at the concept art for the Texas project, I see references to Shrek, Trolls, and Jurassic World as potential IP for inclusion.
Although regional-based entertainment is a new entertainment concept for Universal, it is not a new concept within the industry. Decades ago, before Michael Eisner and Frank Wells came in and revitalized The Walt Disney Company in the 1980s, a cash-strapped Disney developed plans for smaller, regionally-focused theme parks, called publicly "Mini Magic Kingdoms," around the United States. (One of those was pitched for what is now the Indianapolis Zoo site at White River State Park in what was then my home of Indianapolis.) Eisner scuttled the plans when he came on board, opting for the bigger vision of what is now the Disneyland Paris Resort.
With construction underway for Epic Universe at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, Universal and its owner Comcast clearly can afford to go big. So its move into regional entertainment represents an attempt to expand its market rather than downsize it.
But is the market ready for a smaller, more focused Universal Studios theme park? Or has the public so associated the Universal brand with the parks that they can find in Orlando and Hollywood that whatever Universal opens in suburban Dallas will suffer in comparison?
There's much for theme park fans to consider here as Universal proceeds with this new direction for its theme park business.
For more information about Universal's theme parks, including our latest reader rankings of attractions, please see our park listing pages:
And for more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.