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A New Theme Park Enters the Universal Studios Resort in Florida
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Comcast, the parent company of Universal Studios, has announced a new and large-scale expansion at Universal in Orlando, Fla. A new theme park is being built: Universal’s Epic Universe, which will include attractions, hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Last year park execs discussed seeking to make the two-park resort into a destination for a week-long stay; the creation of the new park will be designed with that in mind.

As the fourth Universal park in Florida, following Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and the waterpark Volcano Bay, the new Epic Universe will represent “the single-largest investment Comcast NBCUniversal has made in its theme park business and in Florida overall,” according to Comcast CEO and chairman Brian Roberts. This will be the first theme park Universal has constructed since 1999’s Islands of Adventure; Volcano Bay opened in 2017. Universal also expanded its two theme parks to include Harry Potter-themed lands Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, both of which have proven highly popular. Many of Universal’s current park attractions are focused on the entertainment company’s films and franchises, from Jurassic Park to Transformers. While the Harry Potter areas are a major draw, Warner Bros. owns the film rights to the Potter franchise.

Land for the new theme park space was cleared last year, marking the start of the construction process, which usually takes between 3-4 years for the creation of a full theme park. Epic Universe will be located on a 750-acre plot a few miles from the existing Universal resort. The company says it will offer transportation between all its properties.
The new park will be an economic boon for the region, with plans to hire an additional 14,000 workers to staff it. Starting pay will be $15 per hour. The company currently provides over $302 million in annual state and local taxes. That number will nearly double when the new theme park opens. A Universal-commissioned analysis commissioned found that construction of the new park will contribute $11.5 billion in direct and indirect benefit to the Florida economy, over an unspecified period.

There is speculation that new rides may be based on Universal’s own properties, ranging from classic monsters to Minions and Nintendo games.

For years, Universal has stayed behind Disney in annual visitors: in 2018, Disney drew 147 million guests, Universal 50 million. The new park, which will double the size of the brand’s offerings in Florida, should go a long way toward closing that gap.

While an opening date has yet to be announced, Universal has already revealed that it plans to create “an entirely new level of experience that forever changes theme park entertainment,” according to a park press release.

Roberts adds that creating the new park “reflects the tremendous excitement we have for the future of our theme park business and for our entire company’s future in Florida.”

Tom Williams, chairman and CEO for Universal Parks & Resorts, said that Epic Universe "will build on everything we have done and become the most immersive and innovative theme park we have ever created.” Universal CEO Tom Williams adds that Epic Universe will be the “most immersive and innovative theme park” in its lineup. Park execs have promised guests will encounter “beloved stories;” concept art of the planned park reveal two roller coasters along with indoor rides, large water pools, and what appears to be a large palace. The park will contain several new lands. “Our vision for Epic Universe is historic,” Williams adds.  

The park's layout will follow a hub-and-spoke design. Speculation is that the Nintendo character of Mario may be featured here. The speculation makes sense, as when initial work started on Super Nintendo World in Japan, which is scheduled for a 2020 opening, Universal Orlando received permits allowing the construction of Nintendo attractions in what is now KidsZone at the Universal Studios theme park. While the work never began, plans were believed to be Mario Kart, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong themed rides. Epic Universe would make a likely spot to place these attractions.

Late last year, Universal was looking at the name Fantastic Worlds for the new park; however, Warner Brothers opposed the filing, likely due to their trademarked Harry Potter project Fantastic Beasts, as well as the theme park area Wizarding World. While the new park may very well feature an extension of the Potter brand, the name Epic Universe alerts fans to the idea that Potter attractions will not be the only theme of the theme park.

Not the only theme, but probably included in Epic Universe, will be attractions based on J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Also likely to be included are attractions based on DreamWorks Animation brands, which NBCUniversal acquired in 2016. “Shrek 4-D” is already in place at Universal Studios in Orlando, but other DreamWorks brands include How to Train Your Dragon, Trolls, Kung-Fu Panda, and Madagascar. Attractions based on Illumination Entertainment brands, such as Secret Life of Pets and Minions are also a strong likelihood. Universal is building a Secret Life of Pets ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, set to open in 2020. A Minions mini-land is currently under construction at Universal Studios Beijing. And don’t rule out attractions based on Universal Classic Monsters such as early motion pictures featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and even The Mummy, although the latter is already a roller coaster attraction at Universal Studios Orlando.

The new park will be located a few miles and about 12-minutes from Universal’s current properties.
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