Local 6 Theme World: Universal update part 1

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September 5, 2013

Universal Update Pt.1

Before I start, a quick note: SeaWorld is tweeting a big announcement is coming tomorrow for Aquatica with the hashtag #nothingtaller. I'm told it will be a pretty big addition. I look forward to sharing it with you tomorrow.

I said it early this year, and I stand by it: The momentum right now in the theme park wars is clearly with Universal. That doesn't mean they are number one in attendance. It will take something unfathomable for Disney's Magic Kingdom to be dethroned in terms of numbers. But I understand Universal's very happy with continued increases in crowds, and as importantly, guest spending.  They have faith in their product and their future plans, or the mammoth Cabana Bay Resort wouldn't be rising fast out of the ground.

Today -- I'll look a little at how Universal's bets for 2013 are paying off.   
Let's start with the crowds.

I visited the day before Labor Day, so I expected some crowds. But how they spread out is telling: new attractions were clearly the draw. In the picture above, you can see the area around "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem." The one-year-old attraction never had a wait shorter than an hour while I was there, and much of the day it was at 85 minutes.
Coincidentally, that was the average wait for Transformers.

And a long line of people were also in line nearby to meet Megatron.
But what's interesting -- most of the rest of the park's attractions were at 10-30 minute waits, even the excellent Mummy coaster.

Other than Rip Ride Rocket (which was up and down all day) the only other part of the park that felt crowded was the OTHER new 2013 attraction.

Yes, welcome indeed to Springfield.  There are two things I think are brilliant about this relatively low-cost addition. First -- it re-themed perhaps the ugliest stretch of concrete in the park and added a clever, yet simple new ride in Kang and Kodos Twirl & Hurl.

Second, it upgraded an aged food court into a place that has better and more varied food.

and since that food is linked to icons like Moe's Tavern and Lard Lad Donuts, it draws large crowds eager to spend money on a Flaming Moe, a Krusty Burger or a Duff Beer.

 They clearly are building on the Potter model here. Unique food & merchandise leads to more people spending money.  And for the record, I tried the Duff Beer -- it's quite tasty -- especially for a beer that (in the series) is meant to be notoriously cheap.

In case you missed it, I had a pretty exciting Potter update earlier this week. Once Diagon Alley opens, Universal's bets from the past couple of years will pay off even more.
But not everything is beautiful at Universal Studios.  Next time I'll take a look at some areas that still need work -- and what could be coming soon.

Keep your emails, questions, tips and comments coming! I always appreciate the feedback.

Here's a link to my most recent Theme World blog entries.

See you in the parks!

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