Local 6 Theme World: Universal's Future: More Cranes & More Thrills

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February 15, 2013

Universal's Future: More Cranes & More Thrills

"Theme parks have been one of the biggest surprises for us."

That's the word from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to analysts yesterday -- when he announced attendance and spending was up once again in 2012 at Universal Orlando & its sister theme parks in Hollywood, Japan & Singapore. A day earlier, Roberts announced Comcast was buying out the rest of GE's stake in NBC Universal. Clearly he has faith in its future.

 While he did not break out how much attendance was up,  Roberts once again credited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure  & the Transformers ride that opened in Hollywood & Singapore. That's the same ride Universal is rushing to open this year.

"The Universal theme parks have been a real standout and we see great potential in the years ahead," Roberts said
And as a result, Comcast says spending on its parks will go up 25% this year.  Keep in mind: that's 25% more than a year when they built 2 copies of Transformers, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem here in Florida....

and started construction on Transformers here, as well as a new parade, a new nighttime spectacular and started the  vast redevelopment of the Jaws area of Universal Studios Florida.  I've said it before -- Universal clearly believes the parks are a growth engine.  Keep in mind Universal is also building the Cabana Bay resort.
So Let's take a construction tour at just the Studios park.  There are cranes everywhere. Almost right from the entrance -- the Transformers ride is very visible.  Here's a view of the nearly-finished building near Mel's Drive in.

And Looming over the   Monster Cafe   near the  Shrek 4 -D Attraction.  

Finally,  a shot of the corner of the impressively vast building. Keep in mind -- this time last year -- an entirely different building was still in its place.
The speed of construction is astounding.

Though a lot of work remains -- already many Universal fans are hoping more work is done to make it look less like a giant grey warehouse dominating the center of that section of the park. We'll see how it turns out soon.

Moving deeper into the park -- you can see the other two projects under active construction. Starting with this shot across the lagoon from near the San Francisco area showing what sources assure me is a Simpson's miniland next to the Simpsons ride.

I know the photo doesn't show much more than some structural steel -- but soon Krusty Burger,Moe's Tavern and other Springfield icons will spring up in and around the former bland-looking International Food & Film Festival.

From Lombard's Seafood Grill -- let's look across the Lagoon at the OTHER construction zone. It is by far the largest construction area. Here's a wide shot.

See that giant square building under the crane? Sources tell me that is the heart of the new, unannounced,  London section of the Harry Potter universe.
If rumors are to be believed (and in this case my sources say I very much should) this building will house a thrill ride through Gringott's bank vaults.
Here's a closer view of the same area

And here is a look at the other side of the building. The pictures don't really convey how big it really is. To help -- keep in mind -- that building is not right next door to where I was standing. It is across the lagoon.

You can see work is continuing pretty much around the clock. Other web sites have spotted roller coaster track already installed inside.
We will soon see a lot more happening here, and I will bring you more construction updates from Universal soon.

Before I wrap up for  the day -- a tip of the hat to the Orlando Sentinel for uncovering plans for Orlando to spend $9 million in tax dollars to build a pedestrian bridge from the Cabana Bay resort to Islands of Adventure. It's all on Universal property -- except for the road the bridge will bridge.
Don't forget Mardi Gras continues tomorrow at Universal. Here's a link to my last Theme World blog post - taking you behind the scenes at Mardi Gras. 

If you want to see more, the ClickOrlando team took dozens of my pictures and has made a Mardi Gras slide show.

And finally  -- here's a link to our new Local 6 Theme World page.

See you in the parks. And if you have any tips or questions, please feel free to email me. I'll be happy to answer anything I can.

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