Universal announced Thursday what most diehard theme park fans already knew: it’s building another theme park in Orlando.
In a press conference attended by Comcast executives, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Universal revealed the name of this new park — Universal’s Epic Universe — along with concept art.
“Our vision for Epic Universe is historic,” said Universal Parks & Resorts chairman and CEO Tom Williams. “It will build on everything we have done and become the most immersive and innovative theme park we have ever created. It is an investment in our business, our industry, our team members and our community.”
The park will be built on what Universal says is a 750-acre parcel of land the company has pieced together in recent years near the Orange County Convention Center, bordered by Sand Lake Road to the north, an extended Kirkman Road to the west and parts of Universal Boulevard and Destination Parkway to the south. Previous plans had stated the size was 541 acres.
Universal had previously bought parts of this same land in 1998. It was sold in 2003 but the company began reacquiring it in 2015, by which time it was part of Comcast.
According to Universal, the new park and the surrounding amenities will support 14,000 jobs, with a base pay rate of $15 per hour when it opens.
“The investment Universal is making in our community and the benefit all of us will see is substantial,” Mayor Demings said in a statement. “This will benefit nearly every segment of our economy – from tourism to high-tech.”
By Universal’s definition, this is its fourth theme park in Orlando, as it considers Volcano Bay a “water theme park.” In traditional theme park terms, it’s a third gate, much like how Disney World’s two water parks are not lumped together with the likes of Epcot or Animal Kingdom.
Universal revealed little about what would go into the park itself. The location will feature “an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants and more,” Universal said, but there was no discussion about what intellectual properties would be utilized or even when the new park would open.
While you can make out some elements in the concept art, such as a hotel, a roller coaster, and many water features, none are well-defined enough to attach them to a particular IP with any degree of certainty. An uncropped version of the concept art can be found here.
Notably, there was no mention of Nintendo. While Nintendo-based lands are already under construction at Universal Studios Japan and Universal Hollywood, there has no been mention of when those properties will be featured in Orlando four years after Universal first secured the theme park rights.
The expansion has not been a well-kept secret. While Universal would only publicly confirm that it was “looking at” building another gate in Orlando, infrastructure plans filed with Orange County and work on the site made it obvious what was coming.
The most surprising announcement was the name itself. Multiple reports and rumors in the theme park blogosphere had said the park would be called Universal’s Fantastic Worlds. While Epic Universe had also been trademarked by the company, the assumption was that name sounded redundant — including both “Universal” and “Universe” in the name.
Whenever the new park opens, it would end Central Florida’s longest theme park drought. No new park has been built from the ground up in the region in two decades, the most recent being Universal’s Islands of Adventure, which opened in 1999.
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