Two Central Florida theme parks have differing levels of local approval for reopening to the public in June, months after the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced them to close.
Universal Orlando presented its reopening plan to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force Thursday. The resort’s chief administrative officer, John Sprouls, said Universal wants to test out its new procedures by allowing team members into the theme parks on June 1 and 2, followed by a limited number of annual passholders and invited guests on June 3-4. A public opening would be planned for June under the Universal plan.
“This would be a gradual, capacity-managed opening,” Sprouls said. “We are going to manage capacity not just across the resort, but within each and every attraction and food venue and merch venue.”
The new policies closely mirror what has already been implemented at Universal CityWalk and Disney Springs, including requiring face masks and temperature checks for workers and guests and markers to encourage physical distancing between groups. Universal will take an extra step and provide a disposable face mask to guests if they arrive without one.
Some changes will apply solely to Universal team members. Sprouls said the theme parks will stagger employee breaks and space out break rooms to allow for distancing.
For guests, preventive measures will alter their theme park experience, such as expanding the use of Universal’s Virtual Line system in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Rows and seats will be left empty between different parties on rides, while singer-ride lines will be eliminated for the time being.
“We use single-rider lines at a number of our popular attractions so we can maximize capacity and throughput,” Sprouls said. “Well, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish now.”
Other changes include reducing water and mist elements inside attractions, closing interactive play areas and eliminating meet-and-greets with guests after stage shows.
The Volcano Bay water park is a part of Universal’s reopening plans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for how water parks can operate during the pandemic, noting there’s no evidence the COVID-19 virus can be spread through water and that proper disinfection with chlorine or bromine should kill the virus.
Enforcing the new rules — such as guests would try to remove their masks once they’re past the park entrance — will fall on Universal team members stationed through the parks.
“Those people will be everywhere,” Sprouls said. “They will be extremely visible.”
Universal’s plans received unanimous approval from the rest of the task force. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings will need to sign off before forwarding the plan to Gov. Ron DeSantis for final approval.
In a press release issued Thursday afternoon, Demings endorsed reopening plans for a number of smaller attractions, including Fun Spot America, the Orlando Starflyer and Gatorland. A similar determination for Universal’s plan will be made on Friday.
Legoland Florida is now waiting on DeSantis’s blessing after winning approval from Winter Haven City Commission Wednesday night.
As reported by The Ledger, Legoland Florida general manager Rex Jackson said the park would open limit capacity to about 6,000 people, around 50 percent of its maximum.
Temperature checks will be implemented, but unlike what other parks are proposing, face masks will only be recommended for guests, not required. Complimentary masks will be offered for guests who didn’t bring them.
Legoland is looking to open on June 1, 77 days after the park had to close due to the pandemic.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated after publication to add information from a press release issued by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
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