Universal Orlando has the go-ahead to restart construction on its Epic Universe theme park, creating thousands of new jobs while intensifying the resort’s competition with Walt Disney World. 

Epic Universe had been placed on ice in April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had shut down Orlando’s attractions industry. Despite the pause, some road work and site preparation had continued. 

Executives at Comcast — Universal’s parent company — had since stated that they intended to build the park once it saw less economic uncertainty. With COVID-19 vaccines being distributed across the country and the number of cases and deaths falling, that time has apparently come. 

“The restart of construction of Epic Universe is a terrific moment for our employees and for our theme park business in Florida,” Comcast CEO and chairman Brian Roberts said in a press release. “It is our single largest investment in the state and represents our enthusiasm for the spectacular park and the economic opportunities it will generate.”

The 750-acre site, located near the Orange County Convention Center a few miles from the current Universal Orlando Resort, will include the Epic Universe theme park and at least one hotel, along with shops and restaurants. According to Universal, the project will sustain 14,000 permanent jobs. 

Where Universal’s new theme park will be located in relation to the existing resort (Universal)

“The resumption of the Epic Universe project couldn’t come at a better time,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. “Our community has so many talented workers who will benefit from this massive project. I am confident it will deliver a huge economic boost to Orange County.”

The announcement did not include any mention of a new opening date for the park. It was originally scheduled to open in 2023.

As for attractions in the theme park itself, the only official announcement made before the construction pause was that a version of Super Nintendo World would anchor the park. The land is already in soft opening at Universal Studios Japan and under construction at Universal Studios Hollywood. 

Beyond Nintendo, planned lands for Epic Universe were rumored to include “How to Train Your Dragon,” the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and an area themed after Universal’s classic monster movies. Those plans could be in flux, however, as last year Universal had laid off hundreds of employees at Universal Creative, the division that designs and develops the company’s theme park attractions. 

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