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Universal Studios Korea

Universal is busy preparing five new parks, with two more possibly in the works, including a new water park and a third gate in Orlando. Watch out, Disney – there's a new kid on the global block!

Universal Parks and Resorts is incredibly busy, in the midst of a building spree not seen since former Disney CEO Michael Eisner blew out Walt Disney World back in the ‘80s, adding on three additional theme parks, two water parks, and a whole host of hotels and other recreational services. The main difference between then and now? Universal is building properties across the real world, not just one location.

While Disney is busy putting the finishing touches on its Shanghai Disneyland, Universal is currently overseeing three new properties, with a fourth rumored to land somewhere in India (and a fifth stalled out in Dubai that could theoretically be revived at any time). Even more impressively, the company is currently prepping a brand-new water park for its Universal Orlando Resort by the end of this decade, with a third theme park currently being planned to open by the end of next decade.

If everything goes according to plan – an admittedly iffy proposition, given the nature of the business and the constant jitters of the global economy – Universal Parks and Resorts will very shortly be overseeing a total of 13 parks, just shy of Disney’s 16.

5. Universal Studios South Korea

Location: Hwaseong, South Korea
Opening date: TBA 2016
Announcement date: May 22, 2007
Current status: Under construction

If it seems strange that the Korean Universal Studios was announced seven years ago and still hasn’t been opened, that’s because the project was dealt a heavy blow after the Great Recession rocked the global economy back in 2008. Construction has been repeatedly delayed, although work is reportedly continuing at a steady pace (it should be noted, however, that it’s been a significant amount of time since Universal has last spoken on the subject) and is expected to be finished sometime in 2016.

Old concept art of Universal Studios South Korea. Image © Universal.Old concept art of Universal Studios South Korea. Image © Universal.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is a lot of money being poured into the project – somewhere around $3 billion, last anyone heard – and, according to officials, this will be the single biggest Universal development on the planet, dwarfing even Universal Orlando Resort (which is currently at some 900 acres), thanks to the inclusion of a water park, larger CityWalk shopping/dining/entertainment complex, several hotels, and, but of course, convention facilities.

There should also be enough room for at least a second theme park sometime down the road, too, which means that, at long last, Orlando’s Islands of Adventure could be seeing a sister park.

(The only known map, as vague as it is, of Universal Studios South Korea is located here.)

The best news? Beyond the fact that there’s room for a fourth Wizarding World of Harry Potter – along with all its attendant exclusive features – Universal’s building a second resort means that the company is becoming increasingly aggressive in the worldwide themed industry, which should, in turn, push Disney to up its game, as well.

We could very well be on the cusp of the Golden Age of theme parks.

4. WonderSea Island

Location: Universal Orlando Resort
Opening date: TBA 2017/2018
Announcement Leak date: April 27, 2011
Current status: Rumored

Over three years ago, word first broke that Universal was planning on building a new water park from the ground up somewhere directly on resort property (unlike the company’s Wet ‘n Wild Orlando, which it purchased 16 years ago and which is located a small distance away, on International Drive).

Although the project has laid dormant virtually ever since then, it suddenly roared back to life last week when the company filed new trademarks pertaining to the new park (kudos to Parkscope for spotting these).

Goodbye, old water park icon. Hello, 200-foot erupting volcano!Goodbye, old water park icon. Hello, 200-foot erupting volcano! Image © Disney.

So what would the so-called WonderSea Island consist of? There are very few definites, especially considering that Universal may not be ready to announce the project for another year or more, but some tidbits have made their way into the limelight. The water park’s centerpiece is said to be a “massive, 200-foot erupting volcano,” and its location is supposedly just south of the recently-opened Cabana Bay Beach Resort, on a little plot of land sandwiched in between Turkey Lake Road and I-4.

(The other, bigger swathe of real estate located to the east of Cabana is rumored to be the site of the resort’s fifth [and, just possibly, sixth] hotel in the very near future, which may or may not tie into WonderSea.)

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