At Universal Orlando, nothing is certain but change. The park is known for constantly revamping, reshaping, and replacing to bring guests high-tech new experiences based on an ever-changing lineup of films and TV shows. Rather than resting on their laurels following the smash success of the Diagon Alley Harry Potter expansion, the company is hard at work developing and installing new concepts sure to blow our minds.
While Universal is officially remaining tight-lipped about what happens next, rumors and speculation are rampant. Here’s a look at 4 new experiences that might be coming in 2015 and beyond.
1. Skull Island
Possibly the worst-kept secret in Universal history, construction is really amping up on the rumored King Kong/Skull Island project at Islands of Adventure. With a massive show building now receiving exterior theming, we wonder just how much longer Universal thinks it can wait to make an announcement. In the meantime, industry insiders, long-time Universal fans, and armchair quarterbacks have begun piecing together what they can.
As a former Kongfrontation team member, I was most excited to hear that the new attraction is expected to feature at least one Kong animatronic. Some sources say that it will actually have the capacity to run, giving chase to the ride vehicles. That would be absolutely phenomenal if true, as a running audio-animatronic pushes the limits of today’s technology.
Another popular rumor claims that each ride vehicle will have an on-board guide, just as the original Kongfrontation did. If this is true, it would mark Universal Orlando’s return to spieling. Some of our favorite lost attractions, such as Kongfrontation and Jaws, relied heavily on spielers to bring the rides to life, providing a personal touch that has been lost in the endless rounds of motion simulators and other guideless attractions.
The latest predictions have Skull Island opening in early 2016, but some sources estimate late 2015. We know Universal has the ability to build quickly, and construction is progressing at an impressive rate. Right now the biggest question is, when will they finally announce the ride?
2. Water park
A water park seems like a natural addition to any theme park complex, especially one located in sunny Central Florida, and especially one that is in direct competition with Walt Disney World, which has two. Yet when Universal Orlando bought Wet ‘n Wild, it appeared that a new, customized water park was off the table. Now, however, Universal seems set to develop their own, probably on a 53-acre parcel south of the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Rumor has it that the new park will be named “Volcano Bay,” and will feature a central volcanic mountain structure. Universal loves working with disaster-based themes, so a volcanic eruption would provide a cohesive back story that fits with the company’s overall direction. It looks like it will take until at least November 2016 to finish the project, so we might be looking at an opening sometime in 2017.