Universal Orlando has been focusing on updating the offerings at Universal Studios Florida in recent years. But could Islands of Adventure be set for a major overhaul, too?
Owner Comcast has commited to installing a new E-Ticket attraction at Universal Orlando every single year for the next few years, as well as dramatically expanding its hotel capacity. Why? Because it's witnessed the dramatic impact of the installation of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. It may still be lagging some way behind Walt Disney World in terms of attendance, but Universal Orlando is growing. Fast.
Quite reasonably, Comcast has been focusing on enhancing Universal Studios Florida of late, in an attempt to balance out attendance across its two parks. The debut of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley will go a long way towards achieving that goal, and Universal is likely to sell a lot more Park-to-Park tickets as a result of the installation of the unique Hogwarts Express train ride to link the two parks.
Once Diagon Alley opens in summer 2014, though, expect attention to turn back to Islands of Adventure, which has really only had one significant update since its opening day in 1999 (the 2010 opening of the Wizarding World). There are numerous rumors swirling about new additions to the park, some of which are more credible than others. Let's take a look at the latest murmurs circulating around the 'net.
4. Skull Island / King Kong ride
This one will come as no surprise to regular Theme Park Tourist readers, who'll be aware of the rumors that a new King Kong ride is on its way to either Islands of Adventure or to Universal Studios Florida (where it would replace Disaster!).
The Islands of Adventure attraction would be likely to be located between Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon, and would headline a whole new "island": Skull Island (themed around Kong's home in the movies). Survey markers seen in the area recently strongly indicate that work on something is about to begin in that location soon (and it will have to, if a rumored 2015 opening date is to be met).
Perennial rumor-monger HateToFly of OrlandoUnited has had a few hits and misses in the past, but it's always fun to listen to his latest musings. Most recently, he's suggested that large tram-style vehicles will be employed by the ride, harking back to the original Kongfrontation attraction at Universal Studios Florida. Guests will be taken through a series of indoor and outdoor scenes, encountering smaller audio-animatronic creatures and - disappointingly - a large digital version of Kong (no return then, in that scenario, for the 39-feet-tall animatronics seen in Kongfrontation).
3. Jurassic World "Amber Mine" coaster
Rumors of a new addition to the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure are almost as old as the park itself, with suggestions ranging from a jeep ride (similar to that seen in the movie) to a version of the dark ride through the Discovery Center (also featured in the movie). These have been strengthened recently by signs of upcoming construction in the land (which could, as described above, actually be an indicator of a King Kong attraction), and by the announcement of the fourth movie in the series, Jurassic World - due for release in 2015.
Our favorite rumor? That The Gravity Group has been engaged to build a wooden roller coaster themed around an amber mine (the source of the dinosaur DNA in the book and movies). Could we finally see a wooden coaster at one of Orlando's major theme parks? Time will tell.
2. Yet more Harry Potter...
Long-time Disney and Universal correspondent Jim Hill has long suggested that Universal will seek to further expand its Harry Potter offerings once its done with Diagon Alley (after all, Potter fans appear to have insatiable appetite for attractions based on the young wizard's adventures). Those rumors have died down a little recently, but there are still suggestions that the remainder of the Lost Continent area of the park could eventually be consumed into the Wizarding World.
Rumored attractions include a spinning flat ride themed around the Whomping Willow, a Chamber of Secrets attraction in the current Poseidon's Fury building and a walkthrough attraction themed around the Shrieking Shack.
1. Seuss Landing dark ride
A rumored attraction based on The Lorax, the 1970s children's book that was adapted for the big screen in 2012, has - supposedly - been parked. However, Universal is still considering enhancing the child-friendly offerings at Islands of Adventure by making a new addition to Seuss Landing. Could we see a second dark ride added to the area, this time themed around the animated version The Grinch that is set for release in 2017? A year-round attraction based on a seasonal property may be a hard-sell...but there are plenty of other Dr Seuss characters around which to base a new attraction.
Will any of these rumored additions come to pass? We probably don't have long to wait to find out. We expect Universal Orlando to announce something big later in 2014 - probably once the excitement around the opening of Diagon Alley has calmed somewhat.
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