Over the past several months Universal has been waging a massive lobbying campaign against the SKYPLEX project, without really explaining why. However, on December 1st, as the SKYPLEX project was being deliberated during an Orlando City Commission vote (which ended up unanimously approving the zoning for the project) news broke that put Universal's opposition to the project in perspective: Universal is looking to build a third theme park…and it will be right in SKYPLEX’s back yard!
1. A massive new land buy
GrowthSpotter broke the news during the SKYPLEX proceedings that Universal Orlando Resort is under contract to purchase the 474-acre property known as the Sand Lake Road complex near Universal Blvd. This property (which is actually made up of 19 different parcels, as you can see above) is the largest undeveloped area in the I-Drive tourism area, and is located just a few minutes from Universal Orlando Resorts' theme parks, and just north of the Orange County Convention Center.
To put this land area’s massive size in perspective, keep in mind that Universal Studios Florida is 107 acres. CityWalk sits on 30 acres and Islands of Adventure is 101 acres. Though the entirety of Universal Orlando Resort is about 800 acres currently (including the set-for-destruction Wet ‘n Wild), you could fit both of Universal’s theme parks inside this new area twice.
Though its important to note that this land deal isn’t quite 100% finished yet, sources speaking with the Orlando Sentinel have said that Universal “[has] the property under contract, [and are] anticipat[ing] a quick closing.”
2. Back to the Future
Interestingly, this land that Universal is planning to acquire was initially owned by the resort, and was originally earmarked for future development into theme parks and golf courses back in the 1990s. However, Vivendi, who owned Universal in the early 2000s actually opted to sell off all this property (and some others) to settle some debts. However, if this deal goes through (and most reports seem to agree that Universal is days away from signing contracts), Universal will have a pretty good chunck of its original land back.
3. SKYPLEX and sightlines
Universal's initial block of the SKYPLEX project didn't make much sense initially, as an attraction like this wouldn't draw guests away from Universal Orlando Resort, and mathematical models suggested that the coaster tower would only be barely visible from a few points inside Islands of Adventure. However, this new Universal Blvd. property runs directly behind I-Drive, and will be within spitting distance of the 570-foot SKYPLEX. This could be a huge issue for Universal, as many of the views from inside the parks would be obstructed from within this new resort area, and noise from the coaster could potentially fill the park.