By Fowl Owlerson
Disclaimer: Unless where otherwise noted, the following is rumor and speculation, and should not be regarded as fact unless confirmed by the companies mentioned.
Since Comcast purchased NBC Universal in 2009, there have been rumors of Universal Orlando’s upper brass scoping out additional land for the resort’s expansion. According to an Orange County Convention Center brochure, Universal Orlando Resort is 840 acres, which includes Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and CityWalk. For reference, Disneyland Resort is approximately 500 acres and Walt Disney World Resort is more than 25,000 acres. Universal has reached the spacial limit of its aggressive expansion.
The Orlando Business Journal’s Richard Balbao reported that Universal may have found a solution to their spacial woes. Bilbao said Orange County Commissioners Pete Clarke and Ted Edwards told him Universal may be interested in an approximately 450 acre stretch of land near Universal Boulevard (which is adjacent to International Drive) from Sand Lake Road down to Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. The land is presently owned by Colony Capital, LLC, a private equity firm based in Santa Monica, Calif. Neither Colony or Universal have commented on this rumor.
Several sources have disclosed to me that Universal Orlando’s intent is to expand onto International Drive and construct a “monorail-like transport system” to shuttle guests around the entire resort. Rumors suggest Universal has made an offer to Colony Capital, LLC, but nothing has been finalized yet.
So in the event the deal is accepted and Universal acquires the land, what would they build? A third Universal Orlando theme park is in the realm of possibility, as well as another “branch” of CityWalk with shops, restaurants and clubs. Perhaps even the oft-rumored Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed hotel could find a place in this new parcel of land.
There’s a persistent rumor that Universal Orlando’s present vision of a third park would include video game properties such as Metal Gear Solid, Golden Axe, Warcraft, Pac-Man, Minecraft, Mega Man, Sonic and Nintendo’s assortment of characters. Video games have become “mainstream,” to borrow the parlance of the Internet, and an entire park dedicated to iconic gaming characters would garner a considerable amount of public interest.
With Skull Island, Saphire Falls Resort, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Volcano Bay, and Fast & Furious on the horizon, Universal is in dire need of land to keep its momentum. I suspect there will be more developing on this story soon.
• Fowl Owlerson has been attending theme parks since he was a little owlet. When he’s not filtering through the latest murmurings around the industry, he can be found writing, reading, and snacking on the occasional rodent. Follow him on Twitter @fowlowlerson for the latest rumors, and drop an anonymous letter to him at [email protected] or via Direct Message on Twitter.