A News page for the Orlando’s areas other Minor Attractions and Resort properties
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(7/30/17) High Performance Driving Experience (MORE...)
(7/28/17) New Margaritaville Resort Looking To Be Behind Schedule (MORE...)
(7/27/17) Possible New JW Marriott Planned Very Close To Disney Property (MORE...)
(7/15/17) Gaylord Palms Announces ICE 2017 Theme and Dates (MORE...)
(6/28/17) Coca-Cola Orlando Eye July 4th Festivities (MORE...)
You can find our review of the I-Drive 360 attractions (Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium here.
Central Florida News - (7/30/17) Driving enthusiasts visiting Orlando may soon have a new outlet for their "Need For Speed", as it has been reported that a new development is in the works for a 217 acre site off 192 where it connects with the 429. The developer behind the project is an Andy Bardar who owns a "High Performance Driving Experience" attraction in Miami and it looks like he is planning to add a three-course system to the Orlando area property.
According to the layouts provided, it appears that it will include some kind of "Club" membership setup on the South end of the property for the main tracks as well as on-site car storage and maintenance areas. On the Northern end where it connects to 192 there will be the public entrance area along with a separate track for use by the general public. The site has already received the proper zoning to be used as a tourist attraction and is now just seeking the proper "noise variance" for it, which isn't likely to be a problem as the majority of the site will already run alongside either the 429 highway or busy 192 tourist corridor, and the Western side will be mostly undeveloped except for a large "sound wall" barrier to be installed alongside the track to keep the noise levels from drifting into the residential areas beyond.
(7/27/17) According to the Orlando Sentinel a new JW Marriott hotel (516 rooms) has been proposed for a 10.6 acre site near Wyndham's Bonnet Creek Resort area.
(7/15/17) Orlando fans... the Gaylord Palms has announced that the theme of this year's ICE holiday display will be a showcase of "Christmas Around the World". Look for it to take place from Nov. 21 through to Jan. 7, 2018. You can also visit the official site for information about how to buy tickets.
(6/28/17) A series of special festivities are planned to take place around the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye on July 4th. This includes a DJ and other live entertainment throughout the day in the I-Drive 360 courtyard from 6:30pm to 11pm, a sunset the entrance fountain will turn red, white and blue. A new light show will be shown on the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye itself three times throughout the night. Shake Shack, Paramount and iCafe de Paris will be selling food and drinks in the courtyard and the Eye itself will be open from 10am to 11pm on July 4th.
(6/17/17) A quick note for Orlando tourists flying through the Orlando International Airport. According to the local news, starting July 1st new rules will go into effect that will allow Uber and Lyft to pick-up arriving passengers at the airport. Previously Uber and Lyft could only be used to drop passengers off, so the arrival of the new services should to wonders for creating cost cutting and competition for fares as the cost for a Taxi service was always said to be very high. This may cause some extra traffic issues and confusion in the short-term however as the various services figure out where to pick up passengers.
(6/10/17) According to a press release from Madame Tussauds Orlando, the attraction will soon welcome the arrival of a new Justin Bieber figure to go on public display on June 21st at an 11am ceremony. So I guess this begs the question... is the Bieb still a thing in today's world?
(2/20/17) OrlandoParksNews dropped by Old Town in Kissimmee to take a few pictures of the new Ferris Wheel next to the new entrance portal set up in front, which has an old Jukebox look to it with a couple of video displays built in. While I'm not entirely fond of the wheel they chose to put in with the big window-walls, the new entrance portal does look quite snazzy. Check it out.
(2/10/17) In honor of the most romantic month of the year, the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye is inviting couples to celebrate a date night aboard the 400-foot observation wheel with new private capsule options.
Private capsules begin at $275, with additional options available such as a champagne flight ($75 upgrade per couple) or an additional rotation on the wheel ($75 upgrade per couple).
For those who wish to light up the nighttime sky to declare their love, couples can select a colorful lighting scheme on the wheel as they enjoy a private capsule on the Eye (starting at $500).
Follow the link if interested to find out more on how to make your reservations.
(1/25/17) I’m not entirely sure what the future plan is for the Artegon mall site off the North end of I-Drive, but the owners announced earlier this month that the mall would be shutting down for good on January 26th. According to the early reports all of the interior retail and entertainment locations would be forced to close down as well, while those with an outside entrance (like Ron Jon’s or Fuddruckers) may be permitted to stay open. Meanwhile the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World and movie theater connected to Artegon will remain open as the owners had previously sold the land for those locations to their individual owners, which is only fitting as before Artegon or even Festival Bay was ever a thing, the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World location was built on the site first and is always busy.
It isn’t known if they are closing to finalize a pending sale of the property to a new owner, or if some other redevelopment plan is now in the works. Unfortunately this means a lot of popular shops will have to find new homes, and announced attractions like NYZ Orlando that we’ve been waiting to see open may never see the light of day. As for NYZ Orlando, the owners posted to Facebook to say that while they were surprised by the announcement that Artegon was closing, they are now looking into alternate locations to build their Zombie experience.
(12/27/16) Midway Mayhem has posted a quick construction update on a couple of new Orlando area attractions - the new TopGolf Orlando and Andretti Indoor Karting & Games attractions. On the former it looks like some of the large superstructure for Top Golf is now starting to go up, meanwhile a huge concrete slab has been poured for the future Kart track going in next door, which hopes to open in the first half of 2017.
According to the official TopGolf website the Orlando location should be ready to open by Fall 2017 and is now under construction at the corner of Universal Blvd and Convention Way, looking to put it essentially next door to that large piece of property that Ripley's Entertainment just purchased last week. Again, this is all down near where Universal Orlando is expected to eventually build their next big park(s) and future resorts.
When built TopGolf Orlando promises a three-level location with 102 climate-controlled driving-range bays (each able to hold up to 6 players) plus act as a popular hangout, restaurant, and special event location.
(12/22/16) According to the local news Ripley Entertainment has purchased a big chunk of property on Universal Blvd directly across the street from the Convention Center for a cool $23 million. I'm guessing this is a bit of forward thinking on Ripley's behalf as this would virtually put them on the doorstep to Universal's expansion property in the same area. While Ripley only has the one "Believe it or Not!" attraction in Orlando, Ripley's often dominates other popular tourist areas with a variety of different attractions. For example in the Gatlinburg, TN area Ripley has a Believe It or Not, the Aquarium of the Smokies, 5D Movie Theater, Haunted Adventure, Marvelous Mirror Maze, Guinness World Record, and two separate Ripley's branded mini-golf courses for a whopping 8 different attractions. It certainly seems possible some of these or other Ripley's branded attractions located elsewhere around the world could be in development for Orlando.
(10/28/16) The past few days I’ve been pondering. Pondering hard… all about what new player could be trying to enter the Orlando market. Ever since it was announced that the site of the Artegon Mall (formerly Festival Bay) could possibly be hooked up with two other nearby pieces of property to create a new 200+ acre site for a mystery theme park development, it’s been like an itch in the back of my brain that I just can’t scratch.
Who would be bold enough to try and take on the established Orlando park giants?
Who out there has the cash flow to pull off such an ambitious investment these days?
The answer is not clear at all, but I think I can narrow it down a bit. For starters, I think we can safely count Cedar Fair and Six Flags out right off the bat. While these are the two biggest park owners in the US who do not have a property in Florida, these are also two companies who have a long established growth strategy of only buying existing parks and never building new parks from scratch. Building a new park is a very time consuming, head-ache inducing, and high-risk process that most companies want nothing to do with these days in the US. So who’s left on the short list?
MERLIN would normally be an obvious answer, but as the chain is already operating LEGOLAND just outside Orlando, as well as the trio of attractions at the Orlando Eye, I think they already have their hands full in the local marketplace.
HERSCHEND FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT – may be a name not all that familiar to the Orlando area, but they are the ones pulling the strings behind the hugely successful Dollywood theme park in Tennessee as well as the Silver Dollar City attractions in Branson, MO. Beyond that they also own the Wild Adventures park in nearby Georgia as well as a couple of aquariums, several of the Ride the Ducks attractions as well as managing the famous Stone Mountain attractions just outside Atlanta.
So could it be Herschend? I suppose it is possible, but while the company has really been quite strong in the Branson and Pigeon Forge markets, their efforts to build up the small Wild Adventures park in Georgia have fallen somewhat flat, and the last time they tried to build a new park experience was the failed Celebration City project in Branson which only ran from 2003 to 2008 before being forced to close it down.
With the failure of Celebration City still weighing heavily on the company, with the site yet to be sold-off or redeveloped into any kind of new project, somehow I don’t think Herschend is ready to jump into the Orlando market with both feet just yet.
There are a few smaller and newer park chains out there, like the second coming of Premier Parks, United Parks, Central Amusement Internal and Apex Park Group, and even some well established owners of single parks that may be ready to expand like Holiday World, Kentucky Kingdom or maybe even Knoebels. In the end… I’m don’t think any are really ready (either experience wise or financial) to jump into Orlando right now. So who’s left?
Pondering it over, I do have to say my biggest hunch tells me to keep an eye on PARQUES REUNIDOS. Who are they? They are a Spanish owned chain of parks and smaller attractions that are fairly wide-spread throughout the European market who own parks such as Bobbejaanland, Bonbon Land, Mirabilandia, TysenFryd and Parque Warner Madrid. However they also bought up a small chain of American owned attractions who still operate the US division under the name of Palace Entertainment. Palace properties include well-known waterpark and FEC names like Wet ‘n Wild, Raging Waters, Castle Park and Noah’s Ark, but they also acquired the chain of parks that includes Kennywood, Lake Compounce and Idlewild as well as the small StoryLand, Miami Seaquarium and Dutch Wonderland parks and attractions.
Going back, the initial description of who the mystery company seeking to buy the new Orlando property was said to be an established US park operator with international backing, and that sounds like Parques Reunidos to me. In addition, Parques Reunidos is now actually controlled by London based Arle Capital Partners Ltd. (who took over from Candover Partner back in April 2011). While Arle accepted bids for a possible sale for the park chain back in 2014 and 2015, it seems they felt that the offers were too low and instead opts to take the company public on Spain’s stock exchange. The IPO took place on April 29th, 2016 with aproxately $600 million in shares being issued, including about $85 million in ownership shared from Arle themselves who is said to have retained about a 34% ownership stake in the company.
Flush with cash, minus the repayment of any major debts the company may have previously had, it would make sense for them to look into investing major capital to break into the Orlando market and create some growth opportunities for their new stockholders.
Again… this is just my speculation on it… but it should be interesting to see how this all plays out.
(10/24/16) Interesting developments are afoot for Orlando's Artegon Mall (formerly Festival Bay). According to the OBJ, their sources tell them that an unknown US theme park operator who currently has no properties in Florida is eyeballing a deal to try and buy and merge the Artegon site with two other connecting properties in order to build some kind of new theme park resort project. Anyone know anything more about this?
(9/29/16) According to the local news a new haunted attraction will open on Old Town on Oct. 1 called Mortem Manor. While they are in a rush to open in time for the Halloween season, they hope to prove successful and remain open year-round. The new haunt will take up the same space at Old Town used previously for the Haunted Grimm House and later on by Legends: A Haunting at Old Town. While the layout will be the same as the previous haunts, the new haunt will feautre all new decorations, effects and animatronics, as well as live actors of course. To make it a little more unique, they are actually planning on offering a "lights-on" version on select dates that will be more child friendly, and come with a cheaper price-tag as well. You can find out all the details at the official Mortem Manor website.
???? - NYZ Orlando - On Hold - (1/25/17) The attraction is on hold as the site (Artegon) is now closing down entirely on Jan. 26. The owners posted to Facebook to say that while they were surprised by the announcement that Artegon was closing, they are now looking into alternate locations to build their Zombie experience.
(11/6/15) NYZ Orlando - A urban zombie themed laser battle experience is on the way to the Artegon Marketplace, slated to open in Late 2016 that would take up a huge 45,000 sqft space for the laser zombie battle experience as well as a bar to relax in before and after you battle the hordes of the undead. To improve the "laser tag" experience, the guns actually are said to have a gas-powered recoil system so the guns actually have a little kick to them. I have heard that the zombies wear some kind of "halo" headgear that acts as a sort of damage meter so you know how many shots you have to hit them with before they drop. I believe it may also vibrate to send a signal to the "actor" playing the zombie so they physically react when shot, and know when to drop. The first NYZ Apocalypse actually opened in 2014 in Long Island, NY back in 2014 so if anyone has experienced the original, I'd love to hear more about what the experience is really like.
2017 - I-Fly Orlando - Opening Soon - (3/13/17) The all new International Drive location for iFly is said to be ready to open on April 27th, located next door to WonderWorks. This new larger location will feature two all glass wind tunnels that will allow tourists passing by to see all the action inside, unlike the original location just off the northern end of I-Drive, close to the former Wet 'n Wild location.
Speaking of the old iFly indoor skydiving location, it will apparently close down on the same day that the new location opens, and rumor has it that the old site has already been put on the market and is expected to see some considerable interest given that it is located next to the freeway across from Universal Orlando, but also within a stroll from Universal's now closed Wet 'n Wild site which is rumored to be developed into a new entertainment and resort complex in the future.
(1/11/16) According to a local reader, the Hawaiian Rumble mini-golf course on I-Drive next to the Wonderworks building has now posted a big "CLOSED" sign on their front door. This was expected however, as the site was previously reported to be re-used as the future site for a brand larger new I-Fly Orlando location.
(11/27/15) Another Screamscape source has written in to confirm that not only will I-Fly be moving to a new location on the southern end of I-Drive, but that it will actually take over the site of the current Hawaiian Rumble mini-golf center located right next to Pointe Orlando. They also confirm that the new site will indeed have two wind tunnels... one inside and one clear acrylic tube style that will be viewable to everyone passing by on I-Drive.
Of source also confirms that the original site, which was the original prototype for the company, will be taken down and removed once the new location is up and running. Given the interesting location somewhat in the middle of Universal Orlando and their Wet 'n Wild property, I'm kind of curious to see who will buy it.
(11/26/15) Screamscape has been informed that iFly Indoor Skydiving (known for their wild shaped building in Orlando, just across I-4 from Universal Orlando) is rumored to be building a new bigger facility somewhere else on I-Drive. The new site is rumored to have two tunnels instead of just the one, doubling their capacity, with one of the tunnels expected to either be outdoors, or to have a clear see-through tube, much like the one at CityWalk in Hollywood, so you can see outside while you fly.
With that in mind, I would think that the original Orlando location would then be close down and the site sold off once the new location was up and running, though if the new location were located on the extreme southern end of I-Drive, it wouldn't be unheard of for both locations to remain open. Anyone else heard this or know more?
2017 - Vue at 360 / 425ft Starflyer Ride - Planned - (12/22/15) According to the local news, final approval was given by the OC Commissioners to build a 425 foot tall Starflyer ride on I-Drive, not far from the Orlando Eye attraction in the Goodings Plaza area, which will be re-branded as "Vue at 360". Unfortunately, I think this is a little bit of overkill, as the nearby Magical Midway already has a roughly 230 foot Starflyer ride just to the north, though I've got a feeling the smaller ride may be forced to vanish one the newer version opens. In any case, look for construction to begin sometime in 2016.
???? - Margaritaville Resort Orlando - (7/28/17) Based on the look of this 'groundbreaking' photo from the site of the new Margaritaville Resort coming to Orlando, I don't think it will be opening anytime soon. Looks like they will miss that original target date of 2017. I guess this explains why we haven't heard much about the project over the past year
(6/7/16) The Orlando Business Journey has posted a new rendering of what the Margaritaville Resort Orlando off 192 is going to look like when it opens in 2017. I'm diggin it myself, so check it out and click on the image to go to a viewer to see a second new image as well.
Late 2017 - Gatorland / Stompin' Gator Off-Road Adventure - (4/24/17) The famous Gatorland animal park in Orlando is now planning an interesting expansion to the property that would see a new attraction allowing guests to ride in a giant 12 feet tall off-road vehicle through the woods and swamplands of the park's undeveloped property east of the park. The attraction will be called Stompin' Gator Off-Road Adventure and is expected to open by September. The ride will last 15-20 minutes and include a "mid-pond stop" where you can feed some hungry gators along the way as well as pass through the park's gator graveyard. Each of the three off-road buggies will cost $80,000 each and be named after one of the park's legendary animals: Cannibal Jake, Bonecrusher and Swamp Ghost. Note that this will be an upcharge attraction, with an estimated extra cost of $10-15 to ride.
2020 - SKYPLEX 360- Confirmed - (2/24/17) While the SkyPlex has yet to begin construction, yet another high-thrill attraction sure to make you in need of a new pair of underwear called Sky Jump. If you've seen the Sky Jump in Las Vegas on the Stratosphere Tower, then you know exactly what this is... as guests will be strapped to a harness attached to a set of cables and then take a controlled freefall to the ground, with the system designed to safely slow guests down for a gentle landing at the bottom.
Take a look at the video below to see just what is in store for Orlando guests to the SkyPlex.
(2/8/17) According to the latest update from the local Fox news station the final planning and permitting for the Skyplex (which may now be called Skyplex 360) is still ongoing, though they hope to official break ground and begin true construction before the end of 2017, with the goal of opening the mega-attraction by 2020.
(11/16/16) According to the latest news reports, when the Skyplex opens the Skyscraper roller coaster will also have a VR headset option available to experience during the ride with different theme options you can choose from. While this is clearly just trying to be part of the latest tech trend to be used on various theme park coasters, I would like to argue that the Skyscraper coaster would be one coaster I would think most would opt not to wear the headgear. After all, the biggest thrill of the Skyscraper is going to be the dizzying view from the ride's frightening 501 foot height as it spirals around the outside of the tower. Why would you want to put on VR headgear and miss all that?
(11/14/16) Just as I suspected about back in November 2014, the Orlando Skyplex attraction plans have yet another attraction in store for guests when it opens... this one called the SkyLedge. As I thought when I saw a revised piece of artwork of the tower showing an odd 'ring' like structure added to run around the top, this steel ring will be used as a very tall walkway for guests to step out, while wearing a harness of course, and take a stroll around the outside of the Skyplex tower, standing 600 feet above the ground.
Similar attractions have been built on other large towers outside of the United States, but this will be the first one to open in the US. One of the first of theses that I ever heard of was the SkyWalk in New Zealand, which you can catch a look in the video below to see just what is involved.
(12/2/15) Congratulations to the Skyplex... the project was given unanimous approval by the Orange County Commission who voted late Tuesday afternoon on the issue. With the project now approved, it's time for Skyplex to put their money where their mouth is and build this thing.
(11/24/15) A couple new videos from our friends at In The Loop have been posted about the Skyplex style Polercoaster project, complete with a new animated video showing off how the tower itself would look with both the Intamin version of the coaster and drop-tower rides functioning together, along with that vertical launch hill up to the top.
This is followed up with an interview with Michael Kitchen, President of US Thrill Rides who starts off the interview explaining that they parted ways with S&S and switched to Intamin primarily to increase the capacity of the ride itself by removing the long spiral chain lift and replacing it with an LSM Lift that will shoot riders to the top at 40mph in about 15 seconds. It is also great to hear that the overall ride length, even with this new LSM Lift, will still be about a 4 minute long ride experience from start to finish.
Kitchen also mentions that around the start of the 2016, they are planning on kicking off construction on three different Polercoaster projects at about the same time in different locations around the world. Currently they claim to have contracts for similar (but smaller) Polercoaster attractions in Atlanta, Atlantic City, New York, Las Vegas and Nashville, with three of those locations (they wouldn't say which) ready to break ground in a little over a month.
(11/20/15) If you’ve followed along with the media stories regarding the proposed Skyplex complex in Orlando, you’ve probably noticed a lot of irritation being thrown towards Universal Orlando, for opposing the Skyplex project at various public meetings about the project. Now the Orlando Sentinel reports that a group affiliated with Universal Orlando has begun to send out mailers and launch a website, all with the goal of opposing the Skyplex project as the December 1st vote on the project quickly approaches.
I don’t know if Universal ever opposed the I-Drive 360 and Orlando Eye projects, but we do know that they have also been opposed to the iSquare project looking to get built about a block or so North on I-Drive from Universal’s Wet ‘n Wild property. I’ve also been told that the legal action Universal is taking against Orange County and a local Condo complex over storm water drainage issues into the lake on Wet ‘n Wild’s property may also be another piece of the puzzle being formed here. Clearly, Universal is becoming suddenly and quite protective over the goings-on at the North end of I-Drive, which more than likely has something to do with whatever future plans they have in works for the Wet ‘n Wild property once the waterpark closes down at the end of 2016.
The problem is Universal has their hands full right now with Reign of Kong, the new Sapphire Falls Resort, the expansion of Cabana Bay, future CityWalk projects and the construction of the brand new Volcano Bay waterpark. So whatever Universal has planned for the Wet ‘n Wild property, be it a new resort hotel, CityWalk 2: Electric Boogaloo or the construction of Orlando’s smallest theme park, that project is simply going to have to wait until at least 2017 to break ground. This fact gives new projects like iSquare, Skyplex or even Unicorp’s “expansion” of the I-Drive 360 project over a year’s head-start on whatever Universal has planned. By playing the politics game, it appears as if Universal is trying to delay these other projects in order to level the playing field in their advantage.
Given the amount of public support the Skyplex has been receiving on Social Media, I’d like to say that Universal is probably fighting a losing battle here, as I would not be surprised to see Skyplex get approved on Dec. 1st. Of course, that approval could come with some stipulations regarding the final size or style of the tower itself, but I do think Skyplex has a good shot at getting the approval they need. Meanwhile the Skyplex hasn’t slowed down the announcement train, releasing a few new world record details this week, such as the Skyscraper coasters’ 524 foot vertical lift, that will begin 24 feet underground and take riders 501 feet above ground. The previously announced SkySurf collection of man-made surf waves will also feature the world’s largest man-made surfing wave pool.
(11/18/15) A new video from IAAPA from our friends at In The Loop shows off some new renderings of the new Intamin version of the Polercoaster concept ride (like Orlando's proposed Skyplex) that will feature a vertical launch system rather than a slow lift hill. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that, as it will be more thrilling for sure, but I kind of liked the scenic viewing aspect of the old spiral slow lift hill concept as well. The video also shows off the freetall drop ride as well as other proposed Polercoaster locations, such as Myrtle Beach, SC.
(11/16/15) Pixels at the Parks has posted an interesting write up summary following a meeting that was held the answer questions about the proposed Skyplex attraction tower project, along with comments and items brought up in the meeting by a couple of people in attendance representing the concerns Universal Orlando has with the project.
I always find it a bit funny when anyone cites a concern over the height of the Skyplex possibly being too much for I-Drive, when the 400 foot tall Orlando Eye is sitting there glowing away in the night sky every night about a block away to the South, and Orlando's entire tourist corridor is pretty much an assortment of sky-high neon-lit amusement towers from the north end of I-Drive all the way down to 192 in Kissimmee where up until this point, the attitude has always been one of "anything goes".
Orlando's SkyPlex project, undaunted by not getting the recommendation from the zoning board earlier this month is still moving forward with the hopes of getting the final approval from the County Commissioners anyway when they meet to vote on it in December. (In fact, there is an online petition you can sign to show your support for SkyPlex by clicking here.)
Today we get a better look at that proposed Surf Park complex mentioned back in June, to be located on the top of a 10-story parking garage. Artwork showing off what they are now calling Sky Surf Park can be found at ClickOrlando where they will put three different style wave pools 10-stories in the air, along with a beachside cafe and more.
(10/16/15) The Orange County Planning and Zoning Board met on Thursday to vote on the Skyplex project, and actually voted to recommend against it in a 4 to 3 vote over concerns about the height, lightning strikes and other issues. While the board rejected the plan, it is up to the County Commission to vote on the project, who may approve the Skyplex to go ahead anyway, despite the negative vote from the Zoning Board. The County Commission will vote on the Skyplex at their Nov. 3rd meeting.
(10/8/15) Quick note, as I received official word from the Skyplex team that the opening of the Skyplex has still be pushed back to 2018, and the tweet about 2017 was in error.
(10/5/15) According to a tweet from the official Skyplex account, we will see the Skyplex tower and coaster "light up the Orlando Skyline by 2017". Odd choice of words however, because they don't exactly promise that that either will be open...only that they will light up the skyline. Hmmmm....
(9/1/15) Skyplex showed off some great new renderings of the Skyplex complex on Twitter on Monday.
(7/29/15) I got to admit, I'm a bit disappointed right now... as I so wanted to see the Skyplex / Skyscraper coaster project succeed, amid a sea of nay-sayers. I haven't see the press release myself yet, but Behind the Thrills has just announced that despite all the early plans and references to the Skyscraper coaster being from S&S Worldwide, US Thrillrides has now backtracked in a big way and announced that the coaster ride system will be coming from Intamin instead.
I'm not sure where S&S stands on this latest revelation, if they were dropped, outbid, or perhaps they themselves opted out of the project, but my confidence level for this ride just went from an a high 8 down to a 4. Longtime readers know I'm no Intamin fan-boy... and while they have made some pretty fantastic rides out there (especially for Hersheypark)... they've also made some of the worst in terms of reliability and downtime issues, as well as rides being involved in a number of high profile accidents involving rider injury and deaths over the years, especially where riders have been thrown from the vehicles on coasters, drop towers and water based attractions.
The list of incidents is easy to find for yourselves if you look up ride names like Hydro, Perilous Plunge, Superman Tower of Power, Drop Zone, and Shoot the Rapids to name but a few. Sorry folks, but my gut just says this is the wrong move for this project.
(7/3/15) Good news for the Skyplex project, it seems they have passed one major hurdle that was holding back the start of construction. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the FAA and finally weighed in on the 700-foot tall tower project and officially deemed that it "poses no hazard to air traffic". The ruling will be official on Monday, if there are no worthy objections sent in by today to the FAA. Following that the Skyplex plans have been given the green light by Orange County's Development Review Committee and will next go before the Planning and Zoning officials on August 20th for approval before going before the County Commissioners for the final approval. Following that the Skyplex will just need to get their final permitting filed before they can begin construction.
(6/16/15) The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Surf Park has been added to the plans for the massive Skyplex complex now. The plan is to put three pools on top of the 10-story parking garage, arranged so that surfers in the pools can face the Skyplex tower while riding on the stationary surf wave machines. The goal is to make it a virtual "beach scene" up there, with a bar and all, and they anticipate locals buying annual pass memberships to hang out up there year-round. While the plans and design work are still in flux obviously, they are hoping to have a good portion of the project complete by 2017 at this point if all goes well. They will first start work on the tower itself before begining work on the connecting Skyplaza area where the Perkin's will go.
(5/7/15) The Skyplex dropped another bomb announcement this week, growing the project yet even bigger before they can even stick the first shovel into the ground. According to this article they are now planning on having a 350-room on-site hotel as well to the north of the Skyplex tower. Some new artwork showing off the location of the hotel portion of the resort can be found in this Tweet.
(3/5/15) In an unexpected bit of news the Skyplex project has expanded and is now even bigger, now taking over the corner spot occupied by Perkins. The expanded site will now add the SkyPLAZA, a retail complex that will feature the world's largest Perkins Restaurant and Bakery (10,000 sqft) and be connected to the main SkyPlex via an elevated walkway. The more ground level path of the Skyscraper coaster itself has also been changed to fly out over the the SkyPLAZA and hit a high overbanked turn just above the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Rd. All this, along with the previously announced SkyFall 450 ft drop ride (from Intamin) will open in 2017. Check out the new animation of the complex and all new coaster layout below.
(2/13/15) While the SkyPlex announced yesterday their plans to open the world's tallest freefall drop ride at 450 feet, it seems that they may have jumped the gun a little bit on that claim. A few hundred miles to the south the SkyRise Miami tower has begun the first phases of construction on their 1000 foot tall waterfront tower project. In addition to the controlled Sky Plunge extreme jump attraction the tower will also include the SkyRise Drop... a true freefall tower ride style attraction featuring a bench of 12 seats across that will rise and drop riders approximately 650 feet and approach a speed of 95 mph before hitting the magnetic brakes at the bottom.
So it will be somewhat of a race for the SkyPlex to open their project first, especially since they have yet to begin actual construction on the site yet. Meanwhile the SkyRise Miami project is already hard at work setting up the foundation for their massive tower, though not without troubles of their own as they are sell working on getting all their funding to build the finished tower through an EB-5 investor program. Meanwhile the Miami-Dade County has been hit with a lawsuit intended to block a $9 million grant offered to SkyRise Miami because when the project was put to a public ballot, it said the tower would be entirely privately funded.
(2/12/15) Orlando will soon be home to the world's tallest freefall attraction. According to the latest press release from the Skyplex people, the towering attraction will include SKYFALL, a 450 foot freefall drop ride from the tower as well. The current record for a freefall ride is Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Great Adventure which drops riders 415 feet. The press release also mentions that the Skyplex will have a 55-story Glass Elevator ride for those taking a trip up to the observation deck at the top.
(12/18/14) According to this article the owners of the Skyplex complex have bought a new 1.5 acre site on Canada Ave for $1.2 million. The site, previously used as parting for the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure show, will be used as additional parking for the Skyplex. This is in addition to plots they already own for the Skyplex site, the 7-11 on I-Drive site (which has already closed down) as well as the World Bowling Center site.
(11/27/14) I mentioned this on the Screamscape Facebook page about a week ago, but I thought it was good enough that I should be mentioned here as well. When watching the new animated video of the SkyScraper at SKYPLEX coaster, the other dramatic difference I noticed other than the coaster was that a large “ring” style platform was added, surrounding the top end of the tower itself.
The addition of the ride would have no effect on the coaster layout, but why would they go to the added expense to add such a structure to the tower unless it served some other purpose. With that in mind, I suspect the SKYPLEX may be planning to add up to two more scary as hell high-altitude attractions to their offerings. Based on attractions I’ve seen installed on other high-tower creations, the ring itself immediately brought to mind the famous SkyWalk attraction in New Zealand, which also has a similar catwalk ring around the top of the tower, where guests strap on a ropes course style safety harness and jumpsuit and go out for a very high up walk around the outside of the tower on this ring structure. In addition to this, I’m also expecting them to install a SkyJump style drop experience like the one on the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas and also on in New Zealand. Adding this to the ring addition would also give them a way to drop guests down to the ground in a controlled decent while getting the drop cables out and away from the coaster track around the center of the tower. Time will tell if my hunch is right.
(11/18/14) An AMAZING new animated video showing off the true layout of the Skyscraper at SKYPLEX coaster has gone live this week, including some truely incredible looking POV shots from a layout which is far more impressive and crazy looking that anything we had initially anticipated seeing from a ride strapped to the side of round tower. Seriously, this looks like it could be one of the more intense and visually scary coaster layouts ever designed, all so very high in the sky. I hope the gift shop sells clean underwear at the bottom… some people are going to need it.
(6/6/14) Skyscraper Skyplex was officially announced on Thursday morning, and will indeed be located just about where I said it would off the North/East corner of the I-Drive and Sand Lake intersection. Officially the name will be “The Skyscraper at SKYPLEX”, with the Skyscraper as the coaster and the SKYPLEX as the entire complex, who is being created by the owners of the soon to open Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando and the existing Mango’s Tropical Café South Beach. The entire site is 12 acres, after the Wallacks managed to purchase five contiguous sites to merge together for the SKYPLEX, including 300 feet along I-Drive itself.
The obvious lure of the $200 million SKYPLEX will be the project’s massive 570 foot tall tower, home to the Skyscraper roller coaster, the world’s first PolerCoaster from US Thrill Rides. This will be the world’s tallest roller coaster, without a doubt, that will feature some interesting inversions way up in the sky, as well as a run around the rest of the SKYPLEX near the bottom, running out to I-Drive and back to the tower at the end.
Those who want the view without the thrills can ride the glass elevator up to the observation floor, 535 feet in the air, where you will be able to look down upon the nearby 425 foot Orlando Eye observation wheel from both the observation deck, as well as the restaurant at the top of the tower.
They aren’t planning on breaking ground on the property until early 2015, with the hope of still being able to open in 2016. This seems a bit ambitious to me, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. For all the official information, you can also visit the official SKYPLEX website.
2019 - Great Wolf Lodge Orlando - (1/25/17) While doing a little research into the new Georgia GWL project now under way, I decided to see what new info I could pull up about the Orlando Lodge project that has still yet to begin construction, despite dropping $23 million on some prime property not too far from Walt Disney World one year ago.
According to an update posted a few months ago by the Orlando Business Journal the plan is to try and open the new resort waterpark by 2019. Typically the construction timetable for building a new Great Wolf Lodge is about 18-20 months, so if they want it open by Summer 2019, they'll have to start work sometime before the end of 2017, so keep your eyes peeled.
(1/27/16) The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Great Wolf Lodge related company had now purchased a near 50-acre site just across I-4 from Walt Disney World's Disney Springs and Casting building for an estimated $23 million. While local zoning will allow for up to 1,400 rooms on that site, the initial plans filed are only for an 800-room resort, through expansion is always possible.
With construction nearly complete on a Great Wolf Lodge Resort in California, not far from Disneyland, I would expect that the initial response and advanced booking for that resort could have been the deciding factor for the company to look to build another indoor waterpark resort so close to Disney property.
If you've never been to a Great Wolf Lodge Resort, you are in for a treat. I've been lucky enough to stay at a couple of them and have posted reviews of the Williamsburg resort back in 2005 and the awesome Charlotte / Concord GWL Resorts when it opened in 2009. The later of which has a ton of photos and a video showing off the action that you will want to see.
For now we have to wait until Great Wolf Resorts is ready to make the announcement official and offer up some details about what could be their biggest and best Great Wolf Lodge yet.
2021 or Later - Kennedy Space Center Expansions - (2/24/17) According to USA Today the Kennedy Space Center is planning some big expansions over the next five years, including a Mars Rover vehicle display and an attraction that would try to simulate 6 seconds of weightlessness as well as the high G-forces of a launch. This new "Mars Deep Space" attraction could open by 2021 and be located where the current administration office of the Visitor Complex is currently located.
Follow the link to read the rest of the article, including a list of other smaller improvements and new displays coming to the Kennedy Space Center later this year.
???? - Planet Hollywood's Premier Resort Residences Orlando - (5/25/16) A new luxury resort hotel is coming to Orlando near the theme parks... Planet Hollywood's Premier Resort Residences Orlando. The new hotel tower will rise in the Lake Buena Vista area, in the heart of Orlando's theme park district, offering a new luxury hotel and spa experience. You can see a bit more about the new resort at the official website, but I believe the exactly location may be on the shore of Lake Bryan, off 535, not far from the Marriott World Center.
???? - Unicorp Projects - (11/19/15) Unicorp's massive plans for how they would like to redevelop the property they own on I-Drive between Sand Land and the I-Drive 360 complex can be seen over at the Orlando Biz Journal this week. The plan would change the entire site into a huge hotel complex of 13 high-rise hotel buildings that would also feature open-air spaces, new retail stores, walkways, small parks and new entertainment offerings. They also have plans to build a new development on 20 acres of property on the other side of Universal Drive behind the I-Drive 360 complex that would have three more hotel towers, new restaurants, a large theater building a big "water feature" that will be viewable from the Orlando Eye. (If I had to guess, I would bet a Bellagio style water fountain show could be considered for this area.)
Add to this the existing I-Drive 360 complex and the proposed Skyplex development across Sand Lake from here, and it sounds like the entire center of I-Drive will soon benefit from a major facelift away from the tacky tourist t-shirt shops and hookah-lounges that fill much of it elsewhere.
???? - iSquare Mall - Planning - (10/9/15) Orlando Biz Journal reports that some early site prep work for the iSquare Mall & Hotel project at the corner of I-Drive and Kirkman has begun.
(7/29/15) Now that I-Drive 360 and the Orlando Eye have opened at last, some of you may recall another project announced just down the road at about the same time by the name of iSquare. The $400-million project for the connected mall and hotel at the corner of I-Drive and Kirkman is still on, but keeps going through various redesigns and is now expected to finally begin construction sometime next year. Did I say Hotel? Make that two hotels now... one of which will be a 7-Star Hotel (I had no idea there was such a thing...) where the nightly room rate could run you between $400 to $10,000 a night. Say Ouch! And you thought Disney World was expensive...
The design of the hotel really is something else... nothing at all like anything you've seen in Orlando before... or just about anywhere. It looks nothing like the older artwork we still have posted below, as the concept has changed dramatically. You can see a video and concept art posted to the local WESH update.
(6/10/14) It seems the plans for the proposed iSquare hotel/mall concept (See our 5/3/14 story below) is undergoing some tweaking to reduce it in size after running into some size / density limits from the city. Look for a revised press release about the new version of the concept to be released later this year.
(5/3/14) Artwork for the unique looking iSquare Mall and Hotel planned to replace a strip-mall at the north end of I-Drive and Kirkman, were put on display this last week. It is a large 31-story tall structure that will include an observation tower looking structure, with a rotating restaurant at the top, a mall area full of retail and dining opportunities as well as over 1,250 guests rooms.