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---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(12/6/13) The New Citywalk attraction is a WHAT?! (MORE...)
(12/5/13) Click here to sneek a peek at the new restaurant fašade in Citywalk… as rumored, it has a very gothic (MORE...)
(12/4/13) Several new details have been released about what all is taking place during the “A Celebration of Harry Potter” event (MORE...)
(12/3/13) I’ve heard this rumor for some time now, but one of our sources has also added a bit too it now. Cigarz, on the upper level of Citywalk (MORE...)
General Resort News - (12/4/13) Several new details have been released about what all is taking place during the “A Celebration of Harry Potter” event at Universal Orlando on January 24-26, 2014. Click here to read up on all the latest.
(11/29/13) It looks like Bill & Ted will return to Halloween Horror Nights after all. According to this report all new creative licensing deals have been made with various groups ahead of a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Bill & Ted in 2014. This will see new B&T inspired clothing, toys, posters, a comic book and more to hit the store shelves next year but the article also mentions a new 5 year deal was signed with Universal to keep the show running in the Orlando and Hollywood parks. Beyond that, Alex Winter also has confirmed that plans are moving forward to shoot a third film in the near future.
(11/14/13) If you will miss the new TNA Impact tapings from Universal Orlando later this month, three new dates have been announced for Dec. 3, 4 and 5th.
(11/4/13) According to this report TNA Wrestling is indeed returning to Universal Studios Florida and will be taping on three back-to-back nights (November 21, 22, 23) but will not be returning to the former Impact Zone soundstage (SS21). Instead the production will be shooting inside the slightly smaller Sound Stage 19 which would be the one directly to the left of the Blue Man Group entrance.
(10/28/13) As rumored, TNA Wrestling has confirmed that they will return to the old Impact Zone at Universal Orlando, with the first TV show to air live on Spike TV from Orlando on November 21st. According to this article, the majority of their TV show programming will now take place in Orlando once again, but will be mixed with the occasional on the road show tours.
(10/23/13) I’m told that November 2nd will be the last day to purchase a Universal Meal Deal program, as an all new version of the program called the “Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service” will launch on November 3rd.
“The new Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service offers guests a wide variety of choices at any quick service or cart in the parks and at select locations in CityWalk! Under the Quick Service plan, guests will use pre-loaded Dining Plan cards for their meals around property good at over 100 dining locations. The Meal Deal will continue to be honored for guests who have purchased the Meal Deal via universalorlando.com or as part of their vacation package, but will no longer be available for sale as of November 3.”
Also in the employee news this week, it was confirmed that construction on the new four-level Team Member parking structure will officially begin on November 22nd, and lasting approximately six months, bringing it to completion just in time for the opening of Diagon Alley for Summer 2014.
(10/21/13) Is TNA Wrestling returning to Universal Orlando? According to this article TNA may have begin talks to return to their former Orlando soundstage as early as late November, mixed in with news that they also just cancelled their previously schedules on-the-road show to be shot in Baltimore on November 21st. While the soundstage is currently being used for Halloween Horror Nights, I suppose they could have it cleared out for TNA to use in 3-4 weeks.
Also, I've got a quick update on that third day free offer taking place from Universal Orlando currently. I’m told that the offer is currently only good for guests from the US and Canada. Sorry… that’s the breaks.
(10/18/13) Universal Orlando has announced the first two concerts for 2014 Mardi Gras celebration, on opposite ends of the event calendars. Robin Thicke will perform on February 22nd and The Wanted will perform on May 10th. Expect to see the rest of the concert schedule fleshed out by the end of the year.
(10/14/13) Universal Orlando has kicked off a great new ticket deal, offering guests 3 days of admission into Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure for the price of a 2-day admission ticket. All three days must be used within a 14-day period of time however, and while the tickets can be purchased anytime now through May 9, 2014, all tickets will expire on May 22, 2014, just before the busy Memorial Day Weekend.
The date here is also quite telling, as I’ve got a feeling that we wont see the new Diagon Alley expansion of the Wizarding World open to the public until at least Memorial Day Weekend 2014. This time period could also be used as a prediction as to when Universal may be expecting to making their next ticket price increase as well.
Universal Orlando also has a related deal going on with their resort hotel packages, offering a free third night and day in the parks with the purchase of a 2-night hotel / park ticket package. (NOTE - I’m told that the new special offers are currently only good for guests from the US and Canada. Sorry…)
(10/3/13) I think the next big clue about what Universal may be planning for the Universal Orlando theme parks has just dropped. According to this article an official blockbuster budget World of Warcraft feature film has now been dropped onto the theater release slate for December 18th, 2015. The film will be the product of that new partnership between Legendary Entertainment and Universal Studios, and as such the IP would likely be ripe for the picking for the Universal parks to dream up any number of potential World of Warcraft themed attractions and tie-ins.
In terms of the video game, it goes without saying that World of Warcraft has been a fairly global phenomenon. Bringing the game’s distinct visual style to the big screen will launch the IP from PC gaming crowd into the mainstream for sure.
(8/8/13) Universal Orlando will hold a special event called “A Celebration of Harry Potter” at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on January 24-26, 2014. Special events, a private evening reception, interactive experience, Q&A with cast members and filmmakers, and much more. A Harry Potter fan couldn’t ask for more… and I wouldn’t be surprised if they leak a few new details about the new Diagon Alley area as well during the event.
Click here for all the official details on how to attend, ticket prices and special vacation packages.
2014 - Citywalk Changes - Under Construction - (12/6/13) According to a couple of Screamscape sources, the new gothic looking building under construction at the former Latin Quarter location may be much more exciting than what I had previously thought. Instead of a new mexican food restaurant... how would you feel about the opening of a Jekyll and Hyde Club: Restaurant and Bar, like the famous one in New York City at Times Square? (Click here to see the Jekyll & Hyde website) This may be what is on the way and might be announced next week in Citywalk.
ader who sent in three new pictures showing off the new Red Oven Pizza Bakery restaurant from the outside as well as from the inside of the new built patio area. I’m not sure if it was open for business or not yet however.
I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting it myself, but the concept is a “haunted restaurant, bar and social club for eccentric explorers and mad scientists where guests eat, drink and socialize among the unusual and the bizarre.” If this is true, Citywalk is about to get very interesting...
(12/5/13) Click here to sneek a peek at the new restaurant fašade in Citywalk… as rumored, it has a very gothic church / mission style look to it.
(12/3/13) I’ve heard this rumor for some time now, but one of our sources has also added a bit too it now. Cigarz, on the upper level of Citywalk across from the Whopper Bar is rumored to be closing to make way for a new project. In fact… it isn’t just Cigarz, but the new project is also rumored to take over TCBY and the candy shop… and while these are all technically on different levels, I’m told it is for a new restaurant of some kind. Stay tuned!
(12/2/13) Today we head into Citywalk to check on the latest construction progress taking place as Citywalk evolves for 2014. While we know Red Oven is now open, pictures posted to OrlandoParkNews.com shows off construction at the former Endangered Species store area which has now been completely gutted, plus a look at the large wall and wrapping around the rumored to Mexican restaurant going in next to The Groove.
(11/20/13) The Daily City has posted a report about the brand new (and now open) Red Oven Pizza Bakery in Citywalk that includes a review, a look at the menu and tons of pictures taken inside the new restaurant. Check it out!
(11/10/13) Special thanks to a re
(11/8/13) A few new interesting updates about the future of Citywalk came my way today. While a new ice cream place was expected, it seems that it isn’t Ben & Jerry’s, but instead will be something even better… a Cold Stone Creamery expected to go in near Starbucks.
I’m told the new authentic Mexican restaurant taking over the former Latin Quarter will be called Antojitos. A new Mexican “Mission” looking fašade is expected to go up soon.
(11/7/13) A picture showing off the new front covered patio under construction for the new Red Oven Pizza joint at Citywalk can be found on twitter.
(11/4/13) The logo and signs are now up for the soon to open Red Over Pizza Bakery in Citywalk and the logo has also been placed on the Citywalk guide brochure for November.
(10/1/13) OrlandoParksNews reports from CityWalk this week that as I had rumored weeks ago, the Endangered Species store has finally closed down. I know it was still open back on Sept. 20th when I was on site myself for Halloween Horror Nights. A large steel framework has also gone up in the past week just outside the former restaurant area now gutted below Starbucks. The former Latin Quarter site has also been gutted, but I heard lots of activity going on within when I was there last week as well.
(9/16/13) Based on information found on Universal’s job page, there are several new positions opening up soon for a new restaurant coming to Citywalk called Red Oven that is expected to be a custom Universal creation and not part of a chain. According to another leaked piece of information, Red Oven will feature “authentic hand tossed pizza”.
(9/3/13) OrlandoParksNews takes a stroll around Citywalk to check on all the new construction that has been starting up all over as a new wave of improvements are on the way.
(8/6/13) Some of the rumored changes have begun inside Citywalk I’m told, with the Latin Quarter now reported as being closed and construction walls are up around Pastamore.
(7/15/13) Interesting changes are on the way to Citywalk at Universal Orlando over the next 6-8 months that will change the dining options a bit. I’m told that the Endangered Species Store is expected to close in the near future, and Starbuck and Ben & Jerry’s will move in to take over the lower level space. Pastamore is expected to possibly move down into this area as well. Meanwhile the Latin Quarter is expected to undergo a change into a more Mexican format and there is talk of the Galaxy Bar reopening as some kind of high end snack bar featuring fancy hot dog creations.
2014 - Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort - Under Construction - (10/24/13) Sneek a peek at Universal Orlando’s new bridge that will connect the Cabana Bay Beach Resort to the rest of the Universal Orlando resort. This wont be any normal bridge, but apparently it will be given a very ‘green’ look, covered in plantlife and planted trees to the point where they intent that the guests walking over the bridge will hopefully never even realize they are on a bridge over a busy road.
ch Resort at Universal Orlando. The new resort will open in two phases, with the first phase featuring 600 suite rooms opening in early 2014, possibly in January. The building in this phase will feature outdoor corridor access to the rooms and open with the first of two massive pool areas at the resort. The first pool area will also feature a kids water play area and is themed with an iconic old fashioned diving platform by the pool. No actual diving through... the platform is non-functional.
(7/22/13) Orlando Rocks has posted a few new pictures on 7/20/13 showing off the quick progress being made to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
(6/22/13) I was invited into a fantastic preview presentation to get all the latest updates about the new Cabana Bay Bea
The rest of the resort, 300 more suite rooms and 900 standard / value level rooms will open in Summer 2014 with indoor corridor access. There will also be a second pool and a lush tropical themed lazy river, that will have “sections that are not lazy at all”. What exactly that means remains to be seen and will be the subject of a future announcement from Universal, though I suspect they will be able to add some fun high speed currents and water effects to part of the river to make it more exciting.
The overall late 50's / early 60's theme of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort has tested very positive with guests of all ages. While the older generation sees it as a throwback to the days of their youth, but it also tested very positive with the younger 20's to 30's demographics who enjoy the retro style. Inspiration for the resort not only comes from classic seaside resorts along the coast, but also from the auto industry, as they are putting a modern spin on a classic design. As part of the retro / throwback feel of the resort, it will also feature a unique 10 lane bowling alley on site as well.
The new resort fills a needed "value" level option at the Universal Orlando resort, something that Lowes’ resort guests have been requesting. Standard rooms will start at $119 a night while the suites that can comfortably sleep 6 will start at $174 a night. The other main difference between a stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and a stay at one of Lowes’ other three on-site resorts is that guests will not be given the same front-of-line Universal Express access to the park attractions. However guests of the Cabana Bay will still be given the same Early Entry access into the parks as the other on-site guests.
The resort will also offer a massive food court that will not only offer classic American cuisine but also feature many International dishes. Guests will be offered bus transportation to the Universal theme parks and Citywalk, as well as making a walking path available, which will include the newly approved pedestrian bridge over the busy road to keep everyone safe. Check out the latest concept artwork, pictures of a room model as well as a picture of the first completed room interior.
(4/1/13) If there was any doubt, Orlando’s City Council voted and gave final approval for the $9 million in funding for improvements around Universal Orlando, including the new pedestrian bridge going in near the new hotel. There is a nice piece of artwork showing off what it will look like here as well.
(3/15/13) A series of photos shot at the construction site of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort has been posted to the Orlando Biz Journal. In addition to construction shots, they also posted a picture of model of the entire resort, so now we can see how the whole thing will be laid out.
(2/18/13) It looks like we may have a possible answer to the question of if Universal Orlando’s new hotel will be serviced by the riverboats that serve the other three on-site resorts. An article at the Orlando Sentinel reports that the city of Orlando will reimburse Universal Orlando around $9 million to pay for the building of a large pedestrian bridge that will cross over the intersection of Hollywood Way and Adventure Way from the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort area to the sidewalk on the Islands of Adventure side of the street. Universal has designed it and will pay to have it built, but the city will pay them back for it and in the end the city will own the bridge and not Universal.
With a clear pathway now in place for Cabana Bay Beach Resort guests to cross over the busy road, where they can travel down the sidewalk and likely pass down into the shuttle bus drop off area at the entrance to Islands of Adventure, it appears that Universal may not plan to extend the river system to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Of course, due to frequent lightning storms that stop boat transportation, there is already pedestrian access to all three existing Universal Orlando Resorts anyway, so the addition of the new bridge isn’t a firm confirmation of anything just yet, especially since the city is paying Universal back for the bridge. They may have funds to extend the river system after all. Has anyone else heard anything more about this?
(7/11/12) Universal Orlando and Loews Hotels & Resorts have announced that they will open a forth on-site resort hotel to be called Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The new resort will offer 1,800 new rooms when it opens in 2014. The resort’s rooms will be divided into two distinct experiences: 900 family suites able to sleep up to six and include a kitchen area, and 900 standard guest rooms, offering both moderate and value priced options.
The hotel will feature retro style themeing designed to evoke the memories of family long distance driving vacations, featuring bold design lines, bright colors, neon lights and two themed pool areas. It will be built on a 37 acre site near Islands of Adventure, just off Hollywood Way and Turkey Lake Road, with construction set to begin very soon.
The one main difference between staying at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and the other Universal Resorts is that while you will still get the benefits of early park admission and resort-wide charging privileges, guests staying here will not be given complimentary Universal Express Unlimited Access. So far nothing has been mentioned about expanding the river ferry system that transports guests from the other on-site resorts to the parks to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Previous rumors also suggested that this resort may feature a more extensive or surf themed pool area, but as of right now Universal is not ready to comment about any other features that will or will not be included in the hotel’s final design.
(1/30/12) Early word is that Universal Orlando may be working with their hotel partner (Lowes Hotels) on finalizing plans to open a forth resort hotel by the end of 2013 in one of the empty lots beyond the Royal Pacific. More than likely, they may opt to build this resort on the bigger plot of land, which is also the furthest one away, directly behind the giant Jurassic Park ride building. The rumored theme of this resort may be a 1960’s era California ocean side resort hotel with a heavy surfing theme. Even better news, it seems the price point they are shooting for with this new hotel may be to fit in more with Disney’s Moderate or Value resort level price point.
2014 - Employee Parking Structure - (11/26/13) Construction has begun on the new team member parking structure behind Universal Studios Florida. You can see artwork showing off what it will look like, as well as the final placement of the structure by clicking here.
(7/1/13) An interesting memo went out to Universal Orlando employees this weekend, announcing that the construction of a multi-level parking structure would soon begin for the Team Members in their current parking lot. On site surveying will begin over the next few weeks and full scale construction will begin this fall with the structure to be complete and open in 2014. From what I understand, this parking expansion project is a greatly needed infrastructure improvement for the Team Members.
???? - WWE Hall of Fame - WILD Rumor - (9/23/13) According to this report the rumored discussions of building a WWE Hall of Fame in Universal Orlando’s Citywalk area have been struggling over the issue of a possible return of TNA Impact Wrestling to tape inside one of the Orlando Soundstages again in the future.
They say that if WWE were to commit to having a presence on site, they would want an exclusivity to the park, banning any possible return of TNA to the Orlando Impact Zone soundstage. By contrast, the article claims that Universal was happy with their dealings with TNA and not only did they not want to burn that relationship, but claim that TNA had already talked with them about possibly returning to Orlando for future show tapings.
I can’t verify the validity of any of these rumors or reports myself, but I had previously heard elsewhere that TNA was welcome to return to the Impact Zone in the future… or at least they are for the time being.
(7/14/13) An interesting twist on the WWE Hall of Fame rumor is coming down as the talks of shutting down NBA City are on an increase. According to the latest whispers, before we see a WWE Hall of Fame stand-alone attraction, WWE may try their hand at running the former NBA City as a WWE themed restaurant instead. They would follow the path set by Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood by mixing up the themeing inside with various museum style displays of wrestling history as well as showing off non-stop collection wrestling matches on the video screens inside while you eat, an probably live broadcasts of their various TV programs and PPV events if you happened to dine-in at the right time.
I like this idea actually, as it would not only be a more financially sound idea for the Citywalk location, but would give them a good idea of the long-term appeal of the concept. If the restaurant could sustain a successful run, they could always expand and build a Hall of Fame attraction into any available open space nearby a few years later. Keep in mind this wouldn’t be the first WWE themed restaurant concept, as they did run “The World” in New York’s Times-Square from for a little over four years starting in late 1999, but I believe that concept might have been more of a nightclub than a themed restaurant.
(6/28/13) The rumors about bringing the WWE Hall of Fame to Universal Orlando are still going strong this week. According to the latest report from LordsOfPain the attraction is rumored as a possible replacement for the struggling NBA City restaurant.
(5/31/13) While this sounds a little crazy on the surface, the Wrestling news/rumor site LordsOfPain did mention that WWE may be in talks with Universal Orlando about building the official WWE Hall of Fame somewhere at Universal Orlando. The website mentions the possibility of building it as a free attraction inside one of the two theme parks, but I think we are more likely to see something like that built as a stand-alone exhibit somewhere inside Citywalk.
And while you may think more of TNA Wrestling when you think of Universal Orlando, keep in mind that both of the weekly WWE shows (Raw & Smackdown) are both broadcast on channels owned by the Comcast / NBC-Universal empire. It’s also worth mentioning that WWE has kept Orlando in their crosshairs ever since the successful Wrestlemania 24 event was held in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl in 2008. The “Axxess” fan event before the big show was also held inside Universal Studios Florida that year. Since then we’ve seen WWE begin taping their weekly NXT show (WWE’s Minor League) at Full Sail University in Winter Park and the recent announcement of the addition of a new WWE training facility to Orlando as well. Over the past couple of years I’ve also heard rumors of a possible physical WWE Hall of Fame attraction more than once to be eventually built somewhere in Orlando.
And just a rumor to add a little more fuel to the fire… Orlando is said to be in the running of cities likely to host WrestleMania 31 in 2015. The timing of that last rumor may be key… as it certainly would be the perfect time to open an official WWE Hall of Fame in Orlando when WrestleMania was also in town.
Future Projects - (9/12/13) The Orlando Sentinel reports that NBCUniversal President and CEO Steve Burke told investors that their studies of the Universal Orlando resort shows that they could have between 10,000 to 15,000 hotel rooms on site and maintain a profitable occupancy rate. Much like the Walt Disney World expansion in the 90s, they believe that a built-up of on-site hotel rooms will also increase attendance and profitability at the theme parks.
Currently Universal Orlando has 2,400 rooms between the three existing resorts (Portifino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel and the Royal Pacific) and jump to 4,200 rooms next year when the Cabana Bay Beach Resort opens. By comparison to Walt Disney World’s 26,000 rooms, this isn’t much, but if Universal Orlando were to aggressively double or even triple the number of rooms they have on site, I’m certain this could certainly send a shockwave that would be felt by Disney’s own occupancy rate.
In addition, Burke says that parent company Comcast will accelerate the pace of new rides and attractions at the parks, as recent investments have been paying off. Attendance at Universal Studios Florida has been up close to 20% since Transformers opened in June. NBCUniversal will elevate Capital Spending to almost $500 million this year… a figure that the the Sentinel notes will likely because the company’s new baseline, as the goal is to now open a new attraction every single year at both Universal Studios Hollywood and at the Universal Orlando Resort.
(9/11/13) Is a new Universal Orlando waterpark experience still on the table? According to one Screamscape source, the dream of building a brand new, on-property, Universal branded waterpark is not only alive, but still in development for the future. If approved and built, it would be located on the undeveloped piece of property that sits between the Royal Pacific and the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
I had heard for years that Universal had been pondering building their own waterpark and had conducted guest surveys to determine what guest’s expectations of a “Universal” branded waterpark experience would include. After all, the clock was ticking… and the land lease for the property under Wet ‘n Wild wasn’t going to last forever.
That is… the clock WAS ticking… until Comcast surprised everyone by suddenly swinging a deal to buy up all the land under Wet ‘n Wild earlier this year. At that point, I think most people figured the idea of a new Universal waterpark was dead and possibly even unnecessary. Apparently not…
Of course if this is all true, then the other shoe must be dropped… because if they build a new state of the art waterpark on property, what will become of Wet ‘n Wild? Currently the Orlando waterpark market is pretty full… and while Wet ‘n Wild has a lot of fun attractions, it is also one of the oldest attractions in Orlando, sitting on potentially a very valuable piece of property in a high traffic area in terms of both vehicles and foot traffic. While one obvious use for the Wet ‘n Wild property could be to build yet another large resort hotel (just slightly off-site compared to the rest) I’ve got to think there may be other options on the table as well. Just something to think about…
(4/23/13) I’m not quite sure who is spreading the rumor that Universal Orlando is planning a 3rd park by 2018 but it certainly hasn’t been me. To be honest, not only has this rumor not even touched my keyboard, but it hasn’t even passed within a whisper of my ever-listening ears, or those of the Screamscape Spy-Network.
So right now, much like the fellow at the Orlando Business Journal, I’m not buying into this rumor either. The only new ‘park’ I’ve been talking about Universal Orlando looking into building for several years now is to build their very own themed waterpark, which will serve as a replacement for Wet ‘n Wild when the lease eventually runs out on that property.
By contrast, my inbox has been full of nothing but huge rumors for all new attractions and mega-investments into Universal Orlando’s existing two theme parks… and nothing at all about a new 3rd mega park. Now… I’m not saying that a 3rd park is impossible… it just isn’t in the cards right now.
Once upon a time it was, back when Universal was owned by Seagram’s and they bought up that huge piece of property that the new convention center building sits on that ran from there all the way down almost to John Young Parkway that is now home to the Rosen Shingle Creek resort, golf courses, a Westin hotel and more. Back before Vivendi bought Universal from Seagram’s and sold off all this valuable property, THIS was supposed to be the future site for Universal expansion projects for years to come. They planned golf courses, new resort hotels, a new mega theme park (maybe two) as well as an all new waterpark experience. Unfortunately, none of it ever saw the light of day when Vivendi sold the property off piece-meal to anyone who opened their checkbook because they were in such a poor financial state.
So based on that… we know Universal did have dreams of expansion beyond their currently property line where they have now become landlocked. As things go right now, Universal really has no room for a third mega-park… only a waterpark or more hotels. They’ll need to buy up more property if they want to expand in a bigger way.
(10/17/12) A report at MiceChat all about Universal Orlando starts off showing off the construction and ongoing maintenance efforts Universal has been doing in the parks and ends with some great news. They report that $1.5 Billion dollars has now been approved for future capital projects at Universal Orlando over the next 10 year, starting things off with the fast-tracked Transformers ride and then the London side of the Potterverse.
Beyond those two projects, there is an estimated $850 million leftover for future projects. The first of these have already begun to possibly surface, with rumors of a couple of Seuss ride concepts dueling for attention themed to either The Lorax or The Grinch. Something new could awaken in Jurassic Park, or Universal may choose to drop the Marvel heros and rethemed that Island. Over at the Studios, we’ve heard for some time now that T2/3D was on the chopping block, and several new plans have been envisioned to rethemed the kiddie area, and perhaps even eventually replace ET with something new. Either way, looks like the next decade is going to be bright and very busy for Universal Orlando.