Universal Orlando Acquires Even More Land for Fourth Theme Park – What’s Next?

Recently, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Universal Orlando acquired a huge chunk of land just across Sand Lake Road from where their current theme parks reside. If you’ve been keeping up, Universal has been slowly purchasing parcels of land that are somewhat disjointed and still contain several spots that they don’t quite yet own.

Source: Orlando Sentinel/Orange County Planning Division

In short, on April 11, 2018, Universal acquired all the land in orange (or red) seen above. Previously, Universal had been acquiring the other parcels located in blue.  At least some of that land is being developed for a fourth gate for Universal Orlando. Now that this additional land (the total acreage is unknown, but it’s safe to say it is over 600 acres at this point) is officially in the hands of SLRC Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Universal Studios. We can expect to see cool concept art of the layout of the park. This means new shows, new rides and new hotels. We should see it in a few weeks, right? Right?!? Not so fast.

There is a lot of non-sexy work that needs to move forward before we will hear an official peep out of Universal Orlando about what is being designed for this property. For starters, easement usage could be tricky. Notice that because this isn’t one giant chunk of perfectly square (or rectangular or circular) land, the way it connects with various outside roads and other properties is well, sticky.  Easement pertains to a parcel of land that is not easily accessible via roadways.  Meaning if you need to access a piece of property you own and there is no easy way to get to it, a judge can grant you access to travel through someone else’s property to get to your land.

Considering that thousands of people could be going from point to point on this property, from guests to employees and service roads, this could be tricky, but certainly not impossible.  In addition, there could be utilities such as electrical, water and sewage that need to be run through other properties to reach whatever Universal is going to build. Let’s face it, it’s a fourth park. You’re going to need a lot of utilities running all over this land.

Then you have to do environmental studies on how construction, congestion, noise, etc. will have an impact on the ecosystem in the area.  Not to mention, you have to get approval from the county to build on that land. If I’m not mistaken, not only will there be a fourth theme park, but more hotels, more shopping and dining and well… other things.  What other things? We will cover that in the future.

Finally, there is always the controversial, yet inevitable request for government subsidies to build a new project this massive.  In the past, Orange County has been fairly generous in handing out huge tax breaks and subsidies to companies like Universal in exchange for bringing more jobs and tax dollars to the community. No doubt, Universal will be asking for that money to help build roads, bridges and probably parking structures.

When will we hear an official announcement, find out a name or even see a logo? My guess is we are at least a year out. All of the items I’ve listed above take time. Do you think Universal is going to start working on the fourth park (and everything else) now that they have a decent amount of land? Nope. They haven’t been acquiring this land and not making plans behind-the-scenes. Of course, they have been ready and everything I have mentioned above (and then some) has been in the works for quite some time now. It still continues to be developed behind-the-scenes very quietly.  I can guarantee you a master plan exists.  Is it final? Probably not. But I am sure the master planning process started quite some time ago.

The good news is that TPU has been quietly tracking the progress of the fourth park for over a year now. Quietly speaking to industry experts, learning from other developers about how to build a theme park and we have a LOT to uncover as this story develops. However, this is Theme Park University. We talk about the ins and outs of how theme parks tick. There is a lot more to this fourth theme park than cool rides and concept art, but we will cover this more and more in the future, I promise.

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