Epic Universe is set for a Summer 2025 opening, but according to new public documents, it has been experiencing some delays. Despite that, new additions and major changes to the plans have been approved and are underway.
Let’s check in on the Epic Universe site, not only to see how it was affected by the recent storm, but also what progress was made since our last update, and what new permits can tell us about some of the additions to the park. See the video version of this story for additional visuals.
In aerial photographs taken by Bioreconstruct just a day after Hurricane Ian left the Orlando area, we can see what the torrential rains had left behind at the Epic Universe site.
Much of the flooding appeared to be mostly relegated to lagoons and basement level areas that were dug out to be below the park’s normal grade. Water may need to pumped out, and some parts of the park may need to be reshaped as water has seemingly eroded some area’s land grading.
While the ponds on property had reached their maximum height, they did not appear to be overflowing as of last Friday, and looked to have been draining as intended.
Drainage plans for Epic Universe are rated for up to 10.6″ of rain within a 24-hour period, which documents refer to as a once-in-a-hundred-year storm. Unfortunately, hurricane Ian is being called a once in a 200-year storm, after bringing about 14″ of rain to this area.
Luckily the ponds seem to have handled the drainage well enough, and even more luckily, we have not seen any additional rain in the days following, allowing waters to start to recede after the storm.
It is hard to tell if the storm has caused any structural damage to buildings that had already started construction, but nothing major is noticeable in the photographs at first glance.
What we can see is what progress was made around the Epic Universe site since our last update, including some obvious things like new track installed at the Yoshi’s Adventure ride in Super Nintendo World.
These new sections of track are located at the final scenes for ride, and connect to the round load platform above the ride’s main entrance. New steel can also be seen installed, which is starting to create the ceiling for the load area.
More track was also installed at the Donkey Kong mine cart roller coaster. New forms are taking shape around the second exterior section of the ride as well, which will pass over a water feature within the area.
Sections of ride path within the Mario Kart attraction building’s footprint look as though they may have been covered with plastic to help protect them from the storm. This large indoor ride is being enclosed as more steel has been installed for the structure itself.
Public documents from September show that multiple projects within the Super Nintendo World are actually behind schedule, as permit extensions were requested. The documents, which are for building numbers which contain the Yoshi ride and another for the Donkey Kong ride, state that the “project is experiencing delays,” but do not cite any specific reason.
Walls continue to rise for the building located in the park’s central hub just outside of Super Nintendo World. The small section of the structure on the left will be for a retail location, expected to be for Nintendo.
Next to the retail space will be restrooms in the center of the structure. And the larger section on the right will be a quick service restaurant. Walls have started to go up for the restaurant since our last update.
The area we believe will be themed to Universal Monsters looked to have been affected by flooding in these photos from last Friday. While the main indoor attraction, which is currently set higher than the rest of the area, is not flooded, everything from the land’s portal entrance up to that ride was.
We have been following developments for a possible roller coaster attraction within this land this year, and thanks to new permits filed with Orange County, we have our best look yet at what we can expect for this ride. The coaster ride was not originally planned for this area, but was added in later, replacing a theater attraction.
An updated site plan from the county appears to show that very little of this new attraction will be indoors. Permits describe a ride load station at the back of the larger structure. This structure does not appear to be very large though, so perhaps this ride will see outdoor covered queue instead of an indoor queue.
Another structure described in permits is located within the land’s central courtyard area. We have suspected this will be the ride’s main lift hill or launch. Permits call this structure “Scene 2,” so it may come immediately after the vehicles leave the load station and start the ride.
Rumors have said this new roller coaster may be themed to the Wolfman, as seen in the Universal Classic Monsters films. While these details have not been confirmed whatsoever, some have suggested that this lift hill may feature a brief indoor scene where riders see a full moon. Similar to The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure, we ourselves may be experiencing the Wolfman transformation as we’re launched out into the main ride area.
Rumor also says that this will be a spinning roller coaster from Mack Rides. Originally it was rumored to be more family-friendly, like Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa or Storm Chaser at Paulton’s Park, but some rumors say it may be more intense, like Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City. If this ride is from Mack, it might not be the only last-minute addition to the park from the manufacturer.
In an interview from earlier this year, Roland Mack of Mack Rides said that not only were they able to resume a large order from Universal after the pause in construction due to the pandemic, but that Universal ordered two more ride installations as well. The large order is presumably the massive dual-track roller coaster that will be part of the hub. One of the two extra rides may be the possible spinning coaster for the Monsters land. But what about the third?
Permits describe what could be a flat ride for the very center of the park. This would be located above the park’s central lagoon. Currently it is hard to see construction on this project as the park’s three water features have been filled with rain water from the storm, but the central one does feature construction that is what we would expect for some sort of round flat ride.
This flat ride was originally rumored to be a type of carousel, and according to rumors it probably was. However, new rumors suggest that instead this ride could be a Mack Twist ‘n’ Splash. That’s a round flat ride that’s more like a spinning teacup ride than a carousel, but floating on water. The attraction can even be outfitted with water canons that would allow riders to spray other cars as they pass.
Even though this attraction has not been confirmed for Epic Universe, a comparison of existing Twist ‘n’ Splash ride footprints to the construction happening within this new park shows an exact match in size.
Construction photos for the ride in those other parks also seems to look similar to what is being built here. We’ll be keeping an eye out to see how this project progresses before we know for sure though.
In our last update we talked about the possibly cancelled second attraction for the park’s Wizarding World area, and how they may handle the missing ride. New permit information that has been filed since seems to confirm that while the facades for this area are being constructed, the building that was originally set to house a virtual reality attraction will not be.
In fact, permits seem to only show the entrance corridor for a ride being built, but not the ride building itself. This small corridor features the building number for the former VR attraction, but behind it is now only empty space in the site plan. The good news is, this empty space is large enough to construct a ride the size of the massive Ministry of Magic ride being built on the left side of the land. So maybe someday, this land could receive a very large expansion.
Permits do still show the theater building between these two areas as going on as originally planned, so it’s possible the Wizarding World will at least still open with two attractions. The updated site plan shows no apparent changes to the shops and dining from the original plans from nearly three years ago.
And speaking of site plans, new public documents published by the Orlando Utilities Commission are giving us some insight into the hotel at the back of the theme park.
Known as Project 910 within permits, many believe this hotel might be named “Universal’s Helios Grand Hotel,” due to a trademark filed by Universal last year. A street name petition filed by Universal for the road that leads to this new hotel may prove that, as it is set to be called “Helios.”
The water documents from OUC include a site plan that shows off the location for the hotel itself, with a sunburst design emanating from its front entrance on the north side of the building. The newly named “Helios” road leading in from the Kirkman Road extension comes into the image from the left, leading to the lobby entrance, and ending at the hotel’s parking area on the right.
The pool area for this new hotel can be seen on the left side of the image. It shows a poolside bar area below the pool.
The site plan also shows the location of the theme park’s future parade building. It has long been rumored that Epic Universe would be able to accommodate a parade someday. Now we know that space has been allocated for a future parade building here, to the left of the hotel pool, and just north of the Universal Monsters land.
The overlay graphic below from Tommy Hawkins shows how all of the hotel areas will look within the Epic Universe theme park site.
Other details were included in the public documents, like that of the hotel’s 500 rooms, 27 will be suites with two or more bedrooms and the remaining 473 will either be single rooms or suites with only one bedroom.
We also learned how many restaurants will be included in this new hotel, and got confirmation that there will in fact be a rooftop bar, which is listed as having 229 seats. Rumors have said this lounge may offer views of a possible fireworks show nightly.
That’s all for this update, but we will be keeping a close eye on the Epic Universe site to see how it recovers from the storm. See the video version of this story for additional visuals.
A big thank you to Bioreconstruct for the great aerial photographs, and to Tommy Hawkins for helping us make sense of the areas with the detailed graphics. You can follow both of them on Twitter for more.
Consider donating to the World Central Kitchen, Second Harvest Food Bank, or the Florida Disaster Fund if you can. See the recent Saturday Six story from Touring Plans for more information on how you can help.
Subscribe to the news feed or enter your email address below to never miss an update. Official Concept Art: Universal Orlando | Aerial Photos: Bioreconstruct | Graphics: Tommy Hawkins | Other Images as Captioned