Universal Orlando’s announced new theme park, Epic Universe, was put on hold over the summer due to the pandemic. The company says they are waiting until the future looks more bright before picking the project back up.
In the meantime, there are still a few parts of this massive project that we’re only just now learning more about. Let’s dig into the largest attraction for the park’s central hub in today’s news and rumor update. Check out the video version of this story for additional visuals.
Unlike Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure, Epic Universe was not designed with a central lagoon, but rather a central hub. Although, instead of a single round hub like the Magic Kingdom, this park was going to incorporate three circles, something I’ve referred to affectionately as the “snowman” design.
Around these rings would be smaller neighborhoods each themed to different elements including sections based on air, water, and fire. These areas will include many different beautifully themed shops and restaurants, styled in ways that compliment their element. The center ring, however, looks like it will be themed to space. Known unofficially as the Celestial Gardens, this central part of the park is expected to feature two attractions.
The first attraction for the central ring is expected to be some sort of indoor ride, most likely a carousel. Speculation has us riding upon creatures taken directly from constellations in the sky, which would make it a zodiac themed merry-go-round. The other attraction is a bit easier to understand, just from looking at the officially released concept art. This ride will be a massive racing style roller coaster.
Unlike an attraction like the former Dueling Dragons/Dragon Challenge coaster at Islands of Adventure, which had two different tracks and some well-timed near misses, a racing coaster like this will have two trains traveling side by side for most of the circuit. They appear to roll and twist around one another in a couple spots, but for the most part, they race side by side.
For awhile many assumed that Epic Universe’s space-themed racing coaster would be manufactured by Premier Rides, the same company behind West Coast Racers in Six Flags Magic Mountain. Now, it appears instead that the manufacturer was set to be Mack Rides. It’s assumed that Mack was also commissioned to create the Splash Battle boat ride system for the How to Train Your Dragon land in this park.
It’s hard to tell from the concept art whether or not this attraction would be made of two distinct tracks, or, would be one complete circuit with a pause in the middle like West Coast Racers. Early track layouts for the space race coaster make it seem like it was originally planned as two tracks like Dueling Dragons, but that layout doesn’t seem to match the official concept art.
Plus, in a recent interview, Roland Mack of Mack Rides said that they were working with Universal to create the “largest coaster in the world,” which was planned for 2023, the original opening time-frame for Epic Universe.
Mack’s statements on the project seem to coincide with the pause in Epic Universe’s development. The company said that while Universal cancelled the order, which would’ve been worth millions, Roland Mack sounded positive that they would eventually still want the coaster, saying: “This order will come, but it is currently impossible to predict when. At least not in 2023, when it was planned.” (Note: This quote has been translated from native German.)
While some infrastructure work has continued near the site of the proposed theme park near the Orange County Convention Center, construction on Epic Universe itself has been halted. The park may be delayed, but Universal’s parent company, Comcast, is quick to specify that it has not been cancelled.
Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh said back in May that “I can’t tell you when that’s going to be when we revisit it,” adding “The confidence is high” and “It’s a great project.” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in July that Epic Universe is paused “until the future becomes more certain.”
Rumors say that as of right now, Universal is waiting until the end of the year before making any big decisions about the future of the parks in Orlando. All additional ride and show projects for Universal Orlando after next summer’s VelociCoaster have been put on hold, not just Epic Universe, for the time being.
I personally hope things can get better sooner rather than later, not just so we can see development return to the parks, but more importantly, so Team Members and Cast Members can find some sense of job security in the sector once again. With so much of our local economy built around tourism here in Orlando, I’m hoping we can work towards a brighter future, for everyone.
Visit the Cast Member Pantry, Second Harvest Food Bank, or other local charities online, to learn how you can help those that have been affected by recent layoffs in our community. There are also Facebook groups where those that have been impacted by COVID-related layoffs can share their side hustles, look for available job listings, or find other resources. Cast Members can join groups like the Ear for Each Other, while Team Members can join the newly formed Family is Universal group.
What do you think about the space race coaster for Epic Universe? Do you think it was designed as two dueling tracks, or one mobius track like West Coast Racers? Leave a comment with your thoughts. And be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals.
Stay tuned for continuing coverage of Universal’s Epic Universe. Subscribe to the news feed or enter your email address below to never miss an update. Official Concept Art: Universal Orlando Resort | Graphics: Alicia Stella | Aerial Photo: @bioreconstruct