UPDATE DEC 19, 2023: Universal has confirmed the land acquisition and says they are in the early stages of exploring feasibility for a potential park and resort at the site. Learn More
Universal is planning a new theme park for the United Kingdom. After opening their newest park and resort in Beijing, and now finishing up the upcoming Epic Universe theme park in Orlando, it seems like the company has set its sights on building its next full-scale park in England.
Let’s dig into documents showing where the company has purchased land for this new park, what types of properties it’s rumored to contain, and when it may open, in today’s breaking news update. See the video version of this story below for additional visuals.
The newly-branded Universal Destinations and Experiences division, under its parent company Comcast, has expressed a desire to branch out and bring new theme parks and themed experiences to new locations around the world. On a small scale, projects like Universal Kids Resort in Frisco, Texas and Universal Horror Unleashed in Las Vegas, Nevada show just one of the ways the company will be achieving this.
While rumors have surfaced on forums and on social media for the company to be bringing a Universal park or experience to Europe, we had not had much solid evidence as to where exactly this could be happening, until now.
Narrowing down the possible location for the company’s next big theme park, it does appear that they have registered the domains “universalstudiosgreatbritain.com” and “universalgreatbritain.com.”
These domains, along with their “.co.uk” counterparts, appear to have been registered by NBCUniversal, and using the same registrar as other Universal parks’ website domains.
These URLs were registered in September of 2023. As we would later find out, that’s right after the company had seemingly acquired land in the region.
According to an SEC report released after Comcast’s third quarter in October 2023, the company disclosed that $271 million were spent, “associated with the acquisition of land for potential theme park expansion opportunities.” We do not know for certain that this financial disclosure is related to a park in Great Britain, but the timing of it is curious.
Public records do show that Comcast acquired a construction and development company, named “Cloud Wing UK Limited,” in 2023. Documents state Comcast took over the company on August 31, 2023, but the deal wasn’t finalized until later in the fall, with Comcast now listed as having full control.
With the acquisition of Cloud Wing, Comcast also received its land assets, which include a 240 acre (95 hectare) section of a parcel of land in Bedford, England.
Known as the “Kempston Hardwick New Settlement,” this former brickworks land is currently described as for agricultural uses, but has had multiple stalled proposals for future commercial use over the years.
The Kempston Hardwick property had previously been for sale, but it looks as though its former owner may have taken it off the market in the middle of 2023.
This particular property may be only one parcel that Comcast has acquired with the acquisition of the Cloud Wing company.
In total, it seems as though the company has acquired around 500 acres (or 200 hectares) of total land in Bedford, England.
A Bedford Business Park proposal from 2020 gives us a look at the property outline that Universal may be working within when designing their new theme park. The red outline on this map shows most or all of what we believe to be Comcast’s newly acquired property.
Proposals for a Bedford Business Park in 2018 show how this property may have been built out if it had been developed for other companies. This iteration shows what the document calls “businesses, industrial premises, and warehouses.”
This site in Bedford, which we believe is where Comcast will be building their new Universal Studios Great Britain, is about 46 miles (74 kilometers) north of London.
In fact, this site was actually one of 11 different locations considered for the often reported on “London Resort.” That project scouted this location, noting it had “strategic road and rail connections.”
Its proximity to nearby roads and railway stations, both of which have received plans for future improvement in coming years, may have played a role in Comcast deciding to purchase land in this area.
Interestingly, when discussing upcoming upgrades to the borough’s connecting roadways last week, the mayor of Bedford was quoted as saying “it puts Bedford in the centre of the universe,” which may be a bit of foreshadowing for what’s to come.
In fact, Universal may not be the only company interested in this up and coming area, as Quartermaster and VERB have announced plans to bring next generation film studios to Bedford.
The “Home of Production Bedfordshire,” (HOP Studios,) will include over 1.5 million square feet of production studio space, including sound stages, production houses, and a backlot area.
Curiously, these proposed movie studio plans are not related to Universal Studios, but if they build it where they’ve announced they will, the two companies could be nearby neighbors.
Getting into rumor territory, while Comcast’s acquisition of the Cloud Wing company and its land holdings can be confirmed by public records, there are rumors floating around for this possible theme park project that cannot be so easily confirmed.
It is worth keeping in mind though, that it is still incredibly early in this possible project’s development, and things are of course subject to change. Even though there are rumors for a Universal Studios Great Britain, and we have found evidence of a land sale, that does not mean that the company will definitely go through with it.
That said, rumors do have the timeline for this project being completed with a new theme park ready and open by 2030. The goal may be to finish Epic Universe first before major construction begins on Universal Great Britain, so the company is only ever building one new full-scale theme park at a time, to help spread out costs.
And that is the rumor, that this would be the site for a fully-fledged Universal Studios theme park—not a smaller park experience like Universal Kids Resort in Texas.
Rumors say that the new theme park would contain many indoor rides and experiences. This is how Universal Studios Beijing was designed, with local weather concerns in mind.
That park contains some lands that are entirely indoors, like the Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness and the Minions’ Super Silly Fun Land area, as well as new indoor experiences based on properties that are usually given outdoor attractions, like the Jurassic World Adventure dark ride and enclosed Camp Jurassic play area.
There is also a rumor that this new park is being designed to not open with any cloned attractions from the Universal Orlando Resort. It is assumed this consideration is being made so as to not cannibalize the company’s overseas travel market. Instead, this park may debut with new attractions not found in Orlando to attract its own visitors from other markets, as well as UK locals.
Now, that does not mean the park would not contain cloned attractions from other Universal parks around the world. The aforementioned Jurassic World Adventure comes to mind for example, something that is not present at the Orlando parks.
Of course, Universal would be wise to create this new theme park with some unique attractions and experiences of its own. That would help set it apart from other Universal destinations around the world.
Rumors for possible outside intellectual properties the company may be attempting to acquire for this park include James Bond, Paddington Bear, and The Lord of the Rings.
According to reports in recent years, Universal may already have acquired the theme park rights to The Lord of the Rings. They may be waiting for the right place to build its first theme park land at a Universal park. And this may be just the spot.
As was mentioned in a BBC article about the upcoming traffic changes coming to the area over the next few years, Bedford is about to be “a lot more attractive place for people to… invest [in].”
UPDATE DEC 19, 2023: Universal has confirmed the land acquisition and released the following statement to the Bedford Independent:
“We recently acquired land in Bedford [Borough] and are at the early stages of exploring its feasibility for a potential park and resort at this site.
“It will be many months before we are ready to make a decision to proceed and we look forward to engaging with all relevant stakeholders and the local community.”
Universal also released an official map showing the exact outline of the land they have purchased for this possible project.
An official timetable was not released from the company, but they did say “We support Bedford’s vision of becoming a prosperous place to live, work and visit and we take a proactive approach to partnering with local communities and stakeholders, like Bedford Borough Council, when pursuing potential projects.”
You can learn more on this developing story in the recent report by the Bedford Independent.
That’s all for now, but be sure subscribe to our news feed or our YouTube Channel, as we’re just getting started with our coverage of Universal Studios Great Britain. Check out the video version of this story for additional visual elements.
Subscribe to the news feed or enter your email address below to never miss an update. Official Art & Logos: Universal Destinations & Experiences | Bedford Photos: @leavesonthelawn | Company Documents: Gov.uk | Graphics and Overlays: Alicia Stella | Other Images as Captioned