With every day that passes we are getting closer to the opening of the Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Universal is still only saying “Summer 2021” when asked for an opening date, but we can’t be too far away, given how much testing has been going on for this impressive new ride.
Today we’re checking in on some of the changes around the area, including some new paint, lighting and fire tests at the ride’s main entrance, new lockers, and much more! Plus, I’ll throw my hat in the ring for when I think we could see it open. See the complete photo report below, and check out the video version of this story for additional visuals.
Before we enter the park, the height requirement for the ride has been added to the board in front of Islands of Adventure. This way kids can see if they’re tall enough to ride, even though the ride is not yet open to guests. The official height requirement will be a minimum of 51 inches (129.5 cm) tall.
Inside of the park, the first thing I noticed on this trip, were some of the recent changes to the front of the Discovery Center. Parts of the structure have been receiving new coats of paint, including the Jurassic Park sign, which is much brighter now, and the support columns, which are less orange in favor of a more natural tone.
Brightly colored bougainvillea plants have bloomed along the railing in front of the waterfront area, adding another pop of color.
The ride’s main entrance, which is located in this area near the Discovery Center, has been testing both lighting and fire effects in recent weeks. Torches can be seen on either side of the main entrance, set below the two raptor statues on the roof.
Inside the entry, LED lighting pulses with color, changing from blue to white to red. The main entrance’s sign seems to pulse with red as well at regular intervals, which is expected to tie into the ride’s story somehow.
In aerial photos from Bioreconstruct on Twitter, we can see that the ride warnings sign and different entrance markers have been installed.
Fake plants have been added to the queue/station building. Some are hiding equipment on the roof, while fake vines help give the structure the appearance of being older than it is.
The VelociCoaster has been testing everyday, usually with multiple trains at the same time. Not only can these tests be useful for making sure the attraction runs smoothly when it opens, they are necessary to put each train through a set number of hours of operation before being signed off by the park as safe for guests.
The bypass bridge that leads from Lost Continent to Jurassic Park, (bypassing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade,) has been open recently. This bridge helps keep crowds lower in Hogsmeade on busy days, like right now during Spring Break.
One thing of note, it has been rumored that this new backstage gate off to the left of the bridge’s entrance could possibly be used for additional extended queue in the early days of VelociCoaster’s operations. Behind the gate is a newly poured slab that connects to the bridge. And the bridge leads directly towards the attraction’s entrance, making all of this potential extended queue.
Catching the coaster testing from this bridge is truly breathtaking, as then you start to really feel how powerful this thing actually is.
Fake plants were added along some of the outdoor seating area at the Three Broomsticks where the coaster passes by.
Continuing on the bypass bridge, it leads directly towards the VelociCoaster’s entrance, which is currently blocked by work walls and plants.
Around the waterfront area, it looks like fans have been installed to help keep guests cool while waiting in line for the ride outside.
At the end of the bridge you must turn right towards the main Jurassic Park area, since you cannot continue to the ride entrance. Here you’ll be greeted by the pair of velociraptor statues that guard entry to this area.
These statues were recently painted to add their finishing touches, making them look like aged bronze.
Continuing on, the walkway between the main Jurassic Park area and this Jurassic World VelociCoaster courtyard area has been landscaped to allow for the increased foot traffic. Plants have been removed and cut back dramatically on either side, revealing some of the nicer looking trees and plants, and removing a bit of the unkempt jungle feel it had before.
The screen-used Ford Explorer from the original Jurassic Park film that was here has been removed. More later on where it may end up.
On the other side of the path, the fossil displays along the exterior wall of the Discovery Center have been repainted. They are now in a much brighter, and somewhat metallic shade. Previously they were more natural and muted color.
Speaking of the Discovery Center, new lockers for the VelociCoaster were installed on the first floor. These lockers are located near the lower-level entrance, so can easily be accessed by guests before riding. Only large, paid lockers are located here.
These will cost $2 while you ride, but smaller, free lockers will be available inside of the attraction’s queue before load. All of the attractions that require lockers at Universal Orlando offer these two size lockers, with “standard” available for free while you ride and “large” available for $2. The only difference here being that the standard size lockers are located within the queue itself instead of outside the attraction like usual.
A small hands-on exhibit for small children was removed to place these new lockers. (Team Members had issues with kids climbing on the previous exhibit despite the “no climbing” signs plastered all over it anyway.)
No other exhibits have been removed from the Discovery Center at this time. Although, just like other hands-on activities around the resort, these exhibits are currently closed. The first floor is being utilized as an Annual Passholder dining area for Burger Digs at this time.
Heading back outside, let’s check in on the raptor paddock area of the attraction, where the first half of the ride takes place.
Lately, the ride has been testing with sound effects on. It’s not yet known whether the trains have on-board audio (although most people don’t believe that they do,) but the first scene after turn one includes the sounds of raptors and the voice of Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady.
— Inside the Castle (@insideuniversal) March 30, 2021
In the paddock area, a few more fake plants have been added. Some have been placed along the railing of the ride’s first launch. And more can be seen around the roof of the main building.
At night they have been testing a new lighting effect. A spotlight shines down from the warden tower, and actually follows the coaster train, tracking along with its movements as it passes through the paddock. Check out the quick video clip below to see for yourself!
This is so cool!
A spotlight from the Raptor Paddock Guard Tower following the VelociCoaster train! We can't wait to ride this at night! pic.twitter.com/0bzxxEfIuQ
— 🎢 ThrillGeek 🎥 (@thrillgeek) March 27, 2021
One last piece of construction happening around the area are these work walls up in front of Thunder Falls Terrace. A new planter of some sort is expected to be added in this area, but some have said they’ve heard rumors that the old T-Rex photo-op may get a new home here. And even better, she may be paired back up with the Ford Explorer they removed from the pathway. We’ll be keeping an eye out!
So, when will the Jurassic World VelociCoaster open? Your guess is as good as mine! We know there were inspections scheduled a few days ago for the queue. If and when the building passes inspection, that’ll mean it will be certified for guests to enter. We do not know how much longer they need to cycle the trains though.
Some out there believe we could now see Team Member previews for the coaster by the middle of this month. I could imagine they may be spread out though, to help with social distancing. That means these previews could take a couple weeks.
Just guessing, but I would then hope to see some sort of soft openings or even passholder previews in May. And, while Universal Orlando seems hesitant about announcing an official date, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an official grand opening by June. What do you think?
That’s all for now, but check out the video version of this story for additional visuals. And see our previous story on “Everything We Know About the VelociCoaster” for more details about what will be on the ride itself and coaster stats!