Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando Resort
Division
FoundedJune 7, 1990; 29 years ago (1990-06-07)
HeadquartersOrlando, Florida, U.S.
Key people
Bill Davis[1]
OwnerNBCUniversal
(Comcast)
ParentUniversal Parks & Resorts
(Official website

The Universal Orlando Resort, commonly known as Universal Orlando, formerly Universal Studios Escape or simply ”Universal“, is an American theme park and entertainment resort complex based in Orlando, Florida. The resort is operated by Universal Parks & Resorts. It is wholly owned by NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast. Universal Orlando is the second-largest resort in Greater Orlando, after the Walt Disney World resort, covering 541 acres of land.[2]

Universal Orlando consists of two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure), a water park (Volcano Bay), a night-time entertainment complex (Universal CityWalk Orlando), six Loews Hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Aventura Hotel), and an upcoming park, Epic Universe. All of the hotel resorts offer Early Park Admission into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay. Additionally, the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort offer free unlimited Universal Express Pass for use at participating rides at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This benefit is not valid at Volcano Bay, Halloween Horror Nights , or Rock the Universe.

Universal Orlando is one of the most visited resorts in the world, with an annual attendance of 21 million in 2017.[3] Universal Orlando is the flagship resort of Universal Parks & Resorts, especially due to the competitive nature between the resort and Walt Disney World.

History

Universal Orlando opened on June 7, 1990 as the theme park Universal Studios Florida. It was opened as a joint venture between Universal Entertainment and The Blackstone Group. The park was in direct competition with Disney MGM Studios (now called Disney's Hollywood Studios).

In 1994, executives started planning the expansion of the resort into a multi-day vacation destination. In late 1995, construction began on a new park, Islands of Adventure. The Islands of Adventure Preview Center opened in May 1997 replacing the Screen Test Home Video Adventure. During this time, several new attractions were being built and opened at Universal Studios Florida, including Woody Woodpecker's KidZone, which opened in 1998, Men in Black: Alien Attack and Animal Actors On Location! (formerly Animal Planet Live).

On May 28, 1999, Universal’s Islands of Adventure opened to the general public. It featured six themed "islands", including the Port of Entry, Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. The park opened to mediocre attendance, and several attractions were closed shortly thereafter, including Island Skipper Tours, due to lack of attendance.

Along with the new theme park, the resort also opened a Florida version of Universal CityWalk from Universal Studios Hollywood. CityWalk Orlando, but with different venues and design. Universal also opened the resort's first onsite hotel in September 1999. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (originally Portofino Bay Hotel, a Loews Hotel) was operated and partially owned by Loews Hotels but was also partially owned by Universal and The Blackstone Group. The two theme parks, CityWalk, and the hotel were branded as Universal Studios Escape, however the name was quickly changed to Universal Orlando Resort. In December 2000, Hard Rock Hotel opened as Universal Orlando's second onsite hotel. Despite its name, the hotel is owned by Loews Hotels, like Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and is not affiliated with Hard Rock International. In 2001, Loews Royal Pacific Resort opened. In the midst of all these openings, two parking garages were constructed and the popular water park Wet 'n Wild Orlando was acquired. In 2003, rumors began swirling that a Harry Potter themed attraction would be coming to Universal or one of the Disney parks. On May 31, 2007, Universal, in partnership with Warner Bros., officially announced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be added to its Islands of Adventure park. Just over three years later, on June 18, 2010, the seventh "island" at Universal's Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opened.

Shortly after the massive success of the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, rumors began to swirl once again, this time of a second Potter-themed area in Universal Studios Florida. It was announced shortly thereafter that Universal would begin construction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter -Diagon Alley, replacing Jaws: The Ride.[4] On July 8, 2014, Diagon Alley officially opened to the public.[5]

The Blackstone Group sold its stake in Universal Orlando in early 2011.[6]