Walt Disney World managers may not publicly admit they’re in a battle for tourist dollars, but there is an arms race going on in Orlando and one side is bringing out the big guns. After the success of Harry Potter and Despicable Me themed attractions, Universal Orlando’s parent company Comcast has decided the keep the spigot flowing in terms of improving the cash-cow theme parks.
They poured a ton of money into building and opening their newest attraction in less than a year. Now, Transformers: The Ride – 3D, has already welcomed its one-millionth rider in just over a month after making its official debut at Universal Studios Florida.
That’s a good sign for Universal Orlando. In fact, Comcast just announced it has doubled how much it planned to spend this year on its theme parks to $1.1 billion. It also has hinted that there will be more spending to come.
Up next is The Simpsons themed Springfield expansion (which should open this weekend (perhaps today)) and then the opening of Diagon Alley connecting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both parks via a magical train. Here’s a couple pics of the construction status as of last weekend.
As you can see in these photos, the London themed exterior of Diagon Alley really looms over that end of the studios. That’s all nice, but it’s once you get behind the London facade that the magic begins. We’re hearing that new versions of the wands will cast spells and activate things in the environment around you (windows, storefronts, the sidewalk, etc). Of course there will be the big Gringott’s Bank and an amazing roller-coaster adventure awaiting within. You’ll also have all the Diagon alley shops from the books and more.
I expect that Universal Orlando will get another huge attendance boost once Diagon Alley opens as every Harry Potter fan in the world will stream to Central Florida to enjoy the unique experience. The only question is when and how will Disney respond. If they don’t Universal could become an actual threat to their attendance numbers (they really aren’t yet).