Universal Studios has been making waves in the theme park industry with multiple announcements and rumors in recent months. The company revealed plans to open a permanent Halloween Horror Nights experience at Area 15 in Las Vegas and there have been whispers of a possible re-acquisition of Portaventura in Spain. However, the most significant announcement is the unveiling of a new family-friendly theme park located outside of Dallas, which could disrupt the traditional concept of Universal Studios.
Universal Parks & Resorts – the theme park arm of entertainment giant NBCUniversal – has purchased a site on the Dallas North Tollway in the city of Frisco for a brand new, kids-focused theme park and hotel spanning roughly 100 acres as part of a 10 billion dollar Fields development.
Frisco officials and Universal executives broke the news last week after what they said was months of planning and negotiations which surprisingly flew under the radar thanks to Universal purchasing the land through a shell company.
In previous years it has been fairly obvious that Universal Parks & Resorts has been targeting specific guest demographics that Disney fails to appeal to which has proven relatively successful, but this new venture plans to face the mouse and other competitors head-on.
The project will be designed to appeal to families, with immersive experiences making it a one- to two-day destination, said Mark Woodbury, chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts. Thank goodness they’re clarifying that it wont be a dreaded half-day park!
They plan to open their gates with four or five Universal-themed interactive experiences as well as a 300-room hotel, and if all of this seems small to you than you’re 100% correct. This project is small, roughly a quarter of the size of their theme parks in Orlando, but the scope of the project is a bit different. Instead of giant roller coasters and expansive thrilling experiences, Universal’s focus within this venture is on family-friendly attractions, interactive experiences, and shows featuring beloved Universal characters more suited to the pace of a family with children than spry young adults or teenagers.
It fills a perfect gap to take on the experiential spending market with competition such as Seasame Place and the Legoland Discovery Centers by providing a more grand experience on this park’s smaller scale – perfect for those not wanting to lug their children along to Orlando and keeping things a little closer to home.
What’s in the Park?
Now please note this is from concept art and things can and will change between now and the park’s debut, but it’s fun to speculate based on what we can see to figure out what might come to this family-friendly Universal park. Keep in mind that this art features a number of large show buildings which in a dream scenario could include impressive dark rides but in a realistic scenario will likely just contain stores, restaurants, indoor play places and meet and greet locations.
After entering through the gates that look suspiciously like the Dreamworks logo, you are greeted by a large body of water that wraps around the entire park. Atop this body of water rides a boat ride that seems to be a nice scenic way to see everything the park has to offer. This entrance area will also include the expected number of shops and restaurants, and is flanked on both sides by a hotel allowing you to stay on-site, expected to be similar to what Legoland has in Florida.
Trolls Themed Land
Moving around the park to the right you will be greeted by what is the largest land themed to the Trolls film franchise. This land contains the most indoor sections of the entire park which might suggest that if anywhere gets an actual indoor ride this could be where it goes. It’s been long rumoured that a Trolls boat ride has been on and off the plans at Universal Studios Florida for years and it would be an interesting development if this is where it ultimately made an appearance, though I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much because I can’t stop the feeling that these indoor spaces will mostly be for dance parties and meet and greets. Elsewhere in the land will be a Zamperla Rockin Tug, a teacups style ride and plenty of oversized props to help shrink you down to the size of a Troll.
Moving around from Trolls you’ll have the land to keep my generation happy even though they may not be allowed in the park without a child – A Shrek land. The land will be split into two featuring the kingdom of Far Far Away with a walkthrough interactive maze, dragon spinner ride, balloon ride and a family drop tower themed to the most family-friendly theme park item of them all – a guillotine. The other section will be contained within Shrek’s swamp and is likely to be a large indoor play area.
Jurassic World Land
Moving around again, next is the only land that at first glance looks to be not themed to a Dreamworks property – Jurassic World, however, this may be specifically themed to Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous the animated series produced by, you guessed it, Dreamworks Animation Television. Entering through the classic Jurassic gates, this area will contain the park’s single roller coaster, Camp Jurassic-style rope walks, a pterodactyl spinner and plenty of interactive elements for the family to enjoy inside the Discovery Center.
The final land in the park and the most boring looking is themed to Madagascar. This area will contain a splash pad which is surprisingly the only wet attraction in the park, a Zamperla Happy Swing where you can pretend you’re an exhibit in the central park zoo (One of the many Zamperla rides throughout the park) and a playground that looks straight out of your local community park… They have also set aside room for expansion, with a whole other anchor land able to be built towards the back and smaller attractions behind each land.
An Interesting Future
This brand-new park seems to be a test bed, and if it does well I can expect smaller regional parks to pop up not just over America but possibly around the world. Universal in the public eye is often playing second fiddle to the Disney Parks, but this is something that could set them apart, and get young ones hooked on Universal Brands from a much earlier age than their usual theme parks, which tend to sway towards an older demographic compared to Disney. This project is something we will be watching closely here at ReviewTyme not just during construction but also afterwards to see how it impacts Universal Park’s business strategy overall, and hey we’re hoping we’re wrong about the park not really having many huge impressive attractions. But over to you, what are your thoughts on this completely different Universal park? Let us know in the comments section below!