ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s been a long time, but as a resident of Florida for over 35 years, I remember when it all started. That excitement was felt yet again today with Universal Orlando Resort dropping the official news… they are building a new, fourth, theme park to be called Universal’s Epic Universe. The vision: create an entirely new level of experience that forever changes theme park entertainment.
Universal’s Epic Universe will take guests on a journey where beloved stories expand into vibrant lands – and where that journey is as much a part of their adventure as the ultimate destination.
For years Universal has been trying, planning to make a big move in an area that is saturated with mouse ears. Earlier attempts came with bad timing. From a recession in the early 2000’s to slowing attendance in following years lead them to sell the first parcels the company was starting to buy up. Fast forward almost 10 years to a theme park that seems to be bursting from its boundaries, litigation settled last year finally giving them the green light to move forward with Universal’s Epic Universe. Where guests will be taken on a journey where beloved stories expand into vibrant lands – and where that journey is as much a part of their adventure as the ultimate destination.
The new theme park will also feature an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants and more. It will be located within a larger 750-acre site that nearly doubles Universal’s total available acreage in Central Florida. Universal’s Epic Universe is just a few miles from the existing resort in Southwest Orange County. Specifically, it will be south of Sand Lake Road and east of Universal Boulevard.
“Our vision for Epic Universe is historic,” said Tom Williams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Universal Parks & Resorts. “It will build on everything we have done and become the most immersive and innovative theme park we have ever created. It is an investment in our business, our industry, our team members and our community.”
The new park was announced Thursday in an event attended by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Tom Williams and Brian Roberts.
“We look forward to the new level of entertainment and innovation Universal’s Epic Universe will bring to one of our state’s most important industries,” said Governor DeSantis. “We look forward to Universal’s continued contribution to our state’s economic growth and development. And we are especially grateful for Universal’s partnership in improving Shingle Creek, which plays a critical role in serving the Everglades.”
Mayor Demings also spotlighted Universal’s role in the Kirkman Road extension. This is a 50/50 public-private partnership in which Universal is investing $160 million to extend Kirkman into the area where the new park will be located.
“The Kirkman extension will improve transportation through a busy and growing portion of our county and open up the entire area for additional development – including an important expansion of our Convention Center,” he said.
During the announcement, Governor DeSantis, Mayor Demings and Tom Williams released information about Universal’s economic contribution to the state and local economy.
Universal Orlando currently employees 25,000 people and will hire an additional 14,000 team members as part of Epic Universe, including professional, technical, culinary and other specialized positions. The company currently contributes more than $302 million in annual state and local taxes – a number that will nearly double when the new theme park opens.
The majority of the businesses Universal relies on are either regional firms or national firms with a large regional presence. An economic impact study for Universal conducted by UCF Economic Professor Sean Snaith found that Universal Orlando’s combined direct and indirect economic benefit to the Florida economy since Universal Studios opened in 1990 is $73 billion. He also found that construction of the new park alone will contribute a total of $11.5 billion in direct and indirect economic benefit into the Florida economy.