A News page for the Orlando’s areas other Minor Attractions and Resort properties
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(8/29/16) Central Florida Theme Parks Offering Free Insect Repellent (MORE...)
(7/29/16) Orlando Eye Confirms new Sponsor and Name
(7/28/16) I-Drive 360 Denied Permission For Helicopter Tours (MORE...)
(7/23/16) Holyland Experience Selling Off Themed Items Over Park's Losses (MORE...)
You can find our review of the I-Drive 360 attractions (Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium here.
Central Florida News - (8/29/16) If you are visiting the major Florida theme parks soon and are concerned about the possible threat of the Zika virus from any infected mosquitoes in the state it has been reported that as of Sunday SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are providing various ways to apply insect repellent for free to their park and resort guests. How you can get some is different at each park, so you should ask an employee upon arrival if you are interested in a little extra protection, or read up on the locations as currently posted by the Orlando Sentinel.
It should be noted that the Orlando area attractions already use aggressive measures to control the local mosquito population anyway, but having an extra layer of protection can't hurt, especially if you are pregnant.
(7/29/16) As expected, the Orlando Eye has announced today that the attraction will be renamed "The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye" as part of a new sponsorship from Coca-Cola.
"This exciting partnership with Coca-Cola allows guests to share enhanced new experiences on the observation wheel from the moment they enter the attraction. Guests will be greeted with a bold and contemporary look throughout the interior and exterior of the Eye’s terminal building, featuring Coca-Cola’s signature red and white colors. On the wheel itself, select capsules have been transformed to offer the ultimate visitor experience, featuring special décor, an upbeat music selection, selfie sticks, themed tablets and Coca-Cola coolers."
(7/28/16) According to the Orlando Sentinel the developer of I-Drive 360 has been denied their application to build their own Helicopter Tour venue on the top of the parking structure. The council voted unanimously against the project, and apparently took issue with the fact that the developer had already went ahead and built the helipad and ticket kiosk on site before being approval or even a building permit.
I-Drive 360 however says that was not their doing, but rather the owner of Orlando HeliTours, who would have operated the business. It seems they mistakenly believed the pad needed to be in place to get preliminary FAA approval first, before being submitted to the county. Since the HeliPad is in violation, they’ve asked to have it removed, and I-Drive 360 had been trying to get it approved retroactively.
(7/23/16) Things may be going sour for The Holyland Experience park in Orlando. According to this report the park has been holding an estate sale to liquidate many of their themed items like thrones, roman solider helmets, various large and medium sized statues and even a motorcycle with painted angel wings. Why the sale? Because apparently the theme park is now losing money, reporting a $1.3 million deficit in 2014 while "contributions" to the park have declined from $42 million back in 2010 to around $2.5 million these days.
(7/14/16) It looks like the Orlando Eye has signed a deal with Coke to become their new sponsor, as a media event is now slated to take place on July 28th to “launch the new Coca-Cola Orlando Eye” as well as announce some changes coming to Orlando’s 400-foot observation wheel.
One thing I really wasn't aware of however before now is the fact that Coca-Cola currently is also the sponsor of the Eye's sibling, the London Eye, now known as the Coca-Cola London Eye, so it only makes sense for them to jump in as the sponsor in Orlando as well.
(6/28/16) According to the latest update from Midway Mayhem a new attraction is under construction in the lobby of the I-Drive 360 attractions, a small 4D XD Dark Ride Theater attraction from Triotech.
(6/7/16) The Orlando Business Journey has posted a new rendering of what the Margaritaville Resort Orlando off 192 is going to look like when it opens in 2017. I'm diggin it myself, so check it out and click on the image to go to a viewer to see a second new image as well.
(5/25/16) A new luxury resort hotel is coming to Orlando near the theme parks... Planet Hollywood's Premier Resort Residences Orlando. The new hotel tower will rise in the Lake Buena Vista area, in the heart of Orlando's theme park district, offering a new luxury hotel and spa experience. You can see a bit more about the new resort at the official website, but I believe the exactly location may be on the shore of Lake Bryan, off 535, not far from the Marriott World Center.
(5/5/16) According to the Orlando Business Journal a Kansas City based company has finalized a land deal on Universal Blvd. needed to build the Andretti Indoor Karting attraction.
(5/3/16) The Orlando Eye will celebrate its first anniversary with special events throughout the week of May 2. The 400-foot observation wheel opened to great fanfare on May 4, 2015, with grand opening events, a pyro show, and world renowned aerialist Nik Wallenda walking on the structure of the Orlando Eye as it moved. This year, the Orlando Eye invites guests to come out and celebrate this milestone event, themed in the style of a first birthday party.
The Orlando Eye will offer special gifts in honor of the anniversary to guests randomly throughout the week of May 2-8, including complimentary tickets, Orlando Eye merchandise and VIP packages, gift cards to I-Drive 360 retailers and restaurants and more, all handed out by the Eye Spy Prize Patrol.
On Wednesday, May 4, guests can enjoy a party celebration all day featuring:
A live DJ inside the Orlando Eye terminal
Special birthday décor inside Orlando Eye’s capsules
Balloon artists, face painters, entertainers and magicians throughout the area
Sweet treats provided by Sugar Factory
Cupcakes by Publix
A free digital photo download
Additionally, the Orlando Eye will be lit up in rainbow lighting. For more information on the observation wheel, visit OfficialOrlandoEye.com.
(4/29/16) According to the latest information Orlando's Nickelodeon Hotel will extend the run of Nick themed experiences through to May 31st. Previously the Nick themed branding and entertainment was to have ended after April 18th.
(4/5/16) Everyone knows a family vacation to Orlando can be expensive, and I don’t mean just the theme park tickets. You’ve got to eat while on vacation and theme park food prices are always through the roof. Many families may try to cram in a cheaper quickie meal in the morning before going to the parks, or try to avoid eating dinner at night until they leave to save a little money, but this isn’t always possible… or easy to do, especially if you are staying on property at Walt Disney World where your options may be slim to none.
Now it seems there is another alternative you might want to look into. There are local companies who have started grocery delivery program where you can pre-order a selection of interesting breakfast and snack options and have it delivered to your room. You can look up services available in the area like Garden Grocer, WeGoShop, and Orlando Grocery Express.
(4/2/16) According to the latest update on the Skyplex complex and other big projects on I-Drive, the OBJ reports that while the final engineering is being worked out, the Skyplex will begin construction later this year, and hopes to finish sometime in 2018. Meanwhile the 425 foot Starflyer tower going into Vue at 360 is also set to break ground in October. Finally, I-Drive 360 says they are set to finish their new heliport pad on top of the parking structure with the goal to begin flying tours from the complex by this July.
(2/18/16) Orlando has once again lost a year-round haunted house attraction, as the Legends Dark Amusements haunt at Old Town in Kissimmee has decided to close down this week after failing to reach a new lease agreement. So sad to see it go, especially as I had never even gotten the chance to experience it, as all my Orlando visits over the past couple years have been too brief and too focused on other things.
(2/15/16) Several lucky couples celebrated Valentine's Day by having either their Wedding or Vow Renewal ceremonies on the Orlando Eye. Among the couples was General Manager Robin Goodchild, who celebrated his own vow renewal. They sent out a video showing off the action as well.
Orlando Eye Wedding and Vow Renewals on Valendine's Day 2016
Several lucky couples celebrated Valentine's Day by having either their Wedding or Vow Renewal ceremonies on the Orlando Eye. Among the couples was General Manager Robin Goodchild, who celebrated his own vow renewal. They sent out a video showing off the action as well.Posted by Screamscape on Sunday, February 14, 2016
(2/1/16) According to this news report a Tampa based buyer has purchased the iconic Four Points by Sheraton hotel located just across and slightly down I-Drive from the Wet 'n Wild parking lot. According to the article the new owner is planning a multi-million upgrade to the property after paying roughly $23 million for hotel itself.
(1/30/16) In a bit of unexpected news, the infamous Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando is dropping the Nickelodeon theme and will be re-branded as a the "Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites & Waterpark". This means the bright Nick colors and themeing will all being removed as well as the loss of all the Nickelodeon themed kids shows and activities as well following April 18th, 2016.
The hotel did claim they would be working on renovations to improve the waterpark area, as well as new themes for the resorts Laser Maze and 4-D theater lineup of titles. (I did discover a few weeks ago that they had started showing a new "Pacific Rim" 4D title in there not long ago.
The hotel actually started out in 1999 as the "Holiday Inn Family Suites" before taking on the current Nickelodeon themeing in 2005, so I guess it's only appropriate that they return to their "Holiday Inn" branding roots. I am kind of curious about what had happened behind the scenes to cause this dropping of the Nick IP and if it was simply cost related or something else. On the cost side of the argument, we saw how Cedar Fair immediately dropped all the Nick themeing as soon as they bought the former Paramount Parks chain, and the extremely high cost of keeping the Nick IP was mentioned as a major deciding factor back then. Of course, Nickelodeon has repeatedly attempted to team up with major hotel brands to launch their own line of Nick themed hotels around the world prior to this, though those deals have never transitioned into reality, though the issue of having an existing Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando was always a sticking point in any of these other deal discussions.
With a Great Wolf Lodge expected to rise not too far from here you would think the Nickelodeon Suites Resort would be trying to maintain some kind of brand identity to keep themselves in the public eye, so a shift away from what has worked so far for the past decade came as a bit of a surprise to me.
A fun side note: way back when Universal Studios Florida was home to Nickelodeon Studios the company decided to bury a time capsule on-site back in 1992. In 2005 it was decided that the time capsule, which wasn't to be opened until April 30, 2042, would be moved to a new location on-site at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort. What fate will become of the time-capsule has yet to be determined. (UPDATE: A Nick exec reported that it would be relocated to their California facility and kept sealed until 2042 as planned.)
(1/27/16) The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Great Wolf Lodge related company had now purchased a near 50-acre site just across I-4 from Walt Disney World's Disney Springs and Casting building for an estimated $23 million. While local zoning will allow for up to 1,400 rooms on that site, the initial plans filed are only for an 800-room resort, through expansion is always possible.
With construction nearly complete on a Great Wolf Lodge Resort in California, not far from Disneyland, I would expect that the initial response and advanced booking for that resort could have been the deciding factor for the company to look to build another indoor waterpark resort so close to Disney property.
If you've never been to a Great Wolf Lodge Resort, you are in for a treat. I've been lucky enough to stay at a couple of them and have posted reviews of the Williamsburg resort back in 2005 and the awesome Charlotte / Concord GWL Resorts when it opened in 2009. The later of which has a ton of photos and a video showing off the action that you will want to see.
For now we have to wait until Great Wolf Resorts is ready to make the announcement official and offer up some details about what could be their biggest and best Great Wolf Lodge yet.
(1/14/16) The Orlando Biz Journal reports that I-Drive 360 has applied to bring a Helicopter Tour attraction to the development, which would see the tours operated from the rooftop of the existing parking structure. If approved, look for it to being operations sometime in 2016.
(1/5/16) The Orlando Eye reports that the giant wheel will be closed now through Jan. 13th to perform annual maintenance. This makes sense, as this is probably the slowest time of the year in Orlando and you'll find many of the Orlando parks close a few big rides this time of year for maintenance as well. Be advised however that the connected Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Orlando will remain open however, along with the rest of the I-Drive 360 complex.
BREAKING – (12/22/15) According to the local news, final approval was given by the OC Commissioners to build a 425 foot tall Starflyer ride on I-Drive, not far from the Orlando Eye attraction in the Goodings Plaza area, which will be re-branded as "Vue at 360". Unfortunately, I think this is a little bit of overkill, as the nearby Magical Midway already has a roughly 230 foot Starflyer ride just to the north, though I've got a feeling the smaller ride may be forced to vanish one the newer version opens. In any case, look for construction to begin sometime in 2016.
(12/17/15) Screamscape has been informed that all of the Orlando area theme parks (Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando) have either installed, or have begun to install as of this morning, metal detector portals that all guests must pass through. These are said to be similar to the old style that used to be used at airports before the more modern scanners, or more like those that have been used at most Six Flags and Cedar Fair theme parks for the past several years. Security personally are also said to be carrying hand-wands as well for more location specific checking.
So expect a slightly longer wait to get into the parks as we enter the busy Christmas holiday season, and there is no word if this is the new standard or just a temporary set of increased security measures following the terrorist related attacks in Paris, California and beyond over the past month.
(12/17/15) Acording to a Tweet from Joshua Wallack, the new Mango's Orlando location will open this Friday, December 18th.
(12/1/15) The Orlando Eye and I-Drive 360 are adding to Central Florida’s holiday happenings with special events to celebrate the season. From Dec. 1-25, guests on the Orlando Eye can indulge in some holiday spirit at 400 feet by riding in one of four beautifully themed holiday capsules, ranging from The Night Before Christmas, Gingerbread House, Winter Wonderland and Candy Canes. Holiday capsule packages begin at $30, and include priority boarding and holiday music throughout the flight.
During select times throughout the month, younger guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a flight with Santa Claus himself! Santa flight packages begin at $35, and include priority boarding, photo opportunities, a holiday cookie and a holiday story reading.
Throughout the entire season, look to the skies to see the Orlando Eye lit in different colors to celebrate the holidays. In addition to special lighting for Christmas and the New Year, the Eye will feature blue and white lighting onDec. 14 to celebrate the last day of Hanukkah.
The fun doesn’t end after guests take their flight on the Orlando Eye, as I-Drive 360 has completely decked the center’s courtyard with a 20-feet Christmas tree, purple wreaths, string lighting, as well as an outdoor ice-skating rink and snow machines. Ice-skating rates begin at $10 (with advanced purchase of Orlando Eye admission) or $12 at the door. The cost includes 30 minutes of skate time and skate rentals.
Tickets may be purchased at online or at the attraction’s admissions desk. Prices and event hours subject to change without notice. For more information, visit OfficialOrlandoEye.com.
(11/30/15) The Orlando Sentinel reports that CNL has sold the Coco Key hotel off I-Drive in Orlando to a Fort Lauderdale company who has been picking up other hotels lately. According to the report, CNL bought it for $19 million back in May 2008, and then invested an unknown but large sum to upgrade the property. They believe the property's new sale price was only $15.1 million.
(11/19/15) Unicorp's massive plans for how they would like to redevelop the property they own on I-Drive between Sand Land and the I-Drive 360 complex can be seen over at the Orlando Biz Journal this week. The plan would change the entire site into a huge hotel complex of 13 high-rise hotel buildings that would also feature open-air spaces, new retail stores, walkways, small parks and new entertainment offerings. They also have plans to build a new development on 20 acres of property on the other side of Universal Drive behind the I-Drive 360 complex that would have three more hotel towers, new restaurants, a large theater building a big "water feature" that will be viewable from the Orlando Eye. (If I had to guess, I would bet a Bellagio style water fountain show could be considered for this area.)
Add to this the existing I-Drive 360 complex and the proposed Skyplex development across Sand Lake from here, and it sounds like the entire center of I-Drive will soon benefit from a major facelift away from the tacky tourist t-shirt shops and hookah-lounges that fill much of it elsewhere.
(11/10/15) Two new wax figures of "Zendaya" (from Disney Channel's Shake It Up and K.C. Cooper) will be added to the Madame Tussauds collection very soon, one going to the San Francisco site on Nov. 21 and the second going to the new Orlando site. They've also published a video showing off the process they go through with a celebrity to make their official wax figure.
(11/6/15) A couple of new attractions are on the way to the Artegon Marketplace mall (formerly known as Festival Bay, and perhaps best known for being the location of Orlando's massive Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store which was there first, and the mall was built to connect to it years later). A small assortment of new restaurants and food counters is also on the way to Artegon as part a new "Eat Street" area under construction. But lets get to the attractions:
NYZ Orlando - A urban zombie themed laser battle experience is on the way, slated to open in Spring 2016 that would take up a huge 45,000 sqft space for the laser zombie battle experience as well as a bar to relax in before and after you battle the hordes of the undead. To improve the "laser tag" experience, the guns actually are said to have a gas-powered recoil system so the guns actually have a little kick to them. I have heard that the zombies wear some kind of "halo" headgear that acts as a sort of damage meter so you know how many shots you have to hit them with before they drop. I believe it may also vibrate to send a signal to the "actor" playing the zombie so they physically react when shot, and know when to drop. The first NYZ Apocalypse actually opened in 2014 in Long Island, NY back in 2014 so if anyone has experienced the original, I'd love to hear more about what the experience is really like.
Also coming to Artegon before the end of the year is the new Sky Zone trampoline park, that will take up 24,000 sqft. There are a number of Sky Zone locations around here in North Carolina, though I've yet to visit the one here in Charlotte as my kids have always been more fond of the similar Sky High Sports location that opened first. While the concept of the Sky Zone attractions is all about jumping on huge trampolines, they offer some unique sections that are always popular such as the Foam Pits where you can make suicide dives in safety, but the highlight of any trip to there always seems to focus on the Dodgeball arenas where guests of all ages are separated into teams to play an epic game of Dodgeball. (Note: The video clip of Dodgeball I've embedded below is from a visit to Sky High Charlotte and not Sky Zone, but I think it gives you a great idea of what you can expect.) At Sky Zone your visit is time-based, so at the Charlotte location I know you can buy sessions in 30, 60, 90 and 120-minute lengths, where the pricing will change based on the time of day you visit, as well as the day of the week you visit. To keep from getting too crowded however, you may have to wait for a time-slot to entry... much like Disney's FastPass, but you can pay and reserve your time-slot online before you arrive. These sites are also very popular with the kiddie birthday party crowd, so expect to see a lot of them there, especially on the weekends.
I'm not exactly sure where NYZ Apocaplyse will be located within Artgeon, but Sky Zone has been confirmed to be going into the back right side of the mall, next door to the old Van's Skate Park, which was supposed to reopen as the "Radbourne Skate Park", but I never could confirm if it reopened or not yet. (Anyone know the status of Radbourne?) It's worth mentioning that Artegon is home to a few others attractions like the indoor Sky Trail ropes course and Putting Edge indoor mini-golf, a pretty good Cinemark 20 movie theater plus an assortment of eateries (mmm... Fuddruckers) so the addition of these two attractions could help turn an afternoon or evening at Artegon into a fun air-conditioned adventure.
(10/19/15) The Orlando Sentinel reports that the CSI: The Experience attraction on I-Drive has quietly closed down for good after roughly a three year run.
2016? - Old Town Renovation - (7/30/15) Acording to the Orlando Sentinel, Old Town in Kissimmee will be getting a $10 million makeover soon that will seen new restaurants, restrooms, more parking, a concert stage and more added to the site... along with one more oddity. A new Ferris Wheel... as part of the project's plans to redevelop the entrance area to be more eye-catching.
Previously we saw Old Town remove all the rides, including a long-standing Ferris Wheel from the entrance area in an attempt to revamp itself... but while I'm all about adding rides, I'm not sure adding a Ferris Wheel to the front will cut it this time. After all... most Orlando Tourists have had their eyes on the much bigger and eye catching Orlando Eye instead. Adding a wheel to Old Town now may get more of a "Meh..." response these days. Perhaps it is time to come up with a new idea.
2016 - Cosmic Quest at Kennedy Space Center - (11/19/15) Kennedy Space Center will open a new interactive adventure experience in February 2016 called Cosmic Quest. The system is from Creative Kingdoms, a subsidiary of Great Wolf Resorts who is best known for the creation of the MagiQuest adventure attractions.
“At Cosmic Quest, kids can explore a world of STEM and space-related careers through fun and educational interactive adventures that are based on real NASA endeavors,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “We are proud to offer this new live-action game experience to engage young people’s imaginations and get them excited about their role in future of space exploration.”
The adventures will be built into existing attractions within the visitor complex, with the NASA's Next Rocket Launch Adventure in the Apollo/Saturn V center, Mars Colony Adventures (into Journey to Mars), Asteroid Capture Adventure (in the IMAX theater) and International Space Station Adventure in the Space Shuttle Atlantis building.
2016/2017 - I-Fly Orlando - Rumor - (1/11/16) According to a local reader, the Hawaiian Rumble mini-golf course on I-Drive next to the Wonderworks building has now posted a big "CLOSED" sign on their front door. This was expected however, as the site was previously reported to be re-used as the future site for a brand larger new I-Fly Orlando location.
(11/27/15) Another Screamscape source has written in to confirm that not only will I-Fly be moving to a new location on the southern end of I-Drive, but that it will actually take over the site of the current Hawaiian Rumble mini-golf center located right next to Pointe Orlando. They also confirm that the new site will indeed have two wind tunnels... one inside and one clear acrylic tube style that will be viewable to everyone passing by on I-Drive.
Of source also confirms that the original site, which was the original prototype for the company, will be taken down and removed once the new location is up and running. Given the interesting location somewhat in the middle of Universal Orlando and their Wet 'n Wild property, I'm kind of curious to see who will buy it.
(11/26/15) Screamscape has been informed that iFly Indoor Skydiving (known for their wild shaped building in Orlando, just across I-4 from Universal Orlando) is rumored to be building a new bigger facility somewhere else on I-Drive. The new site is rumored to have two tunnels instead of just the one, doubling their capacity, with one of the tunnels expected to either be outdoors, or to have a clear see-through tube, much like the one at CityWalk in Hollywood, so you can see outside while you fly.
With that in mind, I would think that the original Orlando location would then be close down and the site sold off once the new location was up and running, though if the new location were located on the extreme southern end of I-Drive, it wouldn't be unheard of for both locations to remain open. Anyone else heard this or know more?
2018 - Skyscraper at the SKYPLEX - Confirmed - (12/2/15) Congratulations to the Skyplex... the project was given unanimous approval by the Orange County Commission who voted late Tuesday afternoon on the issue. With the project now approved, it's time for Skyplex to put their money where their mouth is and build this thing.
(11/24/15) A couple new videos from our friends at In The Loop have been posted about the Skyplex style Polercoaster project, complete with a new animated video showing off how the tower itself would look with both the Intamin version of the coaster and drop-tower rides functioning together, along with that vertical launch hill up to the top.
This is followed up with an interview with Michael Kitchen, President of US Thrill Rides who starts off the interview explaining that they parted ways with S&S and switched to Intamin primarily to increase the capacity of the ride itself by removing the long spiral chain lift and replacing it with an LSM Lift that will shoot riders to the top at 40mph in about 15 seconds. It is also great to hear that the overall ride length, even with this new LSM Lift, will still be about a 4 minute long ride experience from start to finish.
Kitchen also mentions that around the start of the 2016, they are planning on kicking off construction on three different Polercoaster projects at about the same time in different locations around the world. Currently they claim to have contracts for similar (but smaller) Polercoaster attractions in Atlanta, Atlantic City, New York, Las Vegas and Nashville, with three of those locations (they wouldn't say which) ready to break ground in a little over a month.
(11/20/15) If you’ve followed along with the media stories regarding the proposed Skyplex complex in Orlando, you’ve probably noticed a lot of irritation being thrown towards Universal Orlando, for opposing the Skyplex project at various public meetings about the project. Now the Orlando Sentinel reports that a group affiliated with Universal Orlando has begun to send out mailers and launch a website, all with the goal of opposing the Skyplex project as the December 1st vote on the project quickly approaches.
I don’t know if Universal ever opposed the I-Drive 360 and Orlando Eye projects, but we do know that they have also been opposed to the iSquare project looking to get built about a block or so North on I-Drive from Universal’s Wet ‘n Wild property. I’ve also been told that the legal action Universal is taking against Orange County and a local Condo complex over storm water drainage issues into the lake on Wet ‘n Wild’s property may also be another piece of the puzzle being formed here. Clearly, Universal is becoming suddenly and quite protective over the goings-on at the North end of I-Drive, which more than likely has something to do with whatever future plans they have in works for the Wet ‘n Wild property once the waterpark closes down at the end of 2016.
The problem is Universal has their hands full right now with Reign of Kong, the new Sapphire Falls Resort, the expansion of Cabana Bay, future CityWalk projects and the construction of the brand new Volcano Bay waterpark. So whatever Universal has planned for the Wet ‘n Wild property, be it a new resort hotel, CityWalk 2: Electric Boogaloo or the construction of Orlando’s smallest theme park, that project is simply going to have to wait until at least 2017 to break ground. This fact gives new projects like iSquare, Skyplex or even Unicorp’s “expansion” of the I-Drive 360 project over a year’s head-start on whatever Universal has planned. By playing the politics game, it appears as if Universal is trying to delay these other projects in order to level the playing field in their advantage.
Given the amount of public support the Skyplex has been receiving on Social Media, I’d like to say that Universal is probably fighting a losing battle here, as I would not be surprised to see Skyplex get approved on Dec. 1st. Of course, that approval could come with some stipulations regarding the final size or style of the tower itself, but I do think Skyplex has a good shot at getting the approval they need. Meanwhile the Skyplex hasn’t slowed down the announcement train, releasing a few new world record details this week, such as the Skyscraper coasters’ 524 foot vertical lift, that will begin 24 feet underground and take riders 501 feet above ground. The previously announced SkySurf collection of man-made surf waves will also feature the world’s largest man-made surfing wave pool.
(11/18/15) A new video from IAAPA from our friends at In The Loop shows off some new renderings of the new Intamin version of the Polercoaster concept ride (like Orlando's proposed Skyplex) that will feature a vertical launch system rather than a slow lift hill. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that, as it will be more thrilling for sure, but I kind of liked the scenic viewing aspect of the old spiral slow lift hill concept as well. The video also shows off the freetall drop ride as well as other proposed Polercoaster locations, such as Myrtle Beach, SC.
(11/16/15) Pixels at the Parks has posted an interesting write up summary following a meeting that was held the answer questions about the proposed Skyplex attraction tower project, along with comments and items brought up in the meeting by a couple of people in attendance representing the concerns Universal Orlando has with the project.
I always find it a bit funny when anyone cites a concern over the height of the Skyplex possibly being too much for I-Drive, when the 400 foot tall Orlando Eye is sitting there glowing away in the night sky every night about a block away to the South, and Orlando's entire tourist corridor is pretty much an assortment of sky-high neon-lit amusement towers from the north end of I-Drive all the way down to 192 in Kissimmee where up until this point, the attitude has always been one of "anything goes".
Orlando's SkyPlex project, undaunted by not getting the recommendation from the zoning board earlier this month is still moving forward with the hopes of getting the final approval from the County Commissioners anyway when they meet to vote on it in December. (In fact, there is an online petition you can sign to show your support for SkyPlex by clicking here.)
Today we get a better look at that proposed Surf Park complex mentioned back in June, to be located on the top of a 10-story parking garage. Artwork showing off what they are now calling Sky Surf Park can be found at ClickOrlando where they will put three different style wave pools 10-stories in the air, along with a beachside cafe and more.
(10/16/15) The Orange County Planning and Zoning Board met on Thursday to vote on the Skyplex project, and actually voted to recommend against it in a 4 to 3 vote over concerns about the height, lightning strikes and other issues. While the board rejected the plan, it is up to the County Commission to vote on the project, who may approve the Skyplex to go ahead anyway, despite the negative vote from the Zoning Board. The County Commission will vote on the Skyplex at their Nov. 3rd meeting.
(10/8/15) Quick note, as I received official word from the Skyplex team that the opening of the Skyplex has still be pushed back to 2018, and the tweet about 2017 was in error.
(10/5/15) According to a tweet from the official Skyplex account, we will see the Skyplex tower and coaster "light up the Orlando Skyline by 2017". Odd choice of words however, because they don't exactly promise that that either will be open...only that they will light up the skyline. Hmmmm....
(9/1/15) Skyplex showed off some great new renderings of the Skyplex complex on Twitter on Monday.
(7/29/15) I got to admit, I'm a bit disappointed right now... as I so wanted to see the Skyplex / Skyscraper coaster project succeed, amid a sea of nay-sayers. I haven't see the press release myself yet, but Behind the Thrills has just announced that despite all the early plans and references to the Skyscraper coaster being from S&S Worldwide, US Thrillrides has now backtracked in a big way and announced that the coaster ride system will be coming from Intamin instead.
I'm not sure where S&S stands on this latest revelation, if they were dropped, outbid, or perhaps they themselves opted out of the project, but my confidence level for this ride just went from an a high 8 down to a 4. Longtime readers know I'm no Intamin fan-boy... and while they have made some pretty fantastic rides out there (especially for Hersheypark)... they've also made some of the worst in terms of reliability and downtime issues, as well as rides being involved in a number of high profile accidents involving rider injury and deaths over the years, especially where riders have been thrown from the vehicles on coasters, drop towers and water based attractions.
The list of incidents is easy to find for yourselves if you look up ride names like Hydro, Perilous Plunge, Superman Tower of Power, Drop Zone, and Shoot the Rapids to name but a few. Sorry folks, but my gut just says this is the wrong move for this project.
(7/3/15) Good news for the Skyplex project, it seems they have passed one major hurdle that was holding back the start of construction. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the FAA and finally weighed in on the 700-foot tall tower project and officially deemed that it "poses no hazard to air traffic". The ruling will be official on Monday, if there are no worthy objections sent in by today to the FAA. Following that the Skyplex plans have been given the green light by Orange County's Development Review Committee and will next go before the Planning and Zoning officials on August 20th for approval before going before the County Commissioners for the final approval. Following that the Skyplex will just need to get their final permitting filed before they can begin construction.
(6/16/15) The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Surf Park has been added to the plans for the massive Skyplex complex now. The plan is to put three pools on top of the 10-story parking garage, arranged so that surfers in the pools can face the Skyplex tower while riding on the stationary surf wave machines. The goal is to make it a virtual "beach scene" up there, with a bar and all, and they anticipate locals buying annual pass memberships to hang out up there year-round. While the plans and design work are still in flux obviously, they are hoping to have a good portion of the project complete by 2017 at this point if all goes well. They will first start work on the tower itself before begining work on the connecting Skyplaza area where the Perkin's will go.
(5/7/15) The Skyplex dropped another bomb announcement this week, growing the project yet even bigger before they can even stick the first shovel into the ground. According to this article they are now planning on having a 350-room on-site hotel as well to the north of the Skyplex tower. Some new artwork showing off the location of the hotel portion of the resort can be found in this Tweet.
(3/5/15) In an unexpected bit of news the Skyplex project has expanded and is now even bigger, now taking over the corner spot occupied by Perkins. The expanded site will now add the SkyPLAZA, a retail complex that will feature the world's largest Perkins Restaurant and Bakery (10,000 sqft) and be connected to the main SkyPlex via an elevated walkway. The more ground level path of the Skyscraper coaster itself has also been changed to fly out over the the SkyPLAZA and hit a high overbanked turn just above the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Rd. All this, along with the previously announced SkyFall 450 ft drop ride (from Intamin) will open in 2017. Check out the new animation of the complex and all new coaster layout below.
(2/13/15) While the SkyPlex announced yesterday their plans to open the world's tallest freefall drop ride at 450 feet, it seems that they may have jumped the gun a little bit on that claim. A few hundred miles to the south the SkyRise Miami tower has begun the first phases of construction on their 1000 foot tall waterfront tower project. In addition to the controlled Sky Plunge extreme jump attraction the tower will also include the SkyRise Drop... a true freefall tower ride style attraction featuring a bench of 12 seats across that will rise and drop riders approximately 650 feet and approach a speed of 95 mph before hitting the magnetic brakes at the bottom.
So it will be somewhat of a race for the SkyPlex to open their project first, especially since they have yet to begin actual construction on the site yet. Meanwhile the SkyRise Miami project is already hard at work setting up the foundation for their massive tower, though not without troubles of their own as they are sell working on getting all their funding to build the finished tower through an EB-5 investor program. Meanwhile the Miami-Dade County has been hit with a lawsuit intended to block a $9 million grant offered to SkyRise Miami because when the project was put to a public ballot, it said the tower would be entirely privately funded.
(2/12/15) Orlando will soon be home to the world's tallest freefall attraction. According to the latest press release from the Skyplex people, the towering attraction will include SKYFALL, a 450 foot freefall drop ride from the tower as well. The current record for a freefall ride is Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Great Adventure which drops riders 415 feet. The press release also mentions that the Skyplex will have a 55-story Glass Elevator ride for those taking a trip up to the observation deck at the top.
(12/18/14) According to this article the owners of the Skyplex complex have bought a new 1.5 acre site on Canada Ave for $1.2 million. The site, previously used as parting for the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure show, will be used as additional parking for the Skyplex. This is in addition to plots they already own for the Skyplex site, the 7-11 on I-Drive site (which has already closed down) as well as the World Bowling Center site.
(11/27/14) I mentioned this on the Screamscape Facebook page about a week ago, but I thought it was good enough that I should be mentioned here as well. When watching the new animated video of the SkyScraper at SKYPLEX coaster, the other dramatic difference I noticed other than the coaster was that a large “ring” style platform was added, surrounding the top end of the tower itself.
The addition of the ride would have no effect on the coaster layout, but why would they go to the added expence to add such a structure to the tower unless it served some other purpose. With that in mind, I suspect the SKYPLEX may be planning to add up to two more scary as hell high-altitude attractions to their offerings. Based on attractions I’ve seen installed on other high-tower creations, the ring itself immediately brought to mind the famous SkyWalk attraction in New Zealand, which also has a similar catwalk ring around the top of the tower, where guests strap on a ropes course style safety harness and jumpsuit and go out for a very high up walk around the outside of the tower on this ring structure. In addition to this, I’m also expecting them to install a SkyJump style drop experience like the one on the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas and also on in New Zealand. Adding this to the ring addition would also give them a way to drop guests down to the ground in a controlled decent while getting the drop cables out and away from the coaster track around the center of the tower. Time will tell if my hunch is right.
(11/18/14) An AMAZING new animated video showing off the true layout of the Skyscraper at SKYPLEX coaster has gone live this week, including some truely incredible looking POV shots from a layout which is far more impressive and crazy looking that anything we had initially anticipated seeing from a ride strapped to the side of round tower. Seriously, this looks like it could be one of the more intense and visually scary coaster layouts ever designed, all so very high in the sky. I hope the gift shop sells clean underwear at the bottom… some people are going to need it.
(6/6/14) Skyscraper Skyplex was officially announced on Thursday morning, and will indeed be located just about where I said it would off the North/East corner of the I-Drive and Sand Lake intersection. Officially the name will be “The Skyscraper at SKYPLEX”, with the Skyscraper as the coaster and the SKYPLEX as the entire complex, who is being created by the owners of the soon to open Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando and the existing Mango’s Tropical Café South Beach. The entire site is 12 acres, after the Wallacks managed to purchase five contiguous sites to merge together for the SKYPLEX, including 300 feet along I-Drive itself.
The obvious lure of the $200 million SKYPLEX will be the project’s massive 570 foot tall tower, home to the Skyscraper roller coaster, the world’s first PolerCoaster from US Thrill Rides. This will be the world’s tallest roller coaster, without a doubt, that will feature some interesting inversions way up in the sky, as well as a run around the rest of the SKYPLEX near the bottom, running out to I-Drive and back to the tower at the end.
Those who want the view without the thrills can ride the glass elevator up to the observation floor, 535 feet in the air, where you will be able to look down upon the nearby 425 foot Orlando Eye observation wheel from both the observation deck, as well as the restaurant at the top of the tower.
They aren’t planning on breaking ground on the property until early 2015, with the hope of still being able to open in 2016. This seems a bit ambitious to me, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. For all the official information, you can also visit the official SKYPLEX website.
(6/2/14) I think I’ve figured out the site for the Skyscraper Skyplex, on the north end side of Sand Lake just east of International Drive, straddling I-Drive on one side and Canada Ave on the other, taking up what is now mostly a vacant lot behind the 7-11 and Burger King just to the north of Perkins. And Perkins is the key… because if you look at this one piece of concept art for the Skyplex, that building with the distinctive roof in the lower right corner of the picture is the Perkins restaurant at the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake. While the exact position isn’t quite as clear, it looks like it could possibly replace the 7-11, Burger King and even the tourist T-Shirt buildings with structures of it’s own to serve as an entry portal to the complex, as you can see the iconic IHOP roof just behind the new building following by the Tilted Kilt building. The multi-level parking structure behind the Skyplex appears as if it will border up next to the World Bowling Center / Dowdy Pavilion that will sit just to the north of it.
(5/31/14) I’ve suspected as much, but the local news has uncovered evidence suggesting that the long awaited PolerCoaster project is headed to Orlando’s own Orange County. According to the report, the developer of the Mango’s Tropical Cafe project on I-Drive is also behind the PolerCoaster. While the Mango’s construction site is replacing the former TGIFridays restaurant area on I-Drive, just south of Sand Lake, it seems they have also purchased the Walgreens site on the corner to use for parking, though they also own another nearby site which was originally intended host a multi-level parking garage instead, which now could be used for the PolerCoaster.
So is this the PolerCoaster? Screamscape’s own research has been doing some digging as well, which has long indicated that the attraction’s only chance for success would see it logically located somewhere in Orlando’s tourist district. We’ve also found a project proposal that may give you a grander idea of the total vision for the complex that would house a project of this size.
In a proposal we have uncovered, they call it the Skyscraper Skyplex. A huge project who’s future (and financing) is dependant upon the money of wealthy foreigners seeking to gain US Visas through a major investment (either $500,000 or $1 million) into a large project via the VISA EB5 program.
According to this proposal the Skyscraper Skyplex would feature a numbrer of attractions on the ground, ranging from indoor go-karts, adult party rooms, bars, billiards, game arcades, simulators, etc broken up into Family Game areas and Adult Game areas along with a large food court area and the Apex Sports Bar.
Towering over it all however is the 530+ foot tower structure that will feature the Skyplex Restaurant at the top, a fine dining experience which you will access via the area’s tallest glass elevator ride. After the kitchen closes, a DJ will come out and the site will transform into a hip bar / lounge area, where you can enjoy drinks and view the Orlando skyline as the various fireworks shows from the surrounding theme parks in the area go off in the distance. Below the restaurant level will be the Skyplex Observation deck, 534 feet high, so you can admire the view without venturing into the restaurant… for the cost of admission of course.
Wrapped around the tower itself is the Skyscraper… their name for the PolarCoaster. As the world’s tallest roller coaster, they say that no trip to Orlando will be complete without a ride on the Skyscraper which will rise 500 foot into the sky before you begin your wild ride back down to earth. Cameras will be mounted inside each car so you can buy the video of your experience to share online with your friends.
Connected to it all with be a 1584-space multi-level parking structure which will offer both self parking and valet options, which will provide direct access right into the Skyscraper Skyplex. They are also designing the roof of this garage structure with the ability to be rented out or used for special events, such as concerts in the sky, convention group gatherings, and more.
???? - iSquare Mall - Planning - (10/9/15) Orlando Biz Journal reports that some early site prep work for the iSquare Mall & Hotel project at the corner of I-Drive and Kirkman has begun.
(7/29/15) Now that I-Drive 360 and the Orlando Eye have opened at last, some of you may recall another project announced just down the road at about the same time by the name of iSquare. The $400-million project for the connected mall and hotel at the corner of I-Drive and Kirkman is still on, but keeps going through various redesigns and is now expected to finally begin construction sometime next year. Did I say Hotel? Make that two hotels now... one of which will be a 7-Star Hotel (I had no idea there was such a thing...) where the nightly room rate could run you between $400 to $10,000 a night. Say Ouch! And you thought Disney World was expensive...
The design of the hotel really is something else... nothing at all like anything you've seen in Orlando before... or just about anywhere. It looks nothing like the older artwork we still have posted below, as the concept has changed dramatically. You can see a video and concept art posted to the local WESH update.
(6/10/14) It seems the plans for the proposed iSquare hotel/mall concept (See our 5/3/14 story below) is undergoing some tweaking to reduce it in size after running into some size / density limits from the city. Look for a revised press release about the new version of the concept to be released later this year.
(5/3/14) Artwork for the unique looking iSquare Mall and Hotel planned to replace a strip-mall at the north end of I-Drive and Kirkman, were put on display this last week. It is a large 31-story tall structure that will include an observation tower looking structure, with a rotating restaurant at the top, a mall area full of retail and dining opportunities as well as over 1,250 guests rooms.