A News page for the Orlando’s areas other Minor Attractions and Resort properties
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(5/19/18) Pirates Dinner Adventure To Reopen In July / Orlando Eye Renamed (MORE...)
(5/18/18) Orlando - Climbing The Orlando Starflyer... who would do such a thing?! (MORE...)
(4/27/18) Orlando Starflyer - Opening Day Update (MORE...)
(4/25/18) Orlando - Madame Tussauds Adding New Justice League Exhibit (MORE...)
(4/20/18) Orlando Starflyer - Night POV Preview Is Beautiful To Behold (MORE...)
You can find our review of the I-Drive 360 attractions (Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium here.
Central Florida News - (5/19/18) The massive Orlando Eye giant wheel has renamed itself and the entire complex around it as “ICON Orlando 360” with the wheel itself being simply called ICON Orlando. Why? I have no idea at all... as the Orlando Eye name always kind of made sense and followed along with the name of the London Eye, apparently it was felt that they needed a brand change for some reason.
In other news, take a look at this new aerial photos of the Pirates Dinner Adventure show on I-Drive. It looks like the repair work to fix the roof is nearly complete. Pirates has been closed ever since the roof was torn open during Hurricane Irma last fall, and then was damaged even more during an earlier effort to repair the roof that ignited a small fire. According to the official website, they are now planning to relaunch the show starting July 4th, 2018.
(4/25/18) According to our friends at Behind the Thrills, Madame Tussauds Orlando will open a new exhibit themed around the superhero universe characters of the DC comics films. Look for "Justice League: A Call for Heroes" to be open by May 25th where guests will drop into scenes featuring your favorite characters from Gotham City and Metropolis.
(4/14/18) Call me sentimental... but this news makes me more than a bit sad. According to the Orlando Sentinel the popular "Crossroads" shopping complex next to Walt Disney World will likely close down in late 2019 to make way for a redesign of the I-4 freeway interchange to relieve the intense traffic snarls that happen there daily. Of course, what they don't mention is how the site is home to the majority of the popular restaurants in the area that are not on Disney property, which will have the effect of forcing more of the hotel guests staying in the area over to Disney Springs.
I'm a bit nostalgic about the Crossroads however... as I've had a ton of fond memories there over the years. On my very first trip to Walt Disney World in 1990 that I took with my best friend, we stayed at a hotel nearby and would often walk to the Crossroads for a quick bite at McDonalds, Taco Bell, a game of Pirate Golf and this is where we discovered the amazing Jungle Jim's (which has long since closed). In later years, while I first met my wife-to-be at Pleasure Island, we ended the evening we first met with a late night 2am snack at the Perkins in the Crossroads. After we got married and moved to Orlando, our favorite restaurants to eat at was Chevy's... in the Crossroads. We met with friends, took our kids, and made a lot of memories there at those and many other locations while we lived in Orlando, which I think one of our last memories there before we moved was spending a long evening at Buffalo Wild Wings watching WrestleMania 22 on the screens.
Now the state has made the owners an offer to buy the entire complex to turn it into a new series of I-4 off-ramps and bridges to better direct more traffic into Disney property and the surrounding area, but still... it just makes me shake my head that the place for so many memories in my life could just vanish into neverland.
(3/1/18) Interesting news for Orlando, as it was reported by OrlandoParkNews that the former Artegon Mall property has now been purchased by PrimeTime Amusements with Dezer Properties. PrimeTime Amusements is said to own a number of arcade locations in Florida, especially in the Orlando area. The two new owners are also partners behind the Xtreme Action Park in Fort Lauderdale, so while no final announcement about what they want to do with mall was made, it would seem a good bet that they will be looking into what kind of options they have to use the property as a new attraction going forward, amongst other things. I can't wait to hear more.
(1/30/18) Screamscape would like to remind everyone who is planning on taking a trip to the Orlando area theme parks this year to look into the possibility of buying your park tickets now, before the next big annual price increase happens. Buying now is an easy way to lock in the lower price. Last year ticket prices went up in Mid-February, so you may only have a matter of days before the inevitable 2018 price increase happens.
(1/18/18) Just a reminder, but the next "free day" at Orlando's Holy Land Experience park will take place on Thursday, Jan. 25th. If you choose to go, know that you should get there very early as traffic and crowds descend upon it quickly, as it doesn't make much for the small part to hit capacity.
If you are still wondering why Holy Land Experience has a "free day" at all, it was part of the fallout between the park and state, because the theme park claimed to be tax exempt religious organization, as part of a tax loophole. The state having it and wanted their property tax, but the park was saved by the Governor at the time (Jeb Bush) who signed a special law into effect for them in 2006, but in exchange the park has to offer a free admission day at least once a year to keep their tax-exempt status.
(11/4/17) For all you Marilyn Monroe fans out there, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium in Orlando will be putting on a temporary display featuring the famous dress worn by Marilyn Monroe as she sung "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy. The famous dress was purchased at an auction by Ripley's in 2016 for $5 million, making it the "most expensive dress in the world" at this point.
The dress and other memorabilia items from the Kennedy birthday gala will be on display for a limited time at the Orlando attraction starting Thursday, November 9th and is set to depart "after the new year".
(10/25/17) A quick heads up for those in Orlando... if you've ever wanted to see the Holy Land Experience attraction, but just haven't been willing to pay $50 to do it, today is your lucky day. Today, Oct. 25th, will be the annual free admission day to the attraction, which is open to all until they hit capacity, which actually wont take long as the park just isn't that big. So get there early.
(9/14/17) According to a tweet from the Orlando Sentinel it appears that the Pirates Dinner Adventure show on International Drive will be closed for awhile as the theater building suffered extensive damage to the roof, and you can see a large hole in the roof. Until the building can be inspected and repaired, the show will remain closed until further notice.
(7/30/17) Driving enthusiasts visiting Orlando may soon have a new outlet for their "Need For Speed", as it has been reported that a new development is in the works for a 217 acre site off 192 where it connects with the 429. The developer behind the project is an Andy Bardar who owns a "High Performance Driving Experience" attraction in Miami and it looks like he is planning to add a three-course system to the Orlando area property.
According to the layouts provided, it appears that it will include some kind of "Club" membership setup on the South end of the property for the main tracks as well as on-site car storage and maintenance areas. On the Northern end where it connects to 192 there will be the public entrance area along with a separate track for use by the general public. The site has already received the proper zoning to be used as a tourist attraction and is now just seeking the proper "noise variance" for it, which isn't likely to be a problem as the majority of the site will already run alongside either the 429 highway or busy 192 tourist corridor, and the Western side will be mostly undeveloped except for a large "sound wall" barrier to be installed alongside the track to keep the noise levels from drifting into the residential areas beyond.
(7/27/17) According to the Orlando Sentinel a new JW Marriott hotel (516 rooms) has been proposed for a 10.6 acre site near Wyndham's Bonnet Creek Resort area.
(7/15/17) Orlando fans... the Gaylord Palms has announced that the theme of this year's ICE holiday display will be a showcase of "Christmas Around the World". Look for it to take place from Nov. 21 through to Jan. 7, 2018. You can also visit the official site for information about how to buy tickets.
(12/22/16) According to the local news Ripley Entertainment has purchased a big chunk of property on Universal Blvd directly across the street from the Convention Center for a cool $23 million. I'm guessing this is a bit of forward thinking on Ripley's behalf as this would virtually put them on the doorstep to Universal's expansion property in the same area. While Ripley only has the one "Believe it or Not!" attraction in Orlando, Ripley's often dominates other popular tourist areas with a variety of different attractions. For example in the Gatlinburg, TN area Ripley has a Believe It or Not, the Aquarium of the Smokies, 5D Movie Theater, Haunted Adventure, Marvelous Mirror Maze, Guinness World Record, and two separate Ripley's branded mini-golf courses for a whopping 8 different attractions. It certainly seems possible some of these or other Ripley's branded attractions located elsewhere around the world could be in development for Orlando.
Late 2017 - Top Golf Orlando / Andretti Indoor Karting - NOW OPEN - (10/20/17) According to the official website the new TopGolf location in Orlando is set to open on October 20th on Universal Blvd, just behind the North/South building of the Orange County Convention Center. They appear to be opening with an impressive set of hours, opening Sun-Thur from 9am to Midnight and Fri / Sat from 9am to 2am. I’ve never been to a TopGolf before myself, but I’ve heard they can be quite fun, even for those who aren’t big into the sport of golf itself. They did open another location near me in Charlotte, so I guess I’ll have to try it out myself sometime as well.
According to GolfWeek, the new Orlando location will be the first to incorporate a new twist into the gameplay with the introduction of Toptracer. Toptracer will allow customers through ball tracking technology to see distance, speed, height, hang time and curve statistics for each shot.
(12/27/16) Midway Mayhem has posted a quick construction update on a couple of new Orlando area attractions - the new TopGolf Orlando and Andretti Indoor Karting & Games attractions. On the former it looks like some of the large superstructure for Top Golf is now starting to go up, meanwhile a huge concrete slab has been poured for the future Kart track going in next door, which hopes to open in the first half of 2017.
According to the official TopGolf website the Orlando location should be ready to open by Fall 2017 and is now under construction at the corner of Universal Blvd and Convention Way, looking to put it essentially next door to that large piece of property that Ripley's Entertainment just purchased last week. Again, this is all down near where Universal Orlando is expected to eventually build their next big park(s) and future resorts.
When built TopGolf Orlando promises a three-level location with 102 climate-controlled driving-range bays (each able to hold up to 6 players) plus act as a popular hangout, restaurant, and special event location.
Late 2017 - Gatorland / Stompin' Gator Off-Road Adventure - (4/24/17) The famous Gatorland animal park in Orlando is now planning an interesting expansion to the property that would see a new attraction allowing guests to ride in a giant 12 feet tall off-road vehicle through the woods and swamplands of the park's undeveloped property east of the park. The attraction will be called Stompin' Gator Off-Road Adventure and is expected to open by September. The ride will last 15-20 minutes and include a "mid-pond stop" where you can feed some hungry gators along the way as well as pass through the park's gator graveyard. Each of the three off-road buggies will cost $80,000 each and be named after one of the park's legendary animals: Cannibal Jake, Bonecrusher and Swamp Ghost. Note that this will be an upcharge attraction, with an estimated extra cost of $10-15 to ride.
2018 - Orlando Starflyer - (5/18/18) Need another look at the Orlando StarFlyer? This time Midway Mayhem gets the chance to CLIMB the huge tower, or at least up enough to get on the carousel portion of the ride structure, and then ride THAT all the way to the top... going up 400 feet in the air all the way to the top. And wow... in the hot Orlando sun no less! And I thought riding in the thing was going to be the most terrorfying thing about the Orlando Starflyer, but this bring fear of heights or falling to a whole new level. If that wasn't enough, they climb back into the center of the structure and go up and ladder to the very tip of cap structure of the tower for a look at the view out the top hatch. Un-freaking-believable.
Midway Mayhem just won my respect by pulling off this huge stunt... something I don't think I could have done. Just watching the video of the trip made me feel ill.
(4/27/18) The latest word on the Orlando Starflyer is that it will now open on June 1st and tickets to ride are expected to cost $12.
(4/20/18) Check out the video below to see some on-ride POV footage of the Orlando Starflyer making a test maintenance-mode run (not the full ride cycle mode) on the tower at night with all those glorious lights burning bright. The Orlando skyline will never be the same, but damn... that thing is high up (450 feet) and probably more than a little intimidating when you realize that it's just a couple of chains holding your chair in the air while it spins around. YIKES!!
(4/4/18) Another great video update showing off the progress on the Orlando StarFlyer has been posted by Midway Mayhem this week. No more ride testing just yet as they seem to be focused on installing all the ground level equipment needed for the ride and infrastructure around it.
(3/21/18) A quick video showing off the Orlando StarFlyer making some test movements up and down the tower has been posted by Midway Mayhem. Check it out below.
(3/14/18) A great new construction update video from the Orlando StarFlyer was posted today from Midway Mayhem showing off the crews as they install the top cap piece onto the huge tower already. See? I told you it was going to go up very fast.
Check out the video below.
(3/6/18) Special thanks to RollerCoasterPro who sent in a few pictures of the Orlando StarFlyer construction site taken on Monday as the rider carriage has been lowered into place on the lower tower unit, clearing the way for the rest of the tower pieces to be put on top. Follow the link to find the rest posted to their Facebook page.
If past experience is anything to go by, I'd expect to see the rest of the Orlando StarFlyer's tower go up very quickly at this point, with the crews capping it off before you know it if the weather behaves, all in time to open it this May.
(3/1/18) According to a post on the local news the new StarFlyer going up on I-Drive is shooting to open to the public on May 11th. Meanwhile new footage from Midway Mayhem shows off the official name for the ride, "Orlando Stayflyer", as seen on the back of the ride's seats that have now arrived on-site.
(2/7/18) The world's tallest StarFlyer ride coming to I-Drive in Orlando has finally started progress again in putting up the ride tower. Normally these things go up quickly, progress here has been a little slow for some reason. You can see a video from the construction site posted by Midway Mayhem.
(12/11/17) A local reader sent in a picture showing off the bottom of the new Vue 360 (Starflyer) tower structure is now in place on I-Drive. These kind of tower rides normally go up pretty quickly, so keep your eyes peeled as we watch this thing climb into the sky. You can also compare this with a second picture I took myself on Nov. 19th from the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye.
(9/4/17) A new video construction report from I-Drive by Midway Mayhem shows off the current progress on the huge Star Flyer ride project.
(8/26/17) Well well... lookie here. Forward progress is finally being made on the long promised world's tallest Star Flyer coming to Vue 360 on I-Drive, as the giant foundation for the huge tower is mostly frames and will likely be poured very soon (see Twitter picture below). From what I've seen this is being placed right next to the entrance to the parking garage for the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye complex, so the two massive attractions will be fairly near to one another and provide some interesting eye-to-eye views for their respective passengers.
Meanwhile... the also long promised Skyplex tower project with the Skyscraper polercoaster? Mmmm... not so much. The site looks pretty much the same as it did as the day it was announced.
(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.
Late 2018 - Margaritaville Resort Orlando - (2/8/18) The Orlando Sentinel reports that the new Margaritaville Resort complex under construction down off 192 has already signed some very interesting and different tenants for their entertainment and retail district. They claim the project is on track to open in November, with the first shopping section to be called SunsetWalk at Margaritaville Resort Orlando.
Already signed up for SunsetWalk is Studio Movie Grill, a 12-screen movie-theater featuring recliner seats and full food and beverage service. A Rascal Flatts restaurant project has also signed up along with a “Rock & Brews” brewery restaurant project from KISS members, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Another interesting idea called GameTime, a mix of a restaurant and video game arcade, has also signed on along with retail stores from Skechers, Paradise Spirit & Wine, Bahama Bucks, Avalon Day Spa, Cafe Rio, Cold Stone Creamery and BurgerFi.
(1/12/18) An all new website showing off the latest evolution of the Margaritaville Resort Orlando project has now launched here. In addition to a hotel, it looks like they will time a time-share style village of cottage houses, a large retail mall area and even an entirely separate mini waterpark with three slide towers, a six-lane mat racer slide, wave pool, tube river and more.
(7/28/17) Based on the look of this 'groundbreaking' photo from the site of the new Margaritaville Resort coming to Orlando, I don't think it will be opening anytime soon. Looks like they will miss that original target date of 2017. I guess this explains why we haven't heard much about the project over the past year
(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.
2020 - SKYPLEX - Confirmed - (2/24/17) While the SkyPlex has yet to begin construction, yet another high-thrill attraction sure to make you in need of a new pair of underwear was added called Sky Jump.
If you've seen the Sky Jump in Las Vegas on the Stratosphere Tower, then you know exactly what this is... as guests will be strapped to a harness attached to a set of cables and then take a controlled freefall to the ground, with the system designed to safely slow guests down for a gentle landing at the bottom.
Take a look at the video below to see just what is in store for Orlando guests to the SkyPlex.
(2/8/17) According to the latest update from the local Fox news station the final planning and permitting for the Skyplex (which may now be called Skyplex 360) is still ongoing, though they hope to official break ground and begin true construction before the end of 2017, with the goal of opening the mega-attraction by 2020.
(11/16/16) According to the latest news reports, when the Skyplex opens the Skyscraper roller coaster will also have a VR headset option available to experience during the ride with different theme options you can choose from. While this is clearly just trying to be part of the latest tech trend to be used on various theme park coasters, I would like to argue that the Skyscraper coaster would be one coaster I would think most would opt not to wear the headgear. After all, the biggest thrill of the Skyscraper is going to be the dizzying view from the ride's frightening 501 foot height as it spirals around the outside of the tower. Why would you want to put on VR headgear and miss all that?
(11/14/16) Just as I suspected about back in November 2014, the Orlando Skyplex attraction plans have yet another attraction in store for guests when it opens... this one called the SkyLedge. As I thought when I saw a revised piece of artwork of the tower showing an odd 'ring' like structure added to run around the top, this steel ring will be used as a very tall walkway for guests to step out, while wearing a harness of course, and take a stroll around the outside of the Skyplex tower, standing 600 feet above the ground.
Similar attractions have been built on other large towers outside of the United States, but this will be the first one to open in the US. One of the first of theses that I ever heard of was the SkyWalk in New Zealand, which you can catch a look in the video below to see just what is involved.
(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".
(10/29/15) 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.
(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 parking 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 expense 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.
2019/2020/2021?? - Great Wolf Lodge Orlando - Status Unknown - (1/25/17) While doing a little research into the new Georgia GWL project now under way, I decided to see what new info I could pull up about the Orlando Lodge project that has still yet to begin construction, despite dropping $23 million on some prime property not too far from Walt Disney World one year ago.
According to an update posted a few months ago by the Orlando Business Journal the plan is to try and open the new resort waterpark by 2019. Typically the construction timetable for building a new Great Wolf Lodge is about 18-20 months, so if they want it open by Summer 2019, they'll have to start work sometime before the end of 2017, so keep your eyes peeled.
(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.
2021 or Later - Kennedy Space Center Expansions - (2/24/17) According to USA Today the Kennedy Space Center is planning some big expansions over the next five years, including a Mars Rover vehicle display and an attraction that would try to simulate 6 seconds of weightlessness as well as the high G-forces of a launch. This new "Mars Deep Space" attraction could open by 2021 and be located where the current administration office of the Visitor Complex is currently located.
Follow the link to read the rest of the article, including a list of other smaller improvements and new displays coming to the Kennedy Space Center later this year.
???? - Planet Hollywood's Premier Resort Residences Orlando - (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.
???? - Unicorp Projects - (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.