A News page for the Orlando’s areas other Minor Attractions and Resort properties
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(6/2/20) A Deeper Look At What You Might Expect To Encounter At Orlando's Theme Parks (MORE...)
(5/25/20) Most ICON Park Attractions Reopen On Select Days (MORE...)
(5/24/20) Some Now Reopen, Others Set Dates To Reopen Soon (MORE...)
(5/23/20) Gatorland Reopens Today in Orlando
(5/21/20) Island H2O Waterpark Reopening May 23rd
(5/20/20) Orlando's Smaller Attractions Say They Are Ready To Reopen ASAP (MORE...)
You can find our review of the I-Drive 360 attractions (Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium here.
Central Florida News - (6/2/20) With the theme parks in Orlando starting to reopen, lets take a deeper look at what guests might expect to find from each of the parks in my latest article for BlooLoop. (One note; This was written before Disney had confirmed their phased plans to reopen all four parks, so there is some speculation about Epcot not opening at first that is now out of date, so please forgive.)
(5/25/20) According to the latest information ICON Park in Orlando is open, but The Wheel is currently still listed as being “Closed Until Further Notice”. As we previously mentioned the Orlando StarFlyer now appears to be open daily and now SEA LIFE Orlando and Madame Tussauds Orlando have reopened with a 5-day week schedule: open Wednesdays through Sundays only (Closed Monday and Tuesdays).
(5/24/20) Here are some rumored dates for other Orlando area attractions to reopen over the coming days. Please check with the attraction’s website to ensure they are indeed opening before attempting to visit.
Orlando Starflyer - NOW OPEN (May 22, 2020)
Chocolate Kingdom - NOW OPEN (May 23, 2020)
Magical Midway / Orlando Slingshot - **Slingshot may be open, rest may be closed, status-unknown**
Andretti Indoor Karting - May 27
Wonderworks - May 29
ICON Orlando (aka: Orlando Eye) - June 3, 2020
(5/23/20) Gatorland reopens today and has posted an update on the changes made to the park. Social Distancing marks have been placed throughout the park for admission, shows, rides and food venues. The park and all venues inside will have reduced capacity to allow for social distancing as well. All rides, seating areas and transaction surfaces will be disinfected after every use, and the various other ‘contact surfaces’ within the park will be cleaned and sanitized frequently throughout the day with Sanitizer stations added throughout the park.
The Jumparoo Show and Gator Gully Splashpark/Playground will be closed for the time being.
All employees will be temperature checked upon arrival for their shift and required to wear face masks at all times in the park. Guests are encouraged to wear face masks, but it is not required. While guests will not be temp checked upon arrival, they must agree to be free of symptoms before entering, to maintain social distancing and frequently use hand washing / sanitizer station, and most importantly, “Gatorland reserves the right to check their temperature if they exhibit symptoms”.
(5/21/20) A press release from the Island H2O Water Park in Kissimee has confirmed that the park will reopen on May 23rd, with operations planned for select days at first instead of daily operations. The plans seems to be to start the 3-day Memoridal Day Weekend holiday period (May 23-25), then one more weekend (May 30-31), then into some 5-day weeks (closed Monday and Tuesdays), before committing to a full 7-days a week schedule by mid-June.
Attendance capacity at the park will be limited, but they are not going to use any kind of reservation system, so admission will be on a first-come basis. While Team Members will be given a temperature check before working, guests will not. All team members are also required to wear face masks, and while they do recommended for guest safety that they be used while walking through the park, masks can not be used while in the water or on any of the slides. Social Distancing measures will be in effect in the park to keep groups a safe distance away from each other while in the park, waiting for an attraction or getting food.
Thus far, the CDC has stated that “disinfection with chlorine…should inactivate the virus in the water.” Island H2O says that all of their attractions are “double treated
with chlorination and ultraviolet light to maintain the healthiest water conditions.” There will also be employees on constant duty throughout the day to clean and disinfect all surfaces as well.
(5/20/20) Many of Orlando’s smaller attractions such as Fun Spot, Gatorland and ICON Park, are making presentations to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force this week to talk about their new proposed operating guidelines, along with requests to reopen as soon as possible. If things go their way and their safety plans are approved, they say that Fun Spot could reopen as soon as May 22 and Gatorland as soon as May 23.
(5/5/20) According to Attractions Magazine, Florida has begin the first phase of their reopening process and some local attractions are now clear to reopen. The list of those reopening includes Old Town in Kissimmee, The Escape Game (Orlando), Dinosaur World, Congo River Golf and Dave & Busters (Orlando).
(5/4/20) According to an article posted to Interpark, a draft from the Task Force behind reopening the theme parks and attractions in Florida has recommended that Florida’s theme parks would be best off by allowing each one to determine their own reopening schedule. Each theme park resort has their own specific design quirks and that they will each best know how to handle their own unique needs in terms of following the CDC safety guidelines best. As such they recommend that they, “be permitted to open at their own discretion with their internally determined level of safe capacities throughout the various phases.”
(4/28/20) A local task force has given their first set of recommendations as to how Florida’s theme parks, hotels and restaurants should reopen. While this is just the first set of guidelines from the task force, it could see theme parks and attractions reopen as soon as June, with workers returning sometime in May to prepare the attractions, restock, and train for all the new safety procedures.
For Theme Parks and Attractions the guidelines are fairly common-sense.
Phase 1 - Parks to reopen at 50% capacity, Phase 2 will increase to 75% capacity.
Staff to randomly and regularly wipe down all surfaces.
Attraction Queues will have markers to keep guest groups six feet apart.
Senior members of the staff, age 65 and up, are encouraged to Stay Home during Phase 1 & 2.
Touchless hand sanitizer devices at every attraction entry and exit point.
Touchless hand sanitizer devices at every turnstile and point of entry into the park.
All staff are to wear face masks
All staff are to be given a temperature check upon arrival, if over 100.4 they will sent home
Heavily encourage and promote online ordering and take-out options over eating on site
Disposable paper menus only
Touchless hand sanitizer devices at every entry and exit point.
Senior members of the staff, age 65 and up, are encouraged to Stay Home during Phase 1 & 2.
All surfaces and railings are to be wiped down and cleaned on a regular basis.
Hand sanitizer at every table.
All staff to wear face masks.
All staff are to be given a temperature check upon arrival, if over 100.4 they will sent home
All staff behind counters are to wear gloves, except bartenders
Bartenders must sanitize hands after each drink order
Tables are to be places six feet apart
Phase 1 - Reopen at 50% capacity, Phase 2 will increase to 75% capacity.
If possible use a Mobile Check In procedure
Housekeeping to have minimal contact with guests
Housekeeping only upon request and when guests are away
Use Self Parking (no valet only service)
Staff that can work from home should do so
Senior members of the staff, age 65 and up, are encouraged to Stay Home during Phase 1 & 2.
Room Service To be dropped off at guest’s door only
Touchless hand sanitizer devices at every entry and exit point.
Increased cleaning achieved through sanitation companies
All Staff to wear face masks
All staff are to be given a temperature check upon arrival, if over 100.4 they will sent home
Any staff member showing any flu-like symptoms will also be sent home
Front Desks will install “sneeze guards”
Mini-bars in rooms will not be stocked
Coffee Makers removed from rooms
Self-food services not offered
Pool area furniture to be spaced out for social distancing.
Frequent sanitize / cleaning of door handles, elevator buttons, railings, bell carts and door keys
Keep in mind this is just the first set of recommendations and nothing is set in stone yet, especially not an exact timeline to reopen, but it is good to see some progress and plans being made towards that endeavor.
(4/22/20) According to WDW News Today an Task Force has been appointed in Florida to determine the method and time-line in which businesses and attractions in the state will be able to reopen. The task force is said to already be in talks with Walt Disney World executives, and one idea being floated about may be to first try to reopen the theme parks to Florida Residents first as Phase 1, before next opening the parks to US residents, and eventually to international guests in the last phase.
(4/1/20) While Universal Orlando and many other parks had looked like they were hoping to reopen their theme parks around April 20th or so, a new 30-Day “Stay At Home” order issued by Florida’s Governor will now push back any attempted reopen dates for the state’s theme parks until the start of May.
(2/20/20) According to the latest update from the Orlando Sentinel, The Holy Land Experience attraction is now planning to layoff the majority of their employees (118 people) starting on April 18th. The park had also mentioned that they are no longer offering annual passes to the park, which seems to be a clear sign that the end is likely near.
(2/15/20) According to a local news report Unicorp, a local attraction developers behind the Iron Park attraction on International Drive, may be looking into buying the location of the Holy Land Experience for a future project.
(2/13/20) The Orlando Business Journal reports that the owners of the Holy Land Experience attraction may have entered initial talks with potential buyers looking to take over and redevelop the valuable attraction space.
(1/20/20) According to this report the end may be near for Orlando’s Holy Land Experience park. Following the announcement of budget cuts that would see major cutbacks to the live entertainment offerings in the park following the Easter holiday period, it is now being reported that the owners have “hired a broker” to try to sell the property. The location is considered to be a prime location that could be sold for a bundle to developers.
(1/18/20) While downtown Orlando was never a place I ever hung out during the years I lived in Orlando, apparently there are now a bunch of interesting themed joints down there now that I think I would feel right at home in. Good examples are Cocktails & Screams (a horror themed bar) and Joysticks, a highly themed 80’s video game themed joint that goes above and beyond what you'd expect. (Bonus: the video games are free to play as long as you buy a drink!) Take a look in the latest video from Yukendoit posted below.
(1/9/20) Things are not looking good for Orlando’s infamous Holy Land Experience attraction. According to Orlando Weekly there have been rumors lately claiming the attraction could possibly close down forever sometime in April. Instead Holy Land, which has no rides and mainly pushes live-performances along with static displays, will soon be putting an end to all theatrical performances starting on April 19th, as they begin a plan to “scale back” their operations.
(10/23/19) Who else here remembers visiting Disney’s Pleasure Island back in the day? During your visits to Pleasure Island, who else used to visit the popular Comedy Warehouse shows? Lots of fun times to be had there, and according to an article the other day by ThemeParkUniversity several o the former Comedy Warehouse performers were getting back together as part of a new improv comedy show that was place on I-Drive on Wednesday nights at The Forum.
Unfortunately, it seems the venue didn't work out and according to the latest update on the website of the Orlando Comedy Alliance the group plans to moving their efforts to a new venue to perform on a different night in the near future. Watch that website for the new details as they become available, because it should be a good show you wont want to miss.
(10/14/19) Local haunt fans take note that the new Dark Horizon: Point of No Return experience in Orlando is now open. We sent a local area victim / contributor down to check it out on opening night and report back all the gory details and you can read up on the official review and photos here, as well as jump on over to the official Screamscape news page on Instagram where they posted five videos from Dark Horizons on our InstagramTV channel.
(10/8/19) If you are planning a visit to Walt Disney World and Orlando, the group of seven “Disney Springs Hotels” have announced that the special benefits of having access to the Disney ‘Extra Magic Hours” and 60-Day out FastPass+ reservations that were slated to end on Dec. 31st, 2019 have now been extended and will continue through to Dec. 31st, 2020.
The Disney Springs Hotels include: the B Resort & Spa, Best Western Lake Buena Vista, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando - Disney Springs Area, Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, Holiay Inn Orlando - Disney Springs Area and Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista.
(8/9/19) Awhile ago you may remember reading a report here about how the Brightline high-speed train service that runs from Miami through Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach was planning to expand the service all the way to Orlando International Airport. That plan is still said to be on and now Virgin has come on board as a partner as well, that will see the service rebranded as Virgin Trains USA. The construction of the extension to Orlando is expected to take 3 years and be completed sometime in 2022.
There is more to come however, as Universal Orlando has now teamed up with Orange County to push as hard as they can to get the line extended a little bit more to create another stop that would be able to service the Orange County Convention Center as well as Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park resort property.
Meanwhile Virgin Trains says they are already plans to expand the system even more, with a stop at Walt Disney World and then a run down to Tampa… but obviously this expansion would cut out the rest of the Orlando market completely, which is why they are lobbying for the important extra stop at the Convention Center, which could service the entire Orlando tourist corridor along I-Drive and not just Walt Disney World.
This all sounds extremely familiar to me, and if you are local to Orlando, it might sound familiar to you as well, as a similar situation played out years ago over another proposed high-speed rail project that would have run from the Orlando airport to the Tampa airport, with a single stop at Walt Disney World. Disney at the time set the demand that they would only allow it to stop on their property as long as it did not stop anywhere else along the way and the project was soon abandoned as being entirely self serving to Walt Disney World, who wasn't paying for it, and not at all to anyone else.
(12/24/18) Plans to extend Kirkman Road in Orlando an additional 1.7 miles to the south are being pushed forward to connect to Universal Boulevard on the south-side near the Orange County Convention Center, after passing through Universal’s new southern campus property, which is expected to soon be home to their next mega theme park. Adding the road extension is not only practically a necessety to allow guests to properly access the new Universal property wheneven it opens, but will also serve to alleviate some serious north-south traffic congestion issues along International Drive, Universal Blvd and to a lesser extent Turkey Lake Road by offering an alternate bypass through the area away from the traditional tourist corridor. Look for construction to begin in Summer 2020 on this new wide-road system that will feature several lanes of travel in each direction as well as a dedicated bus travel corridor down the center, much like how Disney has upgraded Buena Vista Drive from the Disney Springs area towards the parks.
(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.
2021/2022 - Icon Park Adding Two New Rides - (1/29/20) According to the OBJ, Unicorp is still seeking city approval to add the new two thrill rides to Icon Park that were previously promoted as coming in 2020. This would be to add a 350 to 400 foot tall drop tower and a 300 foot tall sling-shot upcharge attractions able to shoot riders up to 450 feet in the air. The permitting process is expected to take another 2-6 months and construction can take up to a year, so with that in mind it will probably be late 2021 or 2022 before either of these open at the International Drive attraction.
(5/13/19) According to the local news Icon Park, the new name for the former Orlando Eye wheel and surrounding attractions, released details about two major new rides they are planning to add. One will be a massive 300-foot tall Orlando Slingshot ride that will fire riders up to 450 feet into the sky. The second with be called the Orlando Gyro Drop Tower, which will slowly rotate and raise riders 350 feet into the sky for a view of the surrounding area before dropping them back to earth at 75mph. Look for both attractions to be up and running sometime in 2020, to be located on the opposite side of Icon Park from the Starflyer.
2020?? - Alamo Drafthouse Orlando - (2/5/19) Alamo Drafthouse… legendary for offering a unique cinema experience has announced that they will soon open a new location in Orlando to be located behind the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets off Vineland Ave. No word on when it might open however, so stay tuned!
???? - SKYPLEX - Confirmed - (9/11/19) Tucked away at the bottom of a Miami area news article about how the FAA gave approval for an 831 foot tall structure in downtown Miami, it also is quick to mention that the FAA also gave their approval for the 706-foot tall Orlando Skyplex tower. So with that out of the way, are there any other hurdles left to prevent Joshua Wallack from starting construction on this long delayed project?
(2/28/19) A few new updates about the Skyplex project came out this week as part of an interview with Joshua Wallack. While construction hasn’t started, they did say that the previous $500 million budget for the project was scaled back to just $250 million, and designed to take up less of the 14-acre site than originally planned. They do say that the thrill ride tower will still be 570 feet tall, just that some of the land on the site will be left open to build a future hotel project. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that they say Skyplex is now set to open in 2020… so to that I say that they better get their collective butts in gear, because unless construction starts ASAP that is going to be a tough timeline to meet as-is. Time for the Skyplex to show that they are serious.
(9/16/18) While we haven't heard much at all about the proposed Skyplex tower project in Orlando, some coaster fans in Europe spotted some interesting new developments that may be for the Polercoaster. Some steelwork was spotted at Stakotra, an Intamin supplier, now has these massive steel connector joint pieces on site that could very well be for the support structure for the Polercoaster. Follow the link to take a look.
(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.
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.
Virgin Trains USA - (1/20/20) According to the latest update an official from Virgin Trains stated that talks with Disney to put a station on or near the Walt Disney World property have reached a “rather advanced state now”. With the rail line pathway seemingly already set to run down the 417 from the Airport on a direct run towards Disney, it would only make sense that a station get build on the mouse’s doorstep at some point in the future. Of course Virgin Trains has to finish the expansion of their line from West Palm Beach to the Orlando Airport first.
(12/31/19) Discussions between Virgin Trains USA and the state of Florida have been extended for another 90 days to attempt to finalize the land-lease location of a high-speed rail route that would travel about 80 miles from the Orlando airport, down SR-417 to connect to I-4 where it would lead to a new station in the Tampa area.
As previously reported, Virgin is also in talks with Disney about locating a station on or near Disney property as they pass through the area, but a route along the SR-417 from the airport would remove any possibility of putting a station near the Orange County Convention Center, which became a major obstacle in getting Disney on-board with plans a decade ago for a similar project.
(12/18/19) While the Orlando airport is preparing for the arrival of the Virgin Trains USA line (formerly Brightline) to bring in riders from the southern Florida area starting in 2022, they are also apparently in talks about an expansion of the line from the Orlando airport that could eventually reach Tampa, that could include a stop at Walt Disney World.
Now stop me if you think you’ve heard this story before… because if you are local to central Florida, or a longtime reader, you are probably having a bit of deja-vu from 2009. Ten years ago the state of Florida began making plans to build a bullet train that would run from the Orlando to Tampa airports with a few stops along the way. This included a wanted stop at Orlando’s Orange County Convention center on I-Drive as well as one at Walt Disney World before running off towards Tampa. Unfortunately, while Disney was willing and wanted to have a grand-sized station on property, they also set an ultimatum demanding that the train would not stop anywhere in Orlando after leaving the airport before it arrived at Walt Disney World property. Since this would turn the state funded project into a direct funnel that would only benefit Walt Disney World, the rail project proposal soon died a quick death.
While at first one might think that this posturing was another mis-step from the Eisner era at Disney, this is not so as Michael Eisner was replaced by Bob Iger in 2005, so all this happened under Iger’s watch and it makes me wonder if it could play out the same way once again.