A News page for the Orlando’s areas other Minor Attractions and Resort properties
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(5/12/15) Orlando - Man Killed When Thrown From Tram at Orlando Airport (MORE...)
(5/7/15) The Skyplex Now Wants To Add a Hotel (MORE...)
(4/30/15) Previews of The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Orlando (MORE...)
(4/20/15) Orlando Eye Gets Lit Up and More (MORE...)
Click Here for a summary of Now Open 2013 Attractions
Central Florida News - (5/12/15) For many Orlando tourists, the first ride they take upon arriving in town for their Vacation isn't at one of the theme parks... but instead is the tram ride at the Orlando International Airport that shuttles all travelers from the four terminal satellite complexes to the main building.
Unfortunately, something went very wrong last week as one of the trams was being run in "manual mode" instead of the normal automated operation mode. For an unknown reason the tram's E-Stop was hit at about 5: 35am, it slammed to a sudden stop and an airport traveling on the tram was sent "hurtling through the windshield" and then fell 15 feet down to the ground below. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The accident took place on one of the two trams that service gates 1 - 29.
(3/5/15) Orlando readers who are always in the hunt for new themed entertainment are in luck, as I've got a little info on a couple of new interesting attractions in development that could use your help.
For starters there is a group called Masters of the Hunt who produce scavenger hunt style temporary attractions for whoever wants to hire them. The group is now hoping to land a FedEx Small Business Grant ($25k) for a new MOBILE Escape Room concept attraction that could be built inside something like... a FedEx truck for example, and drive around to various locations like a food truck, bringing the Escape Room concept to the masses! They could use your help by casting a vote for them to win the FedEx grant however.
Second up is a new attraction planned to go into a warehouse style space in downtown Orlando called The Republic. This one sounds interesting and very different... as it is described as a mix of immerse theater as guests are mixed in with theatrical performers who help lead them through the story that will feature interactive gaming elements, live special effects and much more. Several "leading theme park designers" are involved with The Republic and they have now come to Kickstarter to see financial backing to get the project off the ground. You can watch the video below for all the great details, but it sounds like a test run of the concept will be shown at the Orlando Fringe Festival in May 2015.
(2/16/15) While giant crazy projects being announced for the Orlando area is nothing new, sometimes they can be a bit too much to swallow. This may be one of those times as a developer has announced a proposed $309 million action sports resort project that would go in Osceola County near the intersection of Highway 192 and State Road 535. The main element of the project would be a huge 14-story tall Ski and Snowboard mountain structure that would also include 9 snow-tubing lanes. If that wasn't enough they also envision a 25,000 sqft skateboard park, a rock climbing wall, two stationary skydive simulator attractions, an indoor trampoline park, zip lines all over the property, a few waterslides and all connected to a nearby Hyatt hotel. The are calling it Action Sports & Entertainment Resort and hope to open in early 2018. The concept is interesting... but almost a bit out of place somehow. I guess we'll have to wait and see if this one really happens or not.
(12/22/14) While this kind of attraction is not for everyone, a new Machine Gun themed attraction has opened near Disney World this week called Machine Gun America on 192 very close to Celebration, across the street from Old Town in Kissimmee. While gun ranges are nothing new, this is not a typical gun range, and you are certainly not allowed to bring your own personal firearm in to shoot with. This attraction offers Orlando guests the ability to hold and shoot military style automatic fire weapons that are not available for purchase by the general public, as well as an assortment of hand guns, including some old-west style classic pistols as well as more modern semi-automatic pistols. In fact they offer themed packages that will cater your experience to famous movie weapons, westerns, modern combat, 007 James Bond style, or the 30’s-40’s style gangster weapons of days past. Saftey is always the word of the day however, as you will be accompanied by a Range Safety Officer at all times. Visit the official website for all the details about this unique attraction, prices and how you can make reservations.
For those looking for an attraction requiring a little more thought, The Escape Room attraction trend has come to Orlando, with three such attractions now open in the area according to an article at Orlando Weekly. There is The Great Escape Room in downtown Orlando, It’s A Trap! In Winter Park and the newest officially opens to the public today is Escapology on the southern end of International Drive.
(11/22/14) Want to know what’s new at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando? Can you say Teenange Mutant Ninja Turtle Laser Lockdown? I knew you could… as the resort has added a TMNT themed Laser Maze attraction. “With Mikey trapped in a super-secret Kraang Laboratory, it is up to maze participants to disable the security system, all while using their ninja stealth skills to navigate a web of high-tech lasers. The attraction is configured to entertain one or two participants at a time, providing a slightly different experience for guests each time they take on the challenge.”
The resort also has a SimEx-Iwerks 4D Theater that currently offers SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D: The Great Jelly Rescue and Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure..
(10/29/14) Behind the Thrills posted an interesting report a few hours ago, showing off an assortment of Height Check balloons spotted flying over a section of Wet ‘n Wild, as well as empty land behind Fun Spot as well as across the I-4 freeway where the old Mystery Fun House attraction used to be.
While I can only suspect that the Wet ‘n Wild location may be something for them only… I do have a fairly solid theory about the other two locations. A couple of years ago the state department of transportation came up with plans to add some new roads and bridges over I-4, one of which is to alter the path of Grand National (the road that goes behind Fun Spot) to go over a bridge over I-4 right where Mystery Fun House used to be where it will link up with Caravan Ct and end at Major Blvd. (See Map)
So why the third set of balloons at Wet ‘n’ Wild? I really have no idea, unless they needed a third visual reference point for some reason.
(10/21/14) The Orlando Sentinel reports that a second Chocolate Kingdom attraction is coming to Orlando’s International Drive area. Expanding from the original Kissimmee attraction, the second site will go into a 10,500 sqft building on Hawaiian Court and will also feature a working chocolate factory, all at a cost of about $2.5 million. For more info, visit ChocolateKingdom.com.
Dec 2014 - NASCAR I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing - (10/28/14) The Orlando Sentinel reports that NASCAR will team up with AMP Group USA to open an indoor go-kart attraction near International Drive on Dec. 19th at 5228 Vanguard St. The attraction will also feature a four-lane bowling alley, arcade, restaurant and more.
If this sounds familiar, it should… this is the very same I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing attraction that we’ve been talking about being on the way since late 2012… only now they apparently secured a deal to use the NASCAR name and changed their website to www.IDRIVENASCAR.com
(9/29/14) According to the official website, the I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing attraction will finally open on December 19th.
(7/23/13) The OBJ reports that a new indoor go-kart racing attraction will come to International Drive by the name of I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing. The $5 million attraction is said to be state of the art and will offer something not seen on I-Drive before. Construction will begin next month and they hope to open as early as January 2014.
When finished, the attraction will feature a two-level building with a half-mile go-kart track, bowling lanes, arcade as well as several food and beverage options build inside an existing warehouse structure about a block behind I-Drive on Vanguard St, across I-Drive from the Sonic.
(11/30/12) Information from the city of Orlando regarding a planned new Indoor Go Kart attraction one block back from the northern section of I-Drive can be found here. Looks like someone wants to renovate an old warehouse building just outside the Tanglo Park neighborhood, across the street from the Sonic on I-Drive. The ironic thing is that this site is across the opposite corner from the property once proposed for the Orlando Thrill Park.
Late 2014 - Artegon Orlando (Re-Launch of Festival Bay) - Under Construction - (12/28/14) Tragedy struck on Christmas Eve at the Artegon Marketplace mall in Orlando (formerly: Festival Bay) on the newly opened Skytrail Ropes course attraction. A 52-year old man somehow fell 30 feet from the course and was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died from his injuries.
The death is currently under investigation to determine just how he fell from the ropes course. As in standard with ropes course attractions, he was wearing a harness and attached to a safety rail, but somehow he became disconnected from the safety rail track system. The ropes course attraction will remain closed until they determine what happened and take the appropriate action.
While I have seen various injuries reported from ropes courses, I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard of a failure with the modern safety track harness system that allowed for a guest to fall to the ground. (If you know of another similar incident in the past, please do send in a link.)
(4/14/14) It will always be Festival Bay to me, but for some reason they have decided to rename the odd mall at the northern end of I-Drive as “Artegon Orlando”. Along with the new name comes the promise of new and interesting tenants as the mall prepares for a grand reopening celebration in October 2014. According to the report at MouseSteps, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill will open at Artegon in May.
Other new items on the way to join the mix of existing tenents (Fuddruckers, Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor World, Ron Jon’s and the Cinemark theater) is a Berghoff German Beer Hall that will open between Fuddruckers and Toby Keith’s, a new high end bowling alley concept called “Revolutions Eat Drink Rock & Bowl”, as well as the plans previously mentioned on Screamscape to reopen the old Vans Skatepark as the new Radbourne Skatepark.
(10/12/13) While the project was delayed and missed the promised Spring 2013 opening, I’ve been led to believe the former Vans Skatepark will reopen under the Radbourne name sometime in 2014 with some new surprises.
(12/19/12) The Vans Skatepark at Festival Bay that closed back in Janaury 2012 will soon reopen. A new group is coming in to take over and will reopen it as Radbourne Skatepark at Festival Bay in March 2013. They report that the attraction will be reinvented and improved to be even better than it was before.
2015 - Orlando Eye / Madame Tussauds / SEA LIFE Aquarium / I-Drive 360 -
MADAME TUSSAUDS -
(4/30/15) I’m happy to report that over the past three days, Screamscape was invited to preview all three new attractions at I-Drive 360: The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and the SeaLife Aquarium. While I couldn’t be there myself, I had an excellent candidate to fill in, take photos of it all, and report back with brief reviews. Plus to top it all off, the world witnessed Nik Wallenda go for the stroll on top of a moving Orlando Eye just before it opened to the media. Ready to hear all about it? Let’s go!
The new Madame Tussauds at the beautiful I-Drive 360 is a very cool and fun experience. The Orlando location is separated into sections consisting of; A-List Party, TV, Film, Sports Stars, History and World Leaders, Arts and Science, Music, and Authentic History. The size of the experience itself was probably just about right and didn’t seem too long or cluttered. The theming of each area was really on point, especially The Walt Disney area, the section with Andy Warhol, and the Science areas.
There is plenty of room and photo opportunities to be had and the staff is more than happy to help you out. The attention to detail is impeccable from the Tattoos, birth marks, even recreating jewelry that was worn. There are built in photo opportunities where the staff with their own professional cameras take your photos. Those photos are then put into a book with photos of the figures at the current location. Along with the details and other interesting facts about them. The price for the book is $35.
SEALIFE ORLANDO -
At Sea Life Orlando there are 30 different displays, Three interactive ocean environments and a variety of interactive elements. One of the main features at Sea Life Orlando is the 360 degree Ocean tunnel. Similar to Sea Worlds shark Tunnel, Sea Life's is completely transparent acrylic all the way around and it makes it seem as if you are about to just “fall in” to the water around you. Having sharks swim under and over you in unique in its own right, and this was a very cool part of the experience. One of the other neat parts were the 360 degree bubbles that you can pop your head into (kids and adults) and surround yourself and get really “close” to certain sea creatures such as eels and other creatures of the deep. There are educational experiences to be included such as talks and feeding demos. One of the other cool things is the Rock Pool experience where you can get up and close and touch starfish, urchins and other benign sea creatures. The cheerful new staff is rather knowledgeable about the areas they work in as well (I found out that Sea Life is the top breeder of Seahorses)
THE ORLANDO EYE -
The Majestic "ginormous" centerpiece of the new I Drive 360 is the Orlando Eye topping out at whopping 400 feet, a number that even this roller coaster buff was a little worried about.
The Orlando Eye experience starts off with a Photo Op and then a 10 minute “4D” movie which consists of a lot of fly over and drone footage from Central Florida which I thought they did very well, the sub story line for the flyover was a little cheesy but its basically an extended setup for the Eye itself.
The Eye rotates continually and you hop on an off as the Gondola cars come by, 10 people would be rather comfortable in a cab (we had about 6 in ours) as the Eye slowly brings you up into the Florida sky. On a clear day you are able to see the vehicle assembly building at Cape Canaveral (that’s 57 miles away) on this not so clear day
Islands of Adventure, The Contemporary Resort, Spaceship Earth, and the gleaming spires of Spaceship Earth were all visible. The gondolas themselves are windows ceiling to floor with air-conditioning, and a calming soundtrack. The ride was smooth even on this slightly windy day.
Pricing is $25 for one attraction, $39 for two and $49 for three which consist of the Sea Life Aquarium , The Eye and Madame Tussauds. The three new offerings are a good bargain when done together ($49) Visiting them on a day away from the parks (or on a rainy day which we have in Florida often) and you don’t have to use all three things in one day. Individually they may have their allure to certain types of visitors all in all it’s a great addition to the Orlando lineup
(4/20/15) The Orlando Eye was lit up for the first time ever the other night, followed by being put into motion as well. You can see a few pictures of the event posted to BehindTheThrills.
(2/18/15) Big news from I-Drive 360 on Tuesday morning as they confirmed that Madame Tussauds, SeaLife and the Orlando Eye would all officially open on May 4th. That said, guests who sign up for their online news letter can also sign up for soft-opening days on May 1-3.
(2/12/15) While we still don't have an exact date for when it will open other than "Spring 2015", the Orlando Eye is now selling early bird tickets to the wheel for just $18, a combo ticket for the Eye, SeaLife and Madame Tussauds for $35, a few other combinations as well as a "Flex Ticket" for $25 to ride the wheel on any day.
Right now the first date early bird tickets are being sold for is Monday, May 4th, so I'm guessing the wheel could possibly soft open a week or two before then if all goes well. So if you are planning a trip to Orlando around this time period and want to try the Orlando Eye, SeaLife and Madame Tussauds, keep checking the official site for the latest info.
(1/30/15) The installation progress of putting the cabins on The Orlando Eye is moving ahead rapidly. Accord to a tweet from the Eye posted Thursday afternoon, they have already installed 12 of the 30 capsules.
(1/26/15) One of our readers sent us a quick picture of the Orlando Eye, and in the distance you can actually make out the first car installed onto the wheel last week. The Orlando Eye posted a closer up picture showing off the car on the wheel on Twitter a few days ago as well. With all the capsules at the ready, we should see them added to the wheel with increased frequency over the next couple of weeks.
(1/17/15) The Orlando Eye has announced that they will begin installing the passenger capusles onto the wheel starting this weekend. Meanwhile PixelsAtTheParks has posted some new pictures of the attraction as seen from the loading platform area.
(1/5/15) A Screamscape reader has sent in three new shots of the Orlando Eye taken on New Years Day. It wont be long before the cabins start to be installed onto the wheel.
(12/12/14) The Orlando Eye’s structure is now nearing completion at last, with almost the entire outer wheel now put into place. Check out the latest pictures at OrlandoParksNews.
(12/3/14) A video from the Orlando Eye construction site, shot during a private tour, has been posted below.
(12/1/14) The outer wheel section of the Orlando Eye is going up quickly, section by section, one side and then the other, as they attempt to balance out the weight load during the build process. A reader sent in a couple of great pictures showing off how it looked this weekend. Enjoy!
(11/27/14) A great picture appeared on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, as workers began installing the 360º ocean tunnel into the SEA LIFE Orlando building, mentioning that the massive clear pipe weighs 18,000 pounds!
(11/19/14) Orlando skyline is growing, first the Orlando Eye giant wheel, then the Skycoaster at SKYPLEX complex was announced and a few hours ago it was announced that the tallest swing ride in the world, a FunTime Star Flyer standing 420 feet tall, will be coming to I-Drive going in next door to The Orlando Eye, opening sometime in late 2015 or early 2016. The newly planned Starflyer hasn’t been given final approval by the local government offices yet, but they aren’t expecting any problems that would delay it.
Of course, while this one is bigger, my immediate reaction was… what about the existing StarFlyer just down the road? Yep, a smaller 230 foot StarFlyer ride has been running down at Magical Midway for much of the past decade.
(11/17/14) The Orlando Eye revealed the first pictures of the Giant Wheel’s 30 climate controlled gondolas on Twitter late last week.
(11/11/14) Behind the Thrills was able to take a tour of the I-Drive 360 site, checking in on the status of all the Merlin attractions on the way including the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Aquarium as well as the other attractions in the complex, including some teases about a new mystery attraction on the way that hasn’t been announced yet.
(10/30/14) Good news from the Orlando Eye as the inner section of the wheel’s framework is now entirely in place. For those who have been looking on and thinking that the Orlando Eye sure looks small… that’s because what you have seen so far is only the inner wheel. Unlike the famous London Eye, or even the new High Roller wheel in Las Vegas, the design team for the Orlando Eye chose to not go with a “hubless” style Giant Wheel look, and instead went for the old fashioned style wheel look which will have a lot of framework around the center. (Note: I’m just going to hazard a guess that they may have went with the more beefy looking model to better withstand the occasional Florida hurricane.)
With the inner section of the wheel not complete, work should soon begin on installing the first piece of the much larger outer frame, which should give you a much better idea about how big the Orlando Eye is going to be when finished. In the meantime the crew at PixelsAtTheParks has posted a large new photo update from the Eye, showing off the completed inner hub as well as some very large crates that have begun to arrive on site that apparently have the wheel’s large gondolas inside.
(10/20/14) We get another look at the Orlando Eye progress this week over at OrlandoParkNews as the inner wheel hub is now nearly finished.
(10/13/14) Pixels At the Parks has posted a great new update showing off the progress being made to the OrlandoEye this week where it looks like half of the inner wheel spokes have been installed.
(9/26/14) A new construction update from the OrlandoEye and i-Drive 360 area has been posted to OrlandoParksNews showing off the new entrance sign, parking structure, parts and pieces of the eye itself laying about and some good close up on the wheel’s progress from the other day.
(9/19/14) A local area reader send in a couple of new images of the Orlando Eye under construction this week. See below...
(9/8/14) The latest peek at the Orlando Eye and I-Drive 360 site can be found over at PixelsAtTheParks.
(8/30/14) New Orlando Eye construction footage can be found over at PixelsAtTheParks this week. While there is progress at last, the work is still going slow for those impatient to see the wheel rise high into the sky. Soon my friends… very soon…
(8/25/14) The spokes are finally starting to go up at the Orlando Eye. A few readers have sent in images over the past week, and you can see even more pictures posted to PixelsAtTheParks of the assortments of parts and pieces carefully laid at the ready while they move on to this next phase of construction.
(7/31/14) Pixels at the Parks takes an exclusive behind the scenes tour of I-Drive 360 this week. Check it out!
(7/18/14) While there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on the Orlando Eye itself, there has been some new developments in the nearby area. As seen on PixelsAtTheParks, the nearby the new Red Robin has opened at I-Shops, plus a look at the new Starbucks nearly completion and some water features near the entrance to I-Drive 360 have been completed.
(7/11/14) Another new attraction will be coming to I-Drive 360 alongside those already announced. Skulls Unlimited International has signed an agreement with Unicorp to build a new museum attraction called “Skeletons, A Museum of Osteology” in I-Drive 360 and they’ve already launched a preview website to give you an idea of what it is all about. Currently they have only one other such museum, the “Museum of Osteology” which opened in Oklahoma City in 2010, which features a variety of both human and animal skeletons.
The Orlando attraction will feature over 300 skeletons in never before seen poses and dioramas. “Every skeleton will be perfect representatives of their species, habitat and unique adaptations. Our goal is to use these specimens to promote not only conservation of the species, but hopefully spark a lifelong interest of the animal kingdom in each visitor” – President- Jay Villemarette. Look for “Skeletons, A Museum of Osteology” to open on Spring 2015.
(7/2/14) Things are still moving slow over at the Orlando Eye, but a few small signs of progress can be found in the latest photo update posted to PixelsAtTheParks.
(6/17/14) From the sound of things, the Orlando Eye will start to show some progress again very soon as Behind the Thrills reports that the wheel’s giant 80,000 pound hub piece was just installed at long last. It may not look like much, but they say that this crucial piece of the ride weights as much as Boeing 737 and is required to be in place before they can start to install the spokes and outer wheel sections.
(5/29/14) The latest photo update from the I-Drive 360 construction site can be found at OrlandoParksNews as well as a new set of aerial photos from Pixels at the Parks giving us a new look at the Orlando Eye.
(5/12/14) A new construction photo update from I-Drive 360 has been posted to OrlandoParksNews.
While on the subject, I realized I’ve been late to report on the new details released for Merlin’s many new attractions coming to the site for Spring 2015. We all know about the Orlando Eye of course, the huge observation wheel (15 passengers per cabin) now rising into the skyline, but a few new details and artwork were released for Merlin’s other two attraction:
Madame Tussauds, the world’s most famous celebrity wax attraction, provides visitors with the ultimate fame experience and its signature red carpet treatment. Madame Tussauds showcases incredibly detailed and lifelike wax figures that lovingly pay tribute to the most influential celebrity and historical figures of our time.
SEA LIFE Orlando will offer a new wave of underwater adventures with beautiful displays of colorful fish, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses and more, that turn the traditional aquarium observation on its head. Winding tunnels, floor-to-ceiling tanks and bubble aquariums provide an immersive experience for children and adults alike. Additionally, the aquarium, known for its strong conservation efforts, will have unique educational components for young marine life enthusiasts.
If you want to see more about what a SEA LIFE site is like, check out Screamscape’s own review of the brand new Charlotte area location that just opened a couple of months ago.
(5/6/14) A new construction update for the Orlando Eye has been posted by Pixels at the Parks this week.
(4/26/14) We’ve got new pictures of the Orlando Eye going up today thanks to a reader, including the photographic proof that the wheel is from Intamin.
(4/3/14) A new construction report from the Orlando Eye site has been posted to Pixels At The Parks.
(3/26/14) A new photo update from the Orlando Eye construction site was posted to OrlandoParkNews this week.
(3/5/14) Could Merlin be planning another new attraction for the entertainment complex in the shadow of the Orlando Eye? What about a copy of the new Shrek’s Far Far Away Adventure just announced for London? According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Merlin’s CEO says that Orlando is a potential location for one of the other five clone sites Merlin is planning to build over the next decade.
While we’re on the subject of the Orlando Eye… I’ve been told that Intamin is the contracted manufacturer of the new wheel.
(2/26/14) Special thanks to one of our readers who sent in a few new pictures of the Orlando Eye construction site taken this week.
(2/20/14) The latest look at the Orlando Eye construction site has been posted to OrlandoParksNews, showing off what seems to be most of the wheel’s giant support structure now in place.
(2/7/14) A new construction report from the site of the Orlando Eye has been posted this week at OrlandoParksNews.
(1/30/14) Special thanks to a local area reader for sending in four new pictures of the Orlando Eye construction site this week.
(1/27/14) Coaster101 has posted a few new pictures of the Orlando Eye as the support structure is now quickly rising up into the Orlando sky.
(12/20/13) Unicorp has decided to drop the I-Drive Live project name and will instead refer to the entire retail development project as The Orlando Eye. The massive 425 foot wheel will dominate the landscape in the area and it would become a natural descriptive location for those within anyway to promote themselves as being the “SeaLife Aquarium at The Orlando Eye” for example.
The announcement also mentions that in addition to the already announced Madame Tussauds wax museum and the 25,000 sqft SeaLife Aquarium attractions, the site will now also become home to Titanic The Experience and The Bodies Exhibit. They also report that they are in talks with a “very large, well-known name” for a fifth attraction project, one that would be “a first in the world” attraction.
Other confirmed tenants include Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, Yard House, Seafood Republic, Dick’s Last Resort, Benn & Jerry’s, Sugar Factory, Bar Jour, Pretzelmaker, Cafe de Paris, Tin Roof live music bar and Cowgirls.
Meanwhile the nearby I-Shops project (which is keeping the name) on the Wyndham Orlando Resort property from the same developer will feature: Cooper Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Wawa, a new Walgreens, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery, Cold Stone Creamery, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Resort Partners, O’Neills Surf Shop, Longhorn Steakhouse, Chuy’s Tex-Mex and a Starbucks.
(12/18/13) A reader sent in a new picture of the steel now rising into place for the OrlandoEye giant wheel.
(12/11/13) Orlando Park News has posted a new photo report from I-Drive Live, giving us the latest look at this major new Orlando project under construction, including more pieces of the Orlando Eye on site.
(12/9/13) Our friends at Behind the Thrills spotted steel ride support collums for the new OrlandoEye giant wheel arriving on site this week. Check out the picture here.
(11/12/13) A construction update from the Orlando Eye building site has been posted to OrlandoUnited this week. Just scroll down to see the newest pictures.
(8/29/13) According to this article the Orlando Eye 425 foot giant wheel is being made by Intamin. While the project is far enough out to present an exact opening date, the group is shooting to have it open on New Years Eve 2014. They also say that we can expect to see the wheel’s giant A-Frame start to go up around Halloween.
The article also mentions $1 million to be spent on a giant water show set up at the entrance of I-Drive Live. It wont be at the level of the famous Belagio water show in Vegas, but will shoot water up to 80 feet in the air set to music and colored lights. There are also a list of future tenants who have already signed leases.
I-Shops will feature a BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Red Robin, Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Longhorn Steakhouse, Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Starbucks, O’Neill Surf Shop, a UPS Store and a Wawa/
I-Drive Live will feature Carrabba’s, Outback, Buffalo Wild Wings, Yard House, Seafood Republic, Cowgirls (a country bar) and more. According to the developers, more deals are currently in negotiations and once those are complete, they will only have two spaces left. Looks like I-Shops and I-Drive Live will be the place to be very soon.
(8/5/13) OrlandoParksNews takes a look at the progress taking place on the I-Drive Live project site, where what appears to be a huge 5-6 level parking structure has quickly risen up alongside the early ground work for other structures.
(3/14/13) It may have taken a few years, but there are finally signs of early progress and construction over at the I-Drive Live area. New pictures have been posted to OrlandoParksNews.
(1/31/13) More renderings of the night club with the pool designed for I-Drive Live (they should call it I-Dive) can be found at the WFTV website.
(1/24/13) OrlandoParksNews takes a look at some new information about the I-Drive Live project and permits, showing off all kinds of new artwork and plan images submitted for approval. Looks like the Madame Tussauds and SeaLife attractions will use the same building as the Orlando Eye terminal building.
(1/14/13) The local news reports that the I-Drive Live complex replacing the Mercado will also include a Las Vegas style nightclub with a pool, according to the latest plans. While the project is behind schedule, they expect to begin vertical construction in February. Unicorp says that they expect half of the project to be ready to open by early 2014 and the remainder to be ready by the end of 2014. I think it’s safe to say that the Orlando Eye giant wheel will be part of the later half.
(11/16/12) New concept art showing off the I-Drive Live layout and some attractions can be found over at Attractions Magazine.
(10/24/12) Unicorp has signed deals to bring a plethora of new restaurants to their I-Drive Live and I-Shops developments. The list includes: Red Robin, Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Chuy’s Tex-Mex restaurant, Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Buffalo Wild Wings and a new concept called Seafood Republic. (I’ve got to question the Buffalo Wild Wings idea myself, as there already is an existing BWW just north of Sand Lake, unless they are planning on moving into more spacious digs at the new site.) King’s Bowl, a combo bowling/dining concept will also be coming to the space vacated by the former Gooding’s supermarket at I-Drive Live.
(10/23/12) In an interesting development, Unicorp sold off six of their various retail centers (most in Central Florida) to Excel Trust Inc. in exchange for a cool $263 million. According to a statement from Unicorp, the sale of the properties will allow them to focus more on their new development projects, including the $100 million I-Shops and $200 million I-Drive Live projects in Orlando.
(9/13/12) Good news for I-Drive Live this week as the developers got the final go-ahead to begin work after they were willing to drop the plan of having a huge logo in the center of the Orlando Eye giant wheel. With construction cleared to start as soon as possible, expect to see the complex open about 24 months later.
(8/10/12) The local news reports that the I-Drive Live project has hit a roadblock after county commissioners delayed a vote on the final project plans. The issue it seems has something to do with “signs and lighting” on the attraction buildings as well as the Orlando Eye giant wheel.
(6/21/12) According to one source, we should see construction kick off on both I-Drive Live and the I-Shops projects sometime in the next few months. According to another, construction is said to begin in full force before the end of July. Our sources tell us the latest construction timetables have the opening for the first sections of I-Drive Live between Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, though the planned attractions will not be ready until at least Spring 2014.
(6/20/12) Anyone know what’s going on with the I-Drive Live project? I’m told that construction has never started and it really should have kicked off by now, so either it has been delayed, or something has gone wrong. One possible rumor floating about claims that contract talks between Merlin Entertainment and the property developer who was also working on the I-Shops development nearby, may have broken down. This could cause problem as Merlin’s attractions (the Orlando Eye Giant Wheel, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life Aquarium) were really to serve as the major anchors for the I-Drive Live project. Anyone know a bit more about what may be going on, or is the developer focusing more on opening the I-Shops section before I-Drive Live?
(4/10/12) The Orlando Sentinel has posted details on what is planned to be part of a redevelopment of a section of property at the corner of International Drive and Sand Lake Road. The “I-Shops” project will renovate the existing Wyndham hotel, upgrading sections and demolishing others, to make room for dining and retail additions to the 42-acre property. The first signed tenants so far will be a Chuy’s Tex Mex restaurant, a Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and a BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.
This is also the same group behind the planned I-Drive Live complex which will feature a Giant Wheel, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Sea Life Aquarium on nearby property to the I-Shops complex. They also claimed to have signed a lease with Kings Bowling to anchor a new development at the “Gooding’s Plaza” section, which lies in between the two bigger developments. So from the sound of it, by 2013 or so, that entire section of International Drive may be completely redeveloped.
(8/23/11) BlooLoop reports that the Orlando Eye project has come to terms with Universal and will change the entire overall project name from the objectionable “I-Walk Orlando” to “I-Drive Live”. The article also confirms that Merlin will run the Orlando Eye giant wheel as well as a Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium attraction. Other projects, restaurants, stores and even other attractions may also come to I-Drive Orlando, but not from Merlin. (Personally, I think Merlin may want to rethink the SeaLife Aquarium project in favor of perfecting some kind teleporter to get guests all the way out to the Legoland Florida site.
(8/11/11) The local news has a brief update on the giant Orlando Eye giant wheel project that is slated to replace the Mercado on I-Drive. The plans shown also show off a Madame Tussauds was museum as well as a SeaLife Aquarium as rumored. The scope of the wheel itself has gotten bigger however, as the wheel is said to now be a bigger version of the London Eye, standing 450 feet tall, which they claim will make it the tallest wheel in the world. This isn’t quite right however, as there are currently two other giant wheels out there that are already bigger: Star of Nanchang in China (525 ft) and the Singapore Flyer (541 ft).
(7/25/11) Many have been wondering just what the mystery third Merlin attraction planned for Orlando’s I-Walk attraction area. Previously I had heard that a Dungeon attraction may have been in the works, as I think a good classic haunted attraction like this would be great in Orlando, as there currently is really no competition for it. However the latest rumor suggests that instead of a Dungeon, Merlin may opt to make the more perplexing choice of adding a SeaLife Aquarium… within very close proximity to SeaWorld Orlando.
Not the brightest idea in the barrel… especially when one of Merlin’s primary shareholders also owns the entire SeaWorld chain as well. Now adding a SeaLife on to Legoland Florida may be a better idea, given the more isolated environement, but on I-Drive, I think I’d rather see a Dungeon myself. (Though honestly, I know they would have their work cut out for them to build a Dungeon in Orlando, as I believe all of the Dungeon attractions in Europe really do design themselves around fantastic local history and legends from the past, which would be hard to do in Orlando.
(3/4/11) Merlin Entertainment confirmed that they are in talks to build a slightly smaller copy of the London Eye giant wheel in Orlando. They are eyeballing the former Mercado location on I-Drive for the Orlando Eye, a 425 foot wheel, just shy of the London Eye’s 440 ft height. According to Theme Park Insider, Merlin is being courted by the site’s redeveloper to not only bring in the giant wheel, but also add a Madame Tussaud’s and another possible indoor attraction into the new retail development plans they have for the property.
2015 - Crayola Experience - (7/30/14) The Orlando Sentinel reports that The Crayola Experience, a new interactive attraction, will open at The Florida Mall in 2015 inside the two-level space currently occupied by Nordstrom. While it will feature a public retail shop area, the attraction itself will be a hard ticket attraction expected to last several hours. While it wont take up the entire Nordstrom space, the 70,000 sqft. attraction will take up about half of it, while another yet to be announced store will take up the other half.
2015 - The Republic (Immersive Theater) -
(4/1/15) Good news for The Republic immersive theater project, as they report having reached their Kickstarter goal, funded by over 100 backers. The group will now start full construction of the "maze" inside the 18,000 sqft warehouse space they have obtained near downtown Orlando.
While the group has reveled a few key characters that will be part of the story (such as the Minotaur, Medusa, Daedalus, the Surgeon, HR Bosses and more) the full storyline behind The Republic will be revealed in mid-April when they will also begin pre-selling tickets on a new interactive website. You can follow allong with their progress at the official Republic blog site.
(3/5/15) A new attraction planned to go into a warehouse style space in downtown Orlando called The Republic. This one sounds interesting and very different... as it is described as a mix of immerse theater as guests are mixed in with theatrical performers who help lead them through the story that will feature interactive gaming elements, live special effects and much more. Several "leading theme park designers" are involved with The Republic and they have now come to Kickstarter to see financial backing to get the project off the ground. You can watch the video below for all the great details, but it sounds like a test run of the concept will be shown at the Orlando Fringe Festival in May 2015.
2017 - Skyscraper at the SKYPLEX - Confirmed - (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.
(3/6/14) According to the local news, the announcement about Florida’s PolerCoaster project is supposed to take place within the next 30 days. Of course, I think we were promised that once before, back at IAAPA in November. Time to play the waiting game again…
(11/20/13 - 9:50am) UPDATED: I have to apologize for an error in this report. While the Poler Coaster is confirmed to be coming to “Florida” it has not yet been confirmed as coming to Orlando. I got my wires crossed with another story and a quiet rumor saying that it was most likely coming to a “Central Florida” location, but as of right now the only thing confirmed is it will be somewhere in Florida.
(11/20/13) IAAPA 2013 is now in full swing and our friends at CoasterCrew on the show floor and shooting video interviews with the major players of the industry as well as being on the hunt for new and interesting creations. A major surprise announcement has been semi-made during an interview with our good friends at S&S and US Thrill Rides who announce that the world’s tallest Poler Coaster will be built in
Orlando, Florida in the near future as well as another one going into the Lakepoint Sports Complex north of Atlanta, GA. Both of these projects will break ground in 2014.
As for the Florida monster tower project... all they will say is that the deal has been signed and expected the location to be announced with more details in the next two weeks. It will be 520 ft tall and once at the top the El Loco style car will slowly go around the tower showing off the fantastic view before the track inverts the riders upside-down as it enters the first drop into the chaos that will follow. So not only will this be the world’s tallest coaster, but it will also feature the highest inversion as well. The construction timeframe is estimated to be about 24 months, so look for it to open in 2016.
???? - iSquare Mall - Planning - (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.