A News page for the Orlando’s areas other Minor Attractions and Resort properties
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(8/31/21) The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel On I-Drive Has Been Sold Creating An Interesting Opportunity (MORE...)
(8/6/21) The Holy Land Experience Has Been Sold
(6/6/21) Orlando Is Adding Yet Another SlingShot (MORE...)
(3/28/21) Orlando - Teens Get Stuck on Old Town Sling Shot When Cable Breaks (MORE...)
(3/22/21) Gaylord Palms Resort Opens New Crystal River Rapids (MORE...)
(3/16/21) ICON Park Construction Update (MORE...)
You can find our review of the I-Drive 360 attractions (Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium here.
Central Florida News - (8/31/21) A landmark hotel on International Drive has been sold! According to this article, The Four Points by Sheraton, the iconic round and tall tower with the large globe on top, has been sold to an unknown new owner in a deal worth $31 million. According to the article, the owner (Ben Mallah) was glad to be rid of it because he needed to “stop the bleeding” from his business dealings.
The hotel is a bit on the old side, and Mallah reportedly bought it in 2016 for roughly $23 million, and then dropped another $6 million into it to make improvements. While Mallah blamed the pandemic for the lack of business, claiming he was lucky if the hotel was able to break-even on any given month, I’m going to paint a different story.
Based on what I saw during early June, the Orlando theme parks were packed and more crowded than I’ve ever seen before during that time of year. As I mentioned, the Four Points by Sheraton is an older hotel, and is surrounded on all sides by hotels that are typically far cheaper, and many of which that are also much newer. This also includes Universal two massive Endless Summer resort hotels built just on the other side of I-Drive from the Four Points by Sheraton tower, which typically offer suites at a much lower price point.
When Universal Orlando was just about to open the first of the two Endless Summer resorts in 2019 (the Surfside Inn and Suites) Screamscape was invited to take a tour of Universal’s newest resort and we were impressed, especially once the price-point was revealed. At the time I remember saying that Universal had just put all of old and tired hotels on the north-side of International Drive “on notice”, as the days of over-charging for decades old hotels that had not been kept-up properly over the years was officially over.
Jump to the present day, and it has not been revealed who just bought the Four Points by Sheraton, but if I were a betting man, I’d say there is a good chance Universal could be involved. Just next door to the hotel, behind the IHOP, there is also a large piece of empty property that really has been sitting there far too long to go undeveloped. The site was formerly home to Skull Kingdom, a year-round haunted castle attraction that shut down in the early 2000’s. With the way Universal has been expanding over the past decade, the opportunity to grab up these properties may be too hard to pass up as they sit directly between Universal Orlando proper (on the other side of the freeway) and Universal’s two Endless Summer resorts. With the right solution, Universal could possibly find a way to “connect” the various pieces of property in the future as they march even closer to the opening of the Epic Universe property just a bit further south.
Just something to think about…
(8/6/21) The Holy Land Experience is Orlando is officially NO MORE! According to the latest news reports, the attraction which has been closed since early 2020 has now officially been sold to AdventHealth as of August 2, 2021. A statement from AdventHealth says only that they plan to redevelop the property “to bring enhanced health care services to the community” and will share details about those plans at a later date.
Trinity Broadcasting, the former owners the Holy Land Experience has thus far declined to make any comment on the sale.
(6/6/21) Yet another Sling Shot is coming to Orlando attractions area. And no… I’m not talking about the giant one under construction next to the Orlando Eye at ICON Park. Instead a new Slingshot is now under construction near Margaritaville’s SunsetWalk area off I-192, south of Disney World. The project has now gone vertical and you can see the two towers rising in the video clip below. The hope is to have it ready to open before the end of this Summer.
Now this is all well and good, as I love rides, but in all honesty, isn’t the Orlando market already saturated with enough Slingshots? In addition to the mega-sized version coming to I-Drive by the Orlando Eye, there are two long running Slingshots in town, one on I-Drive at Magical Midway, another one to the south on 192 in front of Old Town Kissimmee, so soon there will be four of them in the Orlando area and another just outside of town at Daytona Beach.
Based on this, it sounds like there is a need for someone two develop a brand new iconic upcharge midway attraction of some kind, just so we can have something else to try out. I’m surprised no one has tried to build a copy of the Mountain Monster concept from Pigeon Forge that combines three different attraction concepts into one tower design… offering a freefall tower ride, a skycoaster style swing experience and a sling-shot style experience. Plus it has a surprise extra ride for those who venture to the top for the Monster Dive… your slow elevator ride to the top for that experience turns into another 200 ft freefall ride experience just to get back down to the ground.
(3/28/21) There was some trouble at the Sling Shot at Old Town in Kissimmee on 192 near Disney World the other night. A pair of teens became trapped on the Sling Shot for several hours after one of the cables snapped in mid-ride. An investigation into the cause of the accident is now set to take place, though CNN reports that the ride was just inspected by March 19th without any issues found.
The riders were safe at all times however, as the Sling Shots are designed with redundant safety systems that will keep the riders safely in the air, attached to the towers, even when a cable snaps. The riders just had to await for rescue crews to get them down from about 30-40 feet where the rider pod came to a stop.
As a result of the incident, other Sling Shot rides all across Florida from the same manufacturer are currently closed as well as a precaution.
(3/22/21) For Orlando guests looking for a resort hotel with new amenities, the Gaylord Palms Resort has just opened the Crystal River Rapids. At first it may look like a lazy river, but the deeper water and swiftly moving currents will quickly set this one apart as something different. Guests will free ride through the fast moving waters without any kind of innertube, under waterfalls, past limestone walls and around various theming as an expansion of the resorts outdoor water fun area that also features some racing slides and even an AquaDrop slide.
(1/22/20) Many guests who have visited Walt Disney World over the years may recall stopping by the near Crossroads retail area across the street from the Hotel Plaza Blvd resorts. The center was home to a number of popular restaurants over the years, providing a place for many Disney guests to eat off Disney property without straying too far off resort property. I’ve you’ve eaten at Red Lobster, Chevy’s Fresh Mex, Taco Bell, TGIFridays, Buffalo Wild Wings, Fuddruckers, or the dearly departed Jungle Jim’s over the decades, chances are you have visited the Crossroads.
Several years ago it was announced that the days of Crossroads were numbered as the state of Florida was preparing to steal away the entire complex via “Eminent Domain” as part of the state’s ongoing I-4 freeway improvement process. Apparently they felt that the land under the Crossroads would be better suited to build a new set of ramps and bridges connected to I-4 that could more easily direct traffic directly shoot drivers off the freeway and either away from Disney or right onto Hotel Plaza Blvd.
Time has passed and the Crossroads have remained… but according to local news reports the settlement to acquire the property has been completed, with Florida paying $198 million in exchange for the property. From the sound of things the various tenants have until August 2021 to close up, but some may opt to just leave earlier if the current business environment is just too unfriendly to remain open.
(1/14/21) Plans for a truly massive new resort have begun for Orlando. This will be a $1.5 billion projection called Evermore Orlando Resort that is said to be placed near the Walt Disney World theme parks. This isn’t just one resort hotel however, but will be complex with many different offerings ranging from vacation rental houses, villas and even the first Conrad hotel in Orlando. Our friends at BlooLoop describe it as a “major redevelopment of the Grand Cypress Resort complex and legacy golf course, spreading over 1,100 acres.”
While some of the resort will look like a neighborhood, another major section called Evermore Bay will feature an 8-acre “crystalline water” lake from Crystal Lagoons that will offer zero entry swim areas, cabanas, fire pits, watersports and more. The resort will also add a new 18-hole golf course as well. The first phase is already planned to open in Summer 2023, which will include the new Conrad Hotel.
2021 - Closing of the Crossroads Plaza -
(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 - Dezerland Action Park - (1/3/21) A fun video showing off the new Dezerland Action Park experience, shot during a preview day, was posted to the Orlando Experience YouTube channel. Check it out below to see what Dezerland has to offer. An official grand opening in planned for sometime in early 2021.
(12/13/20) At the north end of Orlando’s I-Drive sits an interesting property that has been in flux for much of the past two decades. Located across the way from the longtime Belz Factory Outlet World retail area, a large piece of property that was simply home to the local Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World soon grew into what was called the Festival Bay Mall when it opened in 2002. While Festival Bay featured a new movie theater and several restaurants, and even a Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and Vans Skate Park, that later of which closed in 2012. Unfortunately Festival Bay failed to attract the same level of shoppers as Belz. Other than the main anchor locations the many of the other retail sites inside failed to achieve enough business to survive. Several high end concepts were pitched as coming to the site over the years, including a couple of Surf Parks, but in the end nothing ever was built.
In 2014 Festival Bay was rebranded as Artegon Marketplace and tried to relaunch itself as a sort of alternative to your standard mall style shopping, but it ultimately closed in 2017, leaving only the three main anchor tenets open: Boot Barn, Cinemark and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.
The site was purchased by Dezer Developments in 2018 who planned to try and renovate the site once again. The site has now been rebranded as Dezerland Action Park, named after a similar attraction concept they have built in the Miami area. The intent was to open the massive new collection of attractions in 2020, but the year has had a way of slowing things down. That said, a “Sneak Preview” of Dezerland featuring access to their Arcade, Bowling and Indoor Go-Kart attractions willa actually take place tomorrow on December 14th.
The site will be home to other attractions, including “The Auto Experience”, touted as “Orlando’s Largest Museum of any kind” that is home to one of the “most engaging Auto/Vehicle Collection in the world.” The Auto Experience will not only feature famous vehicles as seen in Hollywood productions, but a collection of unique cars built in various countries around the world.
In addition to the Arcade and Karts, other attractions options inside the Dezerland Action Park complex include an Escape Room, Axe Throwing, a unique multimedia attraction called Hello World, The Pinball Place, Putting Edge indoor black-light mini-golf, the “VR Orlando Coaster”, the Replay Lounge (home to Billards, Shuffleboard, Foosball, Air Hockey, Darts, Ping Pong Tables and more) and UVR Orlando (a collection of VR style high-tech experiences). It should be interesting to see how things progress at Dezerland as a rising new attraction in the Orlando marketplace.
Oh, if you are interested, the other Dezerland in Miami doesn’t sound quite a big as the Orlando location is going to be. The attractions list in Miami has an Arcade, Karts, a Ninja Lounge, Mini Golf, some VR activities, and coming soon, they are promoting something interesting, an “All Day Drive In” theater.
2021/2022 - Icon Park Adding New Attractions - (3/16/21) Midway Mayhem has posted a construction update from ICON Park to check on the progress of the installation of the new Drop Tower and SlingShot attractions in the video below.
(1/31/21) ICON Park on I-Drive held a groundbreaking ceremony the other day to commemorate the start of construction for their next two giant thrill rides, a Sling Shot and a Drop Tower experience. They hope to have both ready to open before the end of 2021.
(12/19/20) New attractions are coming soon to Orlando’s ICON Park. In January 2021 the Museum of Illusions will open, featuring a number of visual illusions that will make it a perfect Instagramable attraction experience, allowing guests to create some fantastic memories they can share on their social media platform of choice with family, friends and followers.
Meanwhile new concept art showing off the new ICON Park Slingshot and Drop Tower attractions that are under construction and set to open sometime in Summer 2021 has been posted online as well, to be located on the opposite side of ICON park as the Star Flyer.
(10/31/20) Parts and pieces have begun to arrive at Icon Park Orlando for what is to become the world’s tallest Slingshot and Drop Tower rides. The gyro-drop tower ride is said to be 430 feet tall while the nearby new Slingshot ride will launch riders up to 350 feet in the air at 100mph. Midway Mayhem has posted pieces of the large purple steel support sections on site at their IG.
(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.
2021 or Later - Kennedy Space Center Expansions - (12/29/20) Planet Play is coming to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Jan. 1, 2021. According to the press release this will be an indoor interactive play area with sections themed to the nine different planets in our solar system. There will also be interactive style gaming areas that will let kids map a constellation, slide through a wormhole, walk on Saturn’s rings, slide through the Asteroid field and more. For the parents, while the kids play, there will also be a coffee and wine bar in a lounge area where you can keep an eye on your astronauts in training.
(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.
2022 - Brightline Service To Orlando International Airport and Beyond - Note: Virgin dropped out of the deal with Brightline and has had their name removed from the project, returning it back to the original name of Brightline.
(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.
(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.
???? - SKYPLEX - In Development - (10/8/20) Attractions Magazine has posted an amazing new take on what could be going on with Orlando’s proposed Skyplex project. This is all rumor, but after eating nothing but silence for so long regarding any kind of forward movement with the Skyplex, even a rumor gives us some interesting new thoughts. According to the post, they speculation that possibly the concept and look of the project could be overhauled and given a Liongate theme instead. Apparently there are documents out there mentioning something called “Liongate World Resort Orlando”, which brings to mind that Lionsgate did already build the “first generation vertical theme park” concept in China and what was formerly known as Skyplex could be transformed into an entirely new themed adventure project. This includes a possible proposal to make the structure even taller than before… up to 649 feet apparently. Follow the link to read their report and see what you think. Are you ready for a Liongate themed vertical theme park in Orlando?
(9/10/20) UPDATED 10:35am - Please forgive last night’s headline which was wrong. Well... not wrong, it was right... the FAA did give their approval for the Skyplex height wavier, but they did that one year ago (see the last update we had on it below). I saw a tweet about it and missed the 2019 date... so the bottom line is that it has been a year and to my knowledge, there really has been no traction on this project. Hopefully there may be some better news to share soon.
(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.