Universal Orlando Vacation News: Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Expand at Universal Orlando

Planning on taking a Universal Orlando vacation? Well if you’re a Harry Potter fan, there has been some exciting news announced! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is going to get bigger at Universal Orlando. And it will have a sister world at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in California, the company revealed Tuesday.

Details about the Florida expansion — such as cost, new attractions, time frame or which of the two Universal Orlando theme parks it would be located in — were not shared. The original Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the books created by J.K. Rowling, opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in June 2010.

“We’ve not announced a time frame, but it’s going to take years for us to create something on the scale and scope we envision,” said Tom Schroder, a Universal Orlando spokesman. Details will be announced “over time,” said a Universal news release.

Universal Orlando announced last week that it would close the Jaws ride at Universal Studios theme park on Jan. 2. Since then the rumor mill has churned with chatter about what could go in that space. If Potter replaced Jaws, the boy wizard would be in both Universal parks.

“I think it’s very interesting that Universal Orlando announced the closure of Jaws a mere few days before the confirmation of an expansion,” said Ricky Brigante, owner of InsideTheMagic.Net, a theme-parks website.

He would be surprised if Potter elements spilled over into the Studios, but “anything is possible,” he said.

“Looking at a map, I can see a clear route between where Jaws is now and the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” Brigante said. “A Hogwarts Express [train] could be built between the two, but that would certainly be a major construction project involving both parks and backstage and reworking of facilities.”

Previously, buzz centered on Wizarding World expanding into the adjacent Lost Continent area of Islands of Adventure, he said.

“With all this going on, there are certainly doubts that that would happen,” Brigante said.

Other speculation calls for the expansion to be themed on London scenes of the “Harry Potter” movies. The resort’s contract with Warner Bros. requires it to have elements from the final Potter films, the last of which opened in theaters this summer.

Most industry analysts considered a Harry Potter expansion in Orlando inevitable given the financial success of Wizarding World. Universal’s attendance jumped 20 percent in 2010 — to 11.2 million — even though Wizarding World didn’t open until halfway through the year. It soared 52 percent — to nearly 6.4 million — during the first half of 2011.

“Normally, you put a new attraction out and you’re delighted if you get a 5 percent bump in attendance. Harry Potter came out and we were seeing 40 percent and 50 percent bumps, just a gigantic sea change in the profitability,” NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke said at a conference with analysts this fall.

The Wizarding World expansion would be part of a flurry of construction projects at Central Florida theme parks. SeaWorld’s TurtleTrek attraction is set to open next year, and a major Antarctica-themed area will open there in 2013. The first phase of the Fantasyland expansion at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is scheduled to open in 2012, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom plans to add a land based on the “Avatar” films in 2016.

In Hollywood, details about the Potter plan there were thin, although a news release boasted it “will be as impressive as what has been created in Orlando.” At the Tuesday news conference, it was confirmed that Hollywood would include a Hogwarts castle and its signature ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

No details about a Hogsmeade village, other rides or restaurants were shared.

“I am sure that the teams at Universal and Warner Bros. will bring their expertise and attention to detail to Hollywood to make this new experience equally as exciting,” Rowling said in the release. She was not on stage for the announcement.

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