Harry Potter expansion rumors build steam as Universal Orlando reveals backstage work, Hogwarts Express to follow?

in Islands of Adventure, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios Florida

hogwarts-express

In the eight months since Universal Orlando officially announced they intend to expand the incredibly popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter, much speculation has arisen surrounding exactly what it would include. One of the most popular rumors has suggested that the expansion would not be located within the Islands of Adventure theme park where the existing Wizarding World sits, but rather at the other Universal Orlando park, Universal Studios Florida, with the two linked by a real-life version of the Hogwarts Express train from the “Harry Potter” books and films. That exciting idea has been nothing more than speculation until recently, as Universal Orlando has revealed a map of backstage work that falls just short of confirming this link.

Four days before Universal confirmed the Potter expansion, they surprised the world by announcing their classic Jaws ride would close at Universal Studios Florida, immediately sparking rumors that its replacement would be more Potter attractions. Two months later, permit fillings all but confirmed the former Jaws site as the future home of the expansion.

With limited details and Universal remaining tight-lipped, many naysayers still didn’t think Universal would expand the highly successful Wizarding World across its parks, requiring additional admission tickets to see both. Moreover, for some it was a far-fetched idea to suggest the two areas would be linked by a real-life working version of the iconic Hogwarts Express train, already represented in the existing Potter area by a stationary version – a popular photo op for visiting fans.

But in the latest edition of Universal Orlando’s Team Member newsletter, they have confirmed backstage work will begin five days from now, on Monday, August 20, along what they call Perimeter Road, altering traffic patterns for employees. Work is said to include “infrastructure upgrades and utility maintenance” along the route shown in the official map below:


(Click to enlarge)

The area shaded yellow is the work zone, running behind Universal Studios Florida attractions Revenge of The Mummy and Disaster!. More importantly, the route follows a path directly leading between the former Jaws ride area on the right, labeled “future expansion,” stopping just short of the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad show building on the left, next to the entrance of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is exactly the path that has been rumored to be the future route for a Hogwarts Express train/attraction to connect these two areas.

Rotating that map 90 degrees and overlaying it on a Google satellite map of both parks more clearly shows that connection:


(Click to enlarge)

Removing the buildings and white areas from the map, leaving only the yellow path, shows the direct route between the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter (highlighted in green) and the former Jaws site / “future expansion” (highlighted in blue):


(Click to enlarge)

Naturally, no mention of Harry Potter, the Wizarding World, its expansion, or the Hogwarts Express is made in the information given to employees. Instead, the map is simply intended to help Universal Team Members navigate their daily routine coming and going from work as the “infrastructure upgrades and utility maintenance” blocks their usual paths. But it’s not hard to make the connection between this preliminary work and the Harry Potter expansion.

In the months since the Jaws ride closed, it has been completely demolished, the ground leveled, nearby lagoon reshaped, and construction on something has begun. Without official confirmation, all of the above remains to be speculation and rumor, but all signs continue to point to a dual-park Wizarding World to be built, connected by what’s likely to be an exciting ride in between.

32 Comments

  1. bob

    wow, found all this on your own, did you? this stuff has been out for days on various forums; way to source.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I was just alerted to it today and hadn’t seen it before. The overlay maps are my own work. So I’m not sure which “various forums” you’re referring to. While I do watch a variety of news sites, I don’t frequent any theme park forums.

      1. Doug

        Haters gonna hate… Don’t sweat it Ricky..

        1. Chris C.

          Seriously; Bob is a word I word I won’t use on Ricky’s great website.

    2. Jeff Lynch

      bob you are a bad person who is ignorant. You are just jealous because you are not a great writer like Ricky. You should be ashamed of yourself for being so negative and nasty!

  2. Brian

    I still haven’t had the chance to visit the Wizarding World. I wonder how much of an impact this construction will have on the area that’s already built.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      If all the rumors are true, the new construction will have little impact on the existing area. The entrance will be changed the most, but the rest of land should remain as is. And that could be a whole other reason for Universal placing the expansion in an entirely different area. If the existing area was surrounded by construction, it would be less enjoyable and with that area the big money-maker for them right now, they wouldn’t want to hurt it in any way.

      1. Jet

        From what I’ve been hearing the initial idea was to expand the park throughout the rest of the old are of the park, getting rid of the Sinbad show and the walk thru show, Poseidons Fury. However, since the HP park was too successful for the other park (universal studios). Right now the difference in people that go to IOA compared to Studios is too great. People are not even buying multipark passes now.

        As of right now they are building the new Transformer ride in Studios at record speed just to help with the above problem.

        So anyways, someone at Universal thought of a geniuos idea. Why not expand HP into Studios. And what even a better idea then that? Giving something to fans of HP what they always wanted to do. Take a train from London to Hogwarts in the Hogwarts express. But here’s the kicker, you need a multipark pass in order to do it. Brilliant I tell you.

        1. Alex

          Jet, I actually assumed that they figured most people who were visiting the parks were buying multipark passes anyways so did it really matter which park they put it in.

          I wonder how this would affect park hopper vs 1 park per day passes…

  3. EricJ

    And remember, “Falls short of” and “All but confirms”…DOESN’T. That’s why the “but”‘s in there.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Correct. Not confirmed. Not announced. But… highly likely at this point. If it’s something completely different, many will be quite surprised.

  4. It seems like they’d have to do something with the Sinbad attraction (stunt show) as well, wouldn’t they? Unless they went underground that building as part of the connection/ride. Great job on the overlay!

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Not necessarily. The train could be routed around it. Some rumors suggest it will travel underneath the existing Dragon Challenge coaster track.

  5. Amy-Elizabeth (@brervixen)

    This is quite exciting, but I do wish they could have kept Jaws! Can’t wait for more info, thanks for supplying though :)

  6. Brandy

    Ricky great article- this is fantastic! I know ITM is Disney focused, but thanks so much for covering the Wizarding World stories too. When I visited it last year I was very impressed- I truly think Wizarding World takes theming to a whole new level, and I can’t wait to see more of it. I hope they have a snack cart on the train selling chocolate frogs and caldron cakes! (and butter beer!)

  7. Sherri Connelly

    I wonder what US is waiting for? Are they waiting for maybe closer to Disney’s Fantasyland stuff opening, to then announce it to try an steal some of that thunder from them? Also still waiting for news on the other blanks spot where the rumored Transformers may go….

  8. Very interesting! Well written, so great job, Ricky.

  9. Nicky

    As a train enthusiast I really hope the rumors are true!! However I’m afraid the WDW Limited is still my favorite train with the Knott’s Calico and Ghost Town second.

    1. OT

      I don´t think this is going to be just a train ride. The track is going trough the backlot and there is no way Universal is going to theme it all the way. I think they use the Kong tech from USH for this ride and you meet dementors, travel trough the countrieside and see Ron and Harry in the car. Sound this awesome or what.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        I agree completely. You definitely won’t have views of the backstage areas. They’ll either wrap the route in screens (like KIng Kong, as you suggested) or the “windows” will be screens. Either way, virtual scenery is a must for this attraction.

        1. Jeff Lynch

          I think they are going to build a tunnel and inside the tunnel will be scenery to make it look like the train is moving faster than it really is, like you are speeding to Hogwarts castle to go to wizarding school like a wizard from the books.

        2. Anne

          Any ideas when this will open? What year?

  10. Nicole

    I’m very excited to see this all fall in place! It’s all but obvious! They just need to make that darn official announcement (with a date/season of opening preferably) so my family and I can start planning our next visit! :)

  11. Ron K

    Love the hidden Mickey in the first pic.

  12. Brian J.

    Hi any ideas how long this will take to build ? We are visting September next year :)

  13. April V

    We visited WWOHP in June and were so impressed! Its like stepping into the movie/book. Looking forward to the expansion. Hoping that it will be done by June of 2014 (our next trip)….but not counting on it. PS-going in the begining of June was rainy but awesome for short lines! Rode FJ 4x’s in a row!

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