Roughly around the time that Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2011, and with it the Universal theme parks, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter began working its magic on attendance increases, per-capita visitor spending, and the company's balance sheets. The financial wizards at the parent company apparently liked what they saw, because investment in the parks has soared. Now it appears that Comcast and NBCUniversal will be doubling down -- or quadrupling down -- on the parks, including a bunch of new hotels at its Florida resort.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, NBCUniversal President and CEO Steve Burke made a bullish presentation at an investment conference yesterday touting the parks and saying that, among other capital expenditures, it could add as many as 15,000 hotel rooms at Universal Orlando. That would increase the property's current 2,400 rooms by at least a factor of four. A fourth hotel, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, is scheduled to open next year and bring another 1800 units to the resort.
Further, the NBCUNiversal honcho said that the company is boosting its capital spending on the parks to a cool $500 million this year, and going forward, plans to debut one major attraction every year at its Hollywood and Orlando resorts.
Universal has been on a tear lately, building the well-received Transformer rides in California and Florida at a torrid pace, and opening the Despicable Me ride film, rolling out Universal's Superstar Parade, transforming its nighttime lagoon show, and expanding The Simpsons land at Universal Studios Florida. In addition to the new hotel, Universal Orlando will be opening a second Wizarding World of Harry Potter, called Diagon Alley, in 2014. The Hollywood park has a Despicable Me attraction scheduled to open next year and has its own Wizarding World in development.
Universal's incredible ramp-up is really lighting a fire under its competitors in California and Florida, especially Disney. As a fellow park fan, I'm sure you can understand and relate to my excitement about Universal's commitment to its parks and its effect on the state of the industry in general. Prior to Comcast's takeover, there was concern among enthusiasts that the cable giant would forsake the parks as an afterthought. It is heartening to see it wholeheartedly embrace them instead. To that I say, let's raise a frothy toast of Butterbeer to Comcast and NBCUniversal (at $5 a pop into the company's coffers).
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Photo: Universal Parks. Used with permission.