Here’s what’s known: Universal Orlando will expand the world of Harry Potter. Here’s what we don’t know: Where, when, and how. However, Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider, says he’s seen internal plans that link the recent closing of the Jaws ride in Universal Studios to the upgrade, with the fish-infested waters of Amity probably becoming the witch-laden streets of London’s Diagon Alley. However, that would split Harry Potter between two separate-admission theme parks.
The current Wizarding of World of Harry Potter is located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure; the now-gone Jaws ride location is in the back of Universal Studios. While common sense says they should expand Harry Potter close to the current location, it makes business sense to split them up: It will make more money for Universal Studios. Islands of Adventure saw a surge in visitors when The Wizarding World debuted, and a new section could do the same for Universal Studios. It could also encourage more guests to stay for two days.
The two Harry sections won’t be within easy walking distance, however, which leads to the following possibilities in a two-park development:
- Universal could continue its current price structure and simply have two Harry Potter attractions. Since the two Harry Potter attractions represent different far-off locations in the story, visitors should buy the fact that London (Universal Studios) is a pretty good hike away from the country town of Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure).
- Universal could connect the two lands by train, which Niles says he saw in the initial plans. This make thematic sense and follows the books’ storyline since students travel from London to Hogsmeade via train when they start the school year at Hogwarts. However, this super-cool idea wouldn’t be cheap. Universal would have to landscape a lot of parking lots to connect the two parks, and it would need to paint a lot of big, ugly buildings. In addition, guests with one-park/one-day tickets would be out of luck, and even those with longer passes would have to go through the ticket scanners again. That makes the train concept cool but “iffy.”
- Universal could change its ticket price structure. It could decide that only two-park passes make sense and bump up the price of everyone’s admission. If so, the cheapest ticket would have to be a two-park ticket at some higher price. That would be a gamble that could decrease revenue as well as increase it, and essentially mean the two parks are one really big park to visitors – a change to business-as-usual at Universal, at least, which could make a difference down the road at Disney. That makes this option even “iffier.”
What to expect in the new land
The new attraction (if rumors prove true) focuses on a part of London that muggles (non-magic people) cannot see: Diagon Alley, where the wizarding shops sell supplies. In the Harry Potter books, the super-secure depository of all things valuable is Gringotts Wizarding Bank, which goblins run. Deposits are guarded in whatever way works, including spells and dragons. As described in the books and movies, the ride to any single safety deposit box inside Gringotts is a roller coaster adventure, which provides the perfect back-story for a coaster-type Harry Potter ride. Since all witches and wizards store stuff there, the ride could even include legerdemain not mentioned in the book or film.
Officially, Universal has not released any information. And even if Niles is dead-on right, theme parks tend to change plans on the fly. Disney made some major adjustments to its Fantasyland expansion after guests balked at the princess-heavy themes. It’s safe to assume Universal will do the same.