May 2013: Universal Studios made it official that a second theme park section based on the Harry Potter books will open in 2014. And proving that the rumors are sometimes true, it will appear inside Universal Studios in the now-gone area where Amityville and the Jaws ride existed.
Also confirming rumors, the theme will be Diagon Alley – a special wizard’s shopping area tucked secretly within London – and the Hogwarts Express train will whisk visitors between Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade, the town closest to the wizard’s school) in Universal’s second theme park, Islands of Adventure. (It appears both sections will have the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” name with subtitles to distinguish them, but naming rights can change between announcements and openings.)
• Universal says the new section will “be just as expansive, immersive and authentic as the existing themed environment.”
• The Hogwarts train ride will be more than simply a train, but details are still under wraps. Since the train must travel through non-guest areas, the windows may not actually work like windows.
• The new section will have an action ride based on Gringotts bank, which is an ultra-secure building for hiding treasure run by goblins, known for their mercurial tendencies and general lack of a sense of humor. The book talks about dragons and roller-coaster type rides in the caverns below the bank, so it’s not a huge crystal-ball leap to assume the same will be true on the ride.
It’s unclear how Universal will reconcile the train ride with its current admission prices. Visitors who opt for the train essentially need a two-park pass, which costs more. Universal could either entice one-day holders to upgrade near the train’s entrance, or they could re-do their ticketing plan altogether to make all minimum purchases a two-park pass.
“Our vision is to create two amazing theme park experiences that combine into one, complete, magical journey,” said Alice Norsworthy, executive vice president, marketing and sales for Universal Orlando Resort.