Orlando, Florida is a hub for theme park vacations. With Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and more in the immediate area, there is certainly a lot to do. The big contenders in the theme park race are Disney and Universal, but Disney has always been the front runner.

Universal has made several attempts to gain on Disney, and they just announced their latest attempt. On Thursday, Comcast-owned Universal Studios in Orlando announced that they would be opening a third gate – a brand new theme park.

This will be the first new park in the area in 20 years! Islands of Adventure opened in 1999 and Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998.

The new park will be called Universal’s Epic Universe and is said to be the single largest Universal investment since the original opening in in 1990. It will be situated on 750 acres just a few miles from the existing resort. Epic Universe will “take guests on a journey where beloved stories expand into vibrant lands.” While very few other details are announced, Universal says that they will provide transportation to connect the current property with the new parks. Potential intellectual property sources include the long-rumored Nintendo land, DreamWorks, and even more Harry Potter attractions.

Universal has announced its third theme park - Epic Universe.  Photo credits (C) Comcast Universal, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Universal has announced its third theme park – Epic Universe. Photo credits (C) Comcast Universal, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Universal currently has two theme parks (Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure) and one water park (Volcano Bay) plus the Universal CityWalk shopping district plus seven hotels and more coming.

To offer a comparison, Disney World has four theme parks, two water parks, two shopping districts, and more than 35 Disney resort hotels with even more that are not Disney owned and operated. Disney World is still expanding with more hotels promised in the next year or so and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the end of this month. What’s more, Epcot is undergoing massive renovations.

Universal is packed with lots of fun and exciting things to do, but the resort is still only a two- or three-day destination. With the new park, Universal says they could expand to fill a week-long vacation. Right now, it’s not uncommon for Orlando-area visitors to split their stay or commute between the two destinations to experience both during one trip, but with the future plans for both parks, a split stay might be less of an option for park-goers in the future unless they have two weeks or more to spend on vacation.

Will Disney Respond?

There have been rumors of a fifth Disney World theme park ever since Animal Kingdom opened, but in the past an expansion seemed unlikely.  Creating a brand new park is a huge investment, and Disney has instead focused on expanding the offerings in their current parks:  New Fantasyland, Toy Story Land, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Still, Disney has been known to respond when competitions ramps up.

Visitors going to Church Street Station in downtown Orlando?  Disney opens Pleasure Island.

Visitors going to Bush Gardens?  Disney opens Animal Kingdom.

Visitors going to Kennedy Space Center?  Disney opens Mission Space.

Will this move by Universal be the change that prompts Disney to consider a fifth park?

Will Universal’s new 3rd theme park force Disney World to open a 5th theme park?