Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Universal Turns Up the Heat on Disney for Orlando Tourists

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Universal Turns Up the Heat on Disney for Orlando Tourists

Article excerpt

ORLANDO -- With four theme parks, 17 resorts, three water parks and two nightlife venues, Walt Disney World is the undisputed champion of Orlando tourism.

But a strong challenger is Seagram's Universal Studios Escape, formerly known as Universal Studios Florida, newly muscled with a second theme park, a new nightlife complex, a hotel under construction and a recently acquired water park.

With next month's opening of Islands of Adventure, Universal's second theme park, the battle for customers in the nation's largest tourist market promises to be a bruising fight. After seeing the new Universal park during a recent dress- rehearsal tour, Scott Meyer, an Orlando retiree with season passes to both Disney and Universal, had this to say: "It's time Disney got chopped down a bit. They were uppity. Now they have competition." The opening of Islands of Adventure in May; the debut of CityWalk, Universal's restaurant and club complex this winter; the recent acquisition of Wet `n Wild in Orlando, the nation's busiest water park; and the addition of the soon-to-be finished Portofino Bay Hotel transforms Universal from merely a theme park into a destination resort. And one that offers visitors a multiday experience. The new additions give Universal's visitors something that Disney has offered its guests for two decades: a self-contained world that doesn't require tourists to ever leave the property. "Now you have a reason to go for two or three days. It's a total resort," says Cathy Nichols, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Universal Studios Recreation Group, which oversees Universal's theme parks in California, Florida and one under construction in Japan. The $1 billion Islands of Adventure has 20 attractions and is divided into five sections. The child-oriented Seuss Landing has characters from the children's books; Toon Lagoon is based on popular comic strips; the thrill rides-filled Marvel Super Hero Island and The Lost Continent have attractions based on myths; and Jurassic Park is an animatronic-filled area based on the Steven Spielberg film. …

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