Universal has acquired additional acres in Orlando for possible theme park expansion, along with the deed restrictions that once were intended to block construction of rival theme parks there.
Deeds were filed Thursday morning showing the transfer of multiple properties from Georgia businessman Stan Thomas to Universal’s subsidiary, SLRC Holdings LLC.
Also filed on Thursday is a formal assignment of rights to Universal that Thomas previously held on the acreage. The documents appear to clear away any question that Universal can build a major new theme park.
In a complex set of transactions involving Universal and multiple investment and real estate firms, Thomas has also retained some property in the area. He has satisfied a debt of $27 million on some of his property that prompted a foreclosure in December by an affiliate of Atlanta-based investment firm Ardent Financial — AFF Universal.
Records didn’t state explicitly how much Universal paid Thomas, but his affiliate companies were able to wipe out at least $144.7 million in debt related to his properties, according to property records.
Thomas also signed a new mortgage acknowledging a new loan of $19.25 million from Florida real estate investment firm Hudland Holdings.
(This is a developing story; check back for updates.)
On Wednesday, Universal settled a lawsuit that concerned hundreds of acres that Universal acquired in 2015 for $130 million. Thomas formerly owned that property and had sued Universal, arguing that he still owned the rights to enforce private deed restrictions there, which included a ban on theme parks.
During the court hearings on that lawsuit, an attorney for Universal had referenced the theme park plans, telling a judge the plans were “obviously super, super secret commercial information.”
Rumors about the property have ripped through the Orlando tourism industry for years, including a widespread belief that Universal is negotiating with Orange County regarding further permits, roads and other infrastructure.
New attractions are years in the making. Universal Parks and Resorts and Nintendo entered the agreement to create theme park attractions in May 2015. And in November 2016, NBCUniversal said it would build Nintendo lands in parks in Orlando, California and Japan in the coming years.
Looks like universal just bought some more land in Orlando.
Favorite Steel: GateKeeper Favorite Wood: Outlaw Run Home Park: DPWWK Steel: 76Wood: 24 Total: 100Parks: 16
Today I had the chance to stop in to Universal Studios Florida to check out Fast and the Furious Supercharged which is now in a limited period of technical rehearsals. The ride is the newest addition to the Universal Orlando Resort and builds upon the experience of the same name that opened last year at Universal Studios Hollywood as a part of the Studio Tram Tour. Unlike its Hollywood counterpart, this is its own ride (although not much longer than the segment-only version on the West Coast) and this version has nixed the 3-D glasses and imagery in favor of a more tolerable and clear 2-D film experience.
The story of the ride goes that you are set to celebrate another of Dominic Toretto's recent race victories in a party bus when Owen Shaw (a villain of the film franchise) interrupts the party looking for a witness in your group to a crime his team has committed. The party buses are launched ahead as a high octane (read: very quick) race through the city ensues with Dominic Toretto and the gang fighting to save you from Owen Shaw.
The technology behind the ride is almost identical to that of Skull Island: Reign of Kong in Islands of Adventure, including the trackless ride vehicles and the immersive 360 degree projection theater during which the majority of the ride's experience takes place. There are a few brief scenes added before the projection theater, along with some pre-shows added to help flesh out the story before you ride. Fans of the franchise will enjoy the nods throughout the queue to the films' characters and in-jokes and avid Universal fans may spot a few references to other Universal attractions and characters, past and present.
When the ride officially opens, it will offer a standby queue (which is the only option currently available during the technical rehearsals), a virtual queue option (akin to the ones found at Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon and the slides at Volcano Bay) and a Single Rider queue. This ride is in line with you what you know an expect from Universal's most recent attractions... If you loved Skull Island: Reign of Kong or are a fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise, this ride will likely appeal to you. It is a quick experience, but one that will definitely find its audience in the park due to the popularity of the franchise and the thrill of a new addition at the park in general.
The walls are down and the doors are open!
Dominic Toretto's famous Dodge Charger is parked out front.
Fast and the Furious Supercharged will offer a Virtual Line option much like Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Technical Rehearsals mean the ride can open and close without cause and some effects may not work as expected.
A look at the ride's Standby entrance board.
The ride also has a dedicated queue for Single Riders.
The first of many queue spaces to be found before the loading area of the ride.
The normal barbecue setup for Dominic Toretto's family can be seen as you walk through the queue.
The queue weaves in and out of several warehouses where sports cars can be seen while guests wait.
Lots of cars to be seen up close...
Including a few cars from the Fast and Furious films!
Looks like this truck is ready to be set up for a party!
The queue is littered with subtle nods to past Universal attractions. The shirt on the chair is one from the former "Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Starring You!" attraction that previously occupied the majority of the space that Fast and the Furious Supercharged now uses.
Tej Parker guides guests through the queue with brief updates on then mission. When Tej isn't onscreen, scenes from the Fast and Furious films are shown.
Some heavy duty equipment for the road.
The first of the two pre-show areas features a spieler show sets the stage for the story of Fast and Furious Supercharged.
This space is known as the "Family Room" and features photos and references to the many characters in Dominic Toretto's family. This includes Brian (the late Paul Walker) and his son Jack.
More details in the "Family Room."
And an in-joke from Fast & Furious 6.
Tej and Mia dial into the Family Room to let the guests know it is time to proceed.
The second pre-show room is Tej's "war room" where a nervous aide to the team hopes to get everyone ready for their ride to safety on the party bus.
A look at the ride's warnings.
Our bus has arrived!
Each bus has a driver, similar to the way Skull Island: Reign of Kong has, though these drivers remain silent throughout the course of the ride.
Since there is no photography or videography allowed on the ride, I bring you one more photo of the ride vehicle from the exit station.
Of course the ride exit dumps into a gift shop.
Lots of themed merchandise to choose from!
And there are even more cars outside of the gift shop for guests to check out!
With work on Fast and Furious Supercharged nearly done, the next and most visible project underway is the redevelopment of Central Park in anticipation of the new lagoon show that will replace Universal's Cinematic Spectacular.
The former Central Park area has been ripped up, but the reason has not yet been revealed.
You can kind of see just how larger this platform is becoming...
There's more on the horizon for Universal Orlando!
A with that I wrapped up my quick visit!
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
I've heard the complaints about screens and it's a legitimate complaint but they never really bothered me. I thought Kong was awesome, I'm sure I'll love this too. I don't care about the franchise at all but that rarely matters at Universal. I don't know anything about King Kong or Transformers either and I liked those rides.
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