I've been reading a lot of speculation that the Universal Orlando resort's future could include a brand new, heavily themed water park at some point. With the recent announcement of Sapphire Falls, the Resort appears to now have plans for all of its available land. At least that's what I assumed, however, that may not be the case.
Here is the Southern portion of the Universal Orlando Resort. The last large parcel of land that was open can be seen above, now announced for Sapphire Falls. That made me think that a water park was no longer in the cards, with Royal Pacific and Cabana Bay also filling the area's real estate.
Universal Orlando now fully owns both Wet 'n Wild's land and attractions, seen at the bottom of this image - however you still need some form of transportation to get off property to visit it. What I didn't initially realize is that the land in the very South-most point of the resort is a bit larger than I thought.
Located directly South of Cabana Bay, and bordered by Interstate 4 and Turkey Lake Road is a rather large plot of land that is still open, and owned by Universal. After a closer look I realized those tiny dots are cars, and that started to give some sense of scale to the space. I then wondered, despite its triangular shape, just how much water park could fit in there. Thanks to Google maps, here are some fun comparisons:
Orlando's Wet 'n Wild also has a weird shape, but taken from aerial maps at the same "height" we can see that if rearranged all of the existing park could fit in the open plot South of Cabana Bay, with room to spare. All of these comparisons assume that Universal would choose to not build separate parking for this new water park, instead relying on the massive garages and resort parking lots for cars. Visitors would then use walking paths or other in-resort transportation to get to the water park's gates.
SeaWorld's Aquatica is a relatively new water park, also operating in the greater Orlando area. It features a wide variety of water slides, pools, and attractions and has a much more regular shape. It is also one of the busiest water parks in the country, with enough slides to handle tons of guests. Still, its size can be squished fairly well into the plot of land still open at Universal. Surprising.
Moving on to Disney properties, also in the same geographic area, here is Blizzard Beach. This one fits with a substantial amount of room left over, and considering it serves Walt Disney World that says something. It's also a great comparison because it was designed to utilize a big fake mountain, with slides very condensed as they move off of that mountain. This shows that when you really try to keep things close together the amount of space you can save is substantial.
Typhoon Lagoon is Walt Disney World's other water park, and even with its absolutely gigantic wave pool and much more spread-out slides, things still could fit. The part in the upper right was also a fairly recent addition, so for many years that part wasn't even applicable. Either way, this one could fit, too.
One last Florida comparison, Adventure Island down by Busch Gardens Tampa. This park has a rather weird shape, but one that almost works with the land available at Universal Orlando.
Finally, I tried to think of a water park that was really spread out, and the largest that came to mind was in Virginia, Water Country USA. There is forest and ravines between the slides and rides, and while there is a lot offered it is rather spread out. Here we finally see a park that just wouldn't work in the space available.
Now granted I'm trusting that Google is accurate in showing these aerials at the correct size so they are all comparable, but my conclusion is clear. It certainly seems like there's plenty of room for Universal Orlando to build a full sized water park on property - so then I suppose if the rumors are true the real question is when will they?