Monday, October 24, 2016

Could a New Theme Park be Coming to Orlando?

It is a bit dangerous to buy into rumors of new theme parks in the U.S., especially given that the last few that opened haven't had the best luck (I'm looking at you, Hard Rock Park).  However, this new rumor of a 200 acre park in Orlando is pretty interesting, especially considering it is being widely reported.

I immediately think back to when it was leaked that Universal Orlando was buying tons of new land in Orlando... and that happened to be totally true.

© Bing Maps
The new theme park rumor started with the Orlando Business Journal, which reported that a "top U.S. theme park operator" is looking to build a 200 acre theme park on the site of the Artegon Marketplace mall and adjacent land.  The aerial above shows the mall, with a large open area below it.  That open space once was to be the Orlando Thrill park (filled with oodles of coasters) but the neighborhood next to it put that to bed pretty quickly.  The article also says that the mall has been for sale for a while, and the land it is on is already zoned for a theme park - plus if other open land in the area is lumped in there's plenty of room for a park.

© Bing Maps
Let's zoom out and look at the potential park site.  Fun Spot Orlando is almost directly adjacent to it, but the big draw would be Universal - which can be seen in the entire left of the image.  Also, just to the South of the area is the giant area that Universal recently purchased, plus the convention center and then SeaWorld Orlando.

Now, who could this "top U.S. theme park operator" possibly be?  Well there are several that are based in the U.S., but also several companies that are foreign but operate parks here.  The Orlando Business Journal article mentions that "international investors" might also be involved, so it might be foolish to ignore foreign companies.

Cedar Fair is doing great right now, but honestly they do not seem like they would be at all interested in building a park from the ground up.  But then again, they're led by a former Disney executive who knows first hand how much money can be made in a year-round park.  Still, this seems like a stretch.

Six Flags' current leadership seems almost aggressive enough to try something like this - after all there have been Six Flags in Florida rumors for many, many years.  They also now have ties to many foreign investors who are leasing their name for international parks, perhaps one of them wants to do the same but on U.S. soil?

Herschend Family Entertainment is private and would probably need large investors to pull off a park in Orlando.  But that also means it would be easier for them, as there are no shareholders to appease.  They've expanded their business in recent years by purchasing Wild Adventures and spending $300 million on the Dollywood resort.

Premier Parks has come back onto the scene, snatching up several U.S. parks in the past 5 years and operating several for CNL Lifestyle Properties.  They're not a big company, but if you look at their past companies it isn't hard to see that they're pretty ambitious.  Still, it doesn't seem like they would have the resources for a bit new Orlando park.

Landry's Restaurants operates a few parks in the South, but seem too interested in the restaurant side of things to bite off a project this large.

Merlin Entertainments is a global company, whose presence in the U.S. is focused on the Legoland Parks along with Madame Tussands, Sealife Aquariums and the Orlando Eye.  They're aggressive, and want several more Legoland parks in the U.S. - so could a differently themed park in Orlando be in their plan too?

Village Roadshow Theme Parks owns properties such as a handful of Wet'n'Wild water parks, Sea World and Warner Brothers Movie World in Australia.  They're working on two new parks in China, so they seem to have the development bug - but Orlando is a pretty tough market to enter without a big U.S. presence.

Finally there is Parques Reunidos, a bit of a behemoth that operates nearly 50 parks and attractions around the world.  They've picked up many parks in the U.S. in the past ten or so years, but haven't been building new ones - whereas Merlin is proven to be unafraid to do exactly that.

So in conclusion?  Who knows!  Maybe it's just a rumor and nothing will ever come of it, but it's fun to think it over, no?