If you’ve been to Universal City lately, you’ve probably gotten a glimpse of the “Public Hearing” notices posted in and around the city’s entrance. While it’s almost a given that the hearing is chiefly centered around the NBCUniversal Evolution plan, we decided to do some digging.
As it turns out, NBCUniversal is attempting to shorten the window allocated for public hearings, thereby expediting the regulatory and approval process in an attempt to finally break ground. Along with that note came the revision of the NBCUniversal Plan, which occurred on January 7, 2013. Although this revision doesn’t contain too many dramatic changes from NBCUniversal’s last conceptual map, here’s what we’ve found:
The removal/replacement of Special Effects Stage, WaterWorld and the Gibson Amphitheater for future ‘new attractions’
New attractions on the current site of the Tram Depot garage, Falls Lake, and Fast and Furious/Picture Cars area
CityWalk expansion in front of the park’s entrance
Two ’500 room’ hotels – one at the site of the former Fung Lum Chinese restaurant and the other in front of the park entrance
‘Central Park’ in the former Wild West arena
A proposal to reevaluate county lines to incorporate most of NBCUniversal’s property within the limits of Universal City, California
Additional parking near Falls Lake, Fung Lum and an expansion of the current ET parking lot
Let’s take a closer look at some notable proposals.
Ultimately, this is the bulk of the NBCUniversal Evolution plan. Under this proposal, we would see the removal of the Special Effects Stage, WaterWorld and the Gibson Amphitheater in place of new additions. They’re also touting the introduction of “new theme park attractions” with “food and retail” establishments, so think about attractions like Transformers which include a gift shop/beverage/restaurant.
Another important note: while the plan never explicitly states whether or not these developments translate into cases of demolition (as was the case with Wild West) or cases of refurbishment (like what is currently taking place with Terminator), we’re inclined to believe that larger structures – like the Gibson – are probably going to stay in place, while the fate of smaller/older structures – like the Special Effects Stage – still up in the air.
Interestingly enough, here’s the source of all the “Central Park” rumors regarding the former West venue. Given that this plan outlines at least five years of future development for the park, we’re very inclined to believe that Central Park will remain a permanent fixture for at least a few years (we’re thinking 5-10).
While this entire area seems to be the next logical step for a new attraction as the decade rolls by, we – judging from this map – don’t see anything happening just yet. Keep in mind, after Potter, all bets are off.
Now here’s a shocking development: the removal of the Special Effects Stage. This is an odd one, given how well Special Effects has worked relative to previous shows. Keep in mind, this is the same venue that held Creature, Spiderman and Fear Factor Live. Not exactly a positive string of productions.
But looking back, this is a prime example of an area that could see either a refurbishment or a complete demolition. We all know Universal has been attempting to stabilize the hill below the theater, so going off of that, what exactly could they fit within that area? A new show?
Also note Universal’s Animal Actors next door. Given how little that show costs to run and maintain, we don’t anticipate Universal removing that attraction anytime soon. Remember, capacity is key, and they need to keep as many people off the streets as possible at a given time.
Another shocker – the removal of WaterWorld.
We’re going to hold back on this one, given how the current contract with the performers doesn’t end until 2015. Even then, know that WaterWorld has a very high capacity that plays a vital role in keeping the park navigable during peak seasons. This is the same reason why Animal Actors continues to stay: high capacity, low cost. Same notion here, with the caveat of a very high cost per show.
Be sure to also note the potential addition of a retail store or restaurant.
Simple: Harry Potter. Question is whether or not they’re going to demolish the existing structure or build up – like the case with Transformers. I’m willing to say yes, but there’s a bit of disagreement among our team – so keep an eye out on that one. Oh, and T-5 is a tech shop for maintenance. Nothing major there.
Another oddity. Keep in mind how Fast and the Furious appears to be staying (no surprise).
The main focus here is the street that runs alongside the Picture Cars. Given how limited this area truly is, we really have no clue as to what they could put there.
Home to the dropoff center for the Studio Tour back in the 1980s. Guests haven’t been able to see the area in years, but we’re told it’s used for company events.
Another development on the tour. Regardless of what this could be, we’re glad Universal appears to be expanding the tour dramatically in the coming years.
No surprise here: Despicable Me.
One interesting note though: the lack of any planned buildings in the former Coke Soak area. Keep in mind the entire area is based upon a parking structure, so you’re not going to see another major development without some major retrofitting. As for Harry Potter expanding in this area: very, very unlikely.
Another “new attraction” in the former tram garage. Whether or not this could be related to Potter – who knows.
The NBCUniversal Evolution Plan also includes some minor developments for CityWalk Hollywood – namely the introduction of a new retail buildings alongside a “future destination venue.” It’s very evident that the theme park takes precedent in this entire proposal.
Now this is interesting: the expansion of CityWalk in front of the park’s entrance. Also note “H-1″ and “P-12,” which denote a hotel and a parking lot, respectively. We could see the integration of a hotel/shopping structure as is the case with the Hard Rock Hotel over at Universal Studios Singapore – but on a smaller scale.
A “future destination venue.” A smaller theater, perhaps?
Hotel wise, this is when things start getting a bit messy. We’re talking the construction of two 500-room hotels near the park: one near the entrance and the other located at the abandoned Chinese restaurant. Let’s see what they have in store:
As we mentioned above, “H-1″ appears to be the future site of a potential new hotel.
Oddly enough, another hotel – this time on the former site of the Fung Lum Chinese restaurant. This entire area – as we’ll outline below – is still within the boundaries of present-day Universal City. Again, like “H-1″ above, this appears to be a 500-room hotel with an integrated parking structure.
So here’s when things start falling apart. It appears as if they’re going to construct an addition to the Curious George parking structure by adding “P-3″ and “P-9.” The number of floors for all three lots have yet to be determined, so that leads us to believe they’re relatively unsure about the influx of potential crowds. On another note, can you imagine walking from P-9 over to P-3 and then to CityWalk to reach the park? Talk about a potential nightmare.
So it looks like they’re currently looking to expand on the current ET parking lot with a multilevel structure. Question is, how are they exactly going to connect this to Curious George? Pedestrian bridge?
Further development to the current VIP/RV parking lot. They plan on introducing a “transportation hub” in this area – whatever that means.
…and of course, the last parking addition on this list. Out of all the three, we’re willing to bet this parking structure will most likely take the form of a flat lot. Think overflow lot for peak seasons.
Probably the most vital proposal in this plan: the redistricting of Universal City/Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.
Under the NBCUniversal Evolution, Universal City/Los Angeles County would see its boundaries increased to include the entire theme park, most of the parking structures, and the theme park’s complete entrance alongside one of the proposed hotels (Universal Sheraton, Universal Hilton and “H-2″ will continue to sit within the boundaries of the City of Los Angeles).
The current boundaries for Universal City/Los Angeles County. Note the highlighted portion and specifically the park’s entrance.
…and here’s the new Universal City/County of Los Angeles boundaries – redone to include the entire front entrance and all the existing park/CityWalk parking structures.
A closeup of the new City/County-Universal City lines.
As it stands, we currently have NBCUniversal’s proposal for the next 5-10 years. Under this plan, we would see a dramatic reimaging the entire Universal City complex – including the addition of two hotels, an expanded CityWalk venue, added parking structures and an increase in overall theme park space. Also interesting to note are the proposed refurbishment/demolition of a few theme park attractions – most notably, the Castle Theater and WaterWorld.
Of course, we must note that proposals like this are bound to change, and nothing is currently set in stone. Regardless, this new revision gives us a basic idea of what Universal hopes to achieve within the next few years.
The current NBCUniversal Evolution Plan. Click to enlarge.
About the Author: Jon Fu
Jon Fu is the editorial director of Inside Universal and oversees the creative direction of the site's content.
Jon originally founded InsideUniversal.net in 2006 as a summer hobby aimed at providing families and fans a resource for all things "Universal Studios Hollywood." Since then, the website has taken him throughout the United States and around the world - including to places like Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.
Jon currently resides in Santa Cruz, California with his bamboo plant. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.