Universal Orlando is full of surprises. Last month alone, the company made a total of six announcements about new experiences coming to the resort. Last year, the company made an announcement about an entirely new hotel opening in 2016. Universal Orlando has evolved from a 1-day destination to an entire 4-day or week vacation destination. The resort is continuously changing and providing new experiences every year. Some of the most recent announcements include Skull Island: Reign of Kong, NASCAR Sports Grille’s replacement, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which will all be discussed in this article.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Skull Island: Reign of Kong will open in the summer of 2016 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure; sandwiched between Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Jurassic Park River Adventure. The attraction will have massive sets, massive ride vehicles, massive characters and creatures, and a massive story. During your expedition, you’ll brave foreboding caves, fend off indescribable terrors, and come face-to-face with King Kong. Universal Orlando has made no announcements on any ride details, but with the released concept art we can make some predictions.
Based on the concept art and construction photos, the ride vehicle will go both outdoors and indoors. The ride vehicles do not appear to be on a track, but this is not quite clear as the concept art doesn’t show much of the attraction’s features. Knowing Universal’s techniques, there will be vibration and a great quantity of movement. Mike West, executive producer of Universal Creative, says the attraction will have a height limit of 34 inches. The height limit of Skull Island: Reign of Kong will be less than that of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which is 42 inches. With Reign of Kong’s height limit almost 10 inches less than Escape from Gringott’s, we could expect Reign of Kong to be less intense and more appropriate for families (minus the fire, massive sets, and massive creatures).
Because Universal is all about the movies (which are displayed on screens), Skull Island: Reign of Kong will most likely feature massive screens with animation, but to make up for that, it will also have massive sets, as Mike West stated and perhaps a massive King Kong animatronic. While none of this has actually been confirmed, we can foretell this just by the announcement and concept art. Just like Kongfrontation, the brand new King Kong attraction is rumored to have a guide to spice up the story.
NASCAR Sports Grille
NASCAR Sports Grille closed just last year and immediately underwent demolition and construction. In a license made by Universal Orlando (which we spotted last month), an NBC Sports Grill & Brew was listed as a permanent food service. The license did not provide information on the restaurant’s location, but we assumed it would replace the old NASCAR Sports Grille because it was and still is the only business behind construction walls. In a media tour yesterday, Universal Orlando revealed the replacement of NASCAR Sports Grille along with concept art and details. It turned out the replacement was, in fact, an NBC Sports Grill & Brew.
NBC Sports Grill & Brew will feature about 100 HD television screens so that guests can enjoy NBC Sports coverage with their meal. There will be over 100 different beers and delicious food for you to enjoy such as burgers, steaks, and crab scotch eggs. The restaurant’s menu will have over 75 different items for you to choose from. The restaurant will also have an open kitchen and fire grills inside and an outdoor beer garden. NBC Sports Grill & Brew is scheduled to open this fall.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is a Caribbean-style hotel with picturesque rivers and waterfalls. The hotel is scheduled to open next door to Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort in the summer of 2016. Sapphire Falls will feature about 1,000 guest rooms and suites. The hotel will feature a lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows, a swimming pool with a waterslide and sand beach, a poolside bar & grill, a full-service restaurant, a fitness center, and much more. Sapphire Falls will be pet-friendly and will offer free water taxi and bus transportation to and from the parks and Universal CityWalk, along with early park admission to Universal’s theme parks. Universal’s deluxe on-site hotels are as of now the only on-site hotels to be pet-friendly, offer water taxi transportation, and free Universal Express passes. Considering Loews Sapphire Falls offers many of the same benefits and services as Universal’s deluxe on-site hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort), it is possible that the hotel could be categorized as a deluxe on-site hotel, however, this is not yet known because there have been no announcements stating that Sapphire Falls will include free Universal Express passes, which only Universal’s deluxe on-site hotels offer. With that being said, the hotel may be listed as a moderate on-site hotel or even a moderate and deluxe on-site hotel. If this is the case, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will indeed be the most authentic on-site hotel and better yet, cheaper than the deluxe on-site hotels.