Universal's Epic Universe News & General Discussion

shiekra38

Legendary Member
Dec 13, 2009
10,233
Florida
The fun of being at the end of a long and controversial County Commission docket is that their meeting started at 9am this morning and now at 7pm there are still a handful of issues to be considered ahead of Universal's.

EDIT: They just said a peak of 8,000 construction jobs. Also the 2023 date was a unintentional leak. More details later.
Late 2024 it is
 

AlexanderMBush

Legendary Member
Nov 23, 2013
16,905
Arizona
Just because the potential initial year is 2023, that could mean all sorts of things for when it'd be operational. Whether if they're gunning to get it up by the Summer, or play a Disney and have it open by the fall. I don't see EU being bumped back to 2024.
 

Happytycho

Member
Mar 1, 2017
562
The Land Use Plan Amendment passed.

Universal had the room filled with dozens of Universal staff, and also received supportive comments from representatives from IAAPA and Dynamic Attractions. Speaking on behalf of Universal were VP for external affairs John McReynolds and a director of business and legal affairs named Heather Hines (sp?), and their message was primarily that this is just a continuation of a process that began 20 years ago. The statements about the code waivers were somewhat odd, however, as I don't fully understand why having speed parking is an integral component of being able to create an immersive theme park environment, or why perimeter landscaping matters so much that 30+ code waivers are required. Universal then introduced a group of 12 project consultants they had brought to the meeting, and submitted into the record a binder containing each of the consultants qualifications, should any of the commissioners wish to ask them questions.

John McReynolds said that they expect to have a peak of 8,000 construction jobs, although it was somewhat funny because the question about how many jobs they will create was first posed to Heather and she turned around to John and asked (with the mic still on) "Am I allowed to say that?". Mayor Demings was really just trying to get them to reiterate the 14,000 theme park jobs previously announced, but the 8,000 construction is interesting information as well.

On the opening date issue, John's quote from tonight was "Well in the last earnings call our president of NBCUniversal informed us we will be opening in 2023, [...] I say that tongue in check because that was a little surprise to us in such a public format, but 2023."

The County Commission is now hearing public comment on the Kirkman Road extension agreement. Currently 3 of the 7 board members have indicated skepticism of the deal, so losing any more votes would sink the agreement, which could already put the 2023 timeline at risk.
 
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Mike S

Veteran Member
Dec 10, 2015
5,051
Florida
The Land Use Plan Amendment passed.

Universal had the room filled with dozens of Universal staff, and also received supportive comments from representatives from IAAPA and Dynamic Attractions. Speaking on behalf of Universal were VP for external affairs John McReynolds and a director of business and legal affairs named Heather Hines (sp?), and their message was primarily that this is just a continuation of a process that began 20 years ago. The statements about the code waivers were somewhat odd, however, as I don't fully understand why having speed parking is an integral component of being able to create an immersive theme park environment, or why perimeter landscaping matters so much that 30+ code waivers are required. Universal then introduced a group of 12 project consultants they had brought to the meeting, and submitted into the record a binder containing each of the consultants qualifications, should any of the commissioners wish to ask them questions.

John McReynolds said that they expect to have a peak of 8,000 construction jobs, although it was somewhat funny because the question about how many jobs they will create was first posed to Heather and she turned around to John and asked (with the mic still on) "Am I allowed to say that?". Mayor Demings was really just trying to get them to reiterate the 14,000 theme park jobs previously announced, but the 8,000 construction is interesting information as well.

On the opening date issue, John's quote from tonight was "Well in the last earnings call our president of NBCUniversal informed us we will be opening in 2023, [...] I say that tongue in check because that was a little surprise to us in such a public format, but 2023."

The County Commission is now hearing public comment on the Kirkman Road extension agreement. Currently 3 of the 7 board members have indicated skepticism of the deal, so losing any more votes would sink the agreement, which could already put the 2023 timeline at risk.
So I guess we could say 2023 is officially official now lol.
 

Happytycho

Member
Mar 1, 2017
562
The Roadway Agreement just passed by a 4-3 vote, and the meeting ended with the opposition chanting "we'll be back".

Edit: This is a huge win for Universal, and today's votes represent an important milestone in the development of Epic Universe. With these approvals, we should expect to soon see an increase in building permits both applied for and received, with construction no longer in such a distant future. It was also mentioned tonight that the Kirkman Road extension plans are currently in the 90% design phase, and that construction work on the road and the new interchange with Sand Lake Road will begin in the first half of 2020.
 
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quinnmac000

Veteran Member
May 14, 2014
5,385
Seoul, Korea
Can someone please explain to me why they are receiving tax incentives? The purpose of tax incentives is to encourage a business to locate within your county or expand faster to increase tax revenue, but this does not seem to be the reason here.

NBCUniversal owns no other land that could sustain a theme park anywhere else in the country. There is only one other market in all of the country that could even support a new theme park, Orlando and LA. LA does not have the land for it, so Orlando it is. Therefore, the tax incentives have no purpose to locate the park.

NBCUniversal has already invested heavily in development for this park. They have shown this development is occurring. Not to mention, an additional park has extremely little risk for them. They have significant capital. If this park were to fail, the company is large enough to sustain it. In summary, this park is happening at this scale one way or the other.

So why are we giving them free money?!! This isn't Lockheed, which can literally locate wherever the aerospace workforce exists in one of a dozen regions. This is the same bull incentives that we give them in the current property. What are they going to do? Relocate the whole complex?! In what world!

Not to mention, this same argument applies to the meddlings Universal has done with the road and the special Major Economic Development Projects program. Orlando and Orange County must stand strong together because the only power Universal has over them is each other.

(That's my rant for the day. Feel free to poke holes in this as I have only read up on it and done research for about 2 hours. There is bound to be contrivances or nonsense within it.)
Alright I will bite. I'm not pro-business but at least I can explain it this way.

A business is still a member of the community. Companies benefit the local area. Businesses should pay taxes just like you and me. There are certain tax benefits for individuals such as turning your house green, etc. Comcast building a theme park in a different area of Orlando will benefit all the businesses on I-drive to include shops, restaurants, hotels and more. Central Florida is a hot area for influx of millennials trying to work. Thus a big company like Comcast building a new park will add jobs to help cover those employees. That land is just sitting there doing nothing right now. Therefore, no net gain or loss to the city. Now, as a city would you rather have enough jobs to support the population including the influx of incoming residents? Of course. Which is part of the reason for tax incentives. More activity in a certain areas also leads to more jobs in a certain area. Its a positive chain reaction.

As for the Kirkman Road, those arguing against roads benefiting one company need to look at it like this. Nothing is stopping Comcast from building a private road from their property to the main strip which they legally can do (privatized roads legal since 2009). Doing so will increase traffic regardless on that road. If its me, I would rather increase the lanes so I'm not stuck in traffic due to the influx of travelers now on that road because of poor decision making. Thus having a public road project makes sense.
 

WAJAS98

Veteran Member
Aug 15, 2014
3,276
--Classified--
Alright I will bite. I'm not pro-business but at least I can explain it this way.

A business is still a member of the community. Companies benefit the local area. Businesses should pay taxes just like you and me. There are certain tax benefits for individuals such as turning your house green, etc. Comcast building a theme park in a different area of Orlando will benefit all the businesses on I-drive to include shops, restaurants, hotels and more. Central Florida is a hot area for influx of millennials trying to work. Thus a big company like Comcast building a new park will add jobs to help cover those employees. That land is just sitting there doing nothing right now. Therefore, no net gain or loss to the city. Now, as a city would you rather have enough jobs to support the population including the influx of incoming residents? Of course. Which is part of the reason for tax incentives. More activity in a certain areas also leads to more jobs in a certain area. Its a positive chain reaction.

As for the Kirkman Road, those arguing against roads benefiting one company need to look at it like this. Nothing is stopping Comcast from building a private road from their property to the main strip which they legally can do (privatized roads legal since 2009). Doing so will increase traffic regardless on that road. If its me, I would rather increase the lanes so I'm not stuck in traffic due to the influx of travelers now on that road because of poor decision making. Thus having a public road project makes sense.
I here what you’re saying, but now after hearing about the threatening emails Universal’s lawyers sent to OC commissioners and that Universal’s lawyers literally wrote the ordinance that is allowing them to fast track the project with a dedicated staff member at OC, I am firm in my position that they are taking advantage of the county government.

Tax incentives for everyone, individuals and businesses, are meant to encourage a behavior that benefits the county that would occur other wise. As has been shown by their investment in the park before the incentives occurred, it is being built with or without them.

A note on the tax incentives for the current property. I do not see how Universal has done anything with that money to decrease poverty or crime in the area. All their investment is within the property, which is effectively separate from the surrounding neighborhood.

I’m also not against the road extension. I’m against the high cost of the road. It is literally costing more money per mile than the most expensive segment of the I-4 Ultimate project per the Orlando Sentinel. The county should only be paying for the cost to build a road to the caliber of the nearby ones, and Universal should be paying for any and all beautification past the standard.
 

Legacy

Veteran Member
Jul 27, 2015
6,078
Interestingly the expansion of the Orange County Convention Center was just green-lighted as well with a 2023 opening date.
Well, yeah. A theme park right next to a convention center is going to be stupid busy.
 

OLSinFLA

Veteran Member
May 26, 2012
1,518
I here what you’re saying, but now after hearing about the threatening emails Universal’s lawyers sent to OC commissioners and that Universal’s lawyers literally wrote the ordinance that is allowing them to fast track the project with a dedicated staff member at OC, I am firm in my position that they are taking advantage of the county government.

Tax incentives for everyone, individuals and businesses, are meant to encourage a behavior that benefits the county that would occur other wise. As has been shown by their investment in the park before the incentives occurred, it is being built with or without them.

A note on the tax incentives for the current property. I do not see how Universal has done anything with that money to decrease poverty or crime in the area. All their investment is within the property, which is effectively separate from the surrounding neighborhood.

I’m also not against the road extension. I’m against the high cost of the road. It is literally costing more money per mile than the most expensive segment of the I-4 Ultimate project per the Orlando Sentinel. The county should only be paying for the cost to build a road to the caliber of the nearby ones, and Universal should be paying for any and all beautification past the standard.
Discounting they are competing with a company that the state literally gave its own government to, Universal is under no obligation to help out at all financing any portion of the new road. They could simply build the park, and run the entrance to DestinationParkway or Universal Blvd and not give a wiff about traffic (Like Disney did with 192). But here they see the road expansion as a win-win. First, it helps them keep traffic smoother and gets them away from adding to it with dedicated lanes. And the public wins with a new road that can be used to get around.
 
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WAJAS98

Veteran Member
Aug 15, 2014
3,276
--Classified--
Discounting they are competing with a company that the state literally gave its own government to, Universal is under no obligation to help out at all financing any portion of the new road. They could simply build the park, and run the entrance to DestinationParkway or Universal Blvd and not give a wiff about traffic (Like Disney did with 192). But here they see the road expansion as a win-win. First, it helps them keep traffic smoother and gets them away from adding to it with dedicated lanes. And the public wins with a new road that can be used to get around.
The road was planned to be built anyways without Universal, but now it’s become three times as expensive.

Also, the fact the Reedy Creek Improvement District Exists was an incentive because Disney had the option to choose any number of places. Universal doesn't have that same freedom.
 

OLSinFLA

Veteran Member
May 26, 2012
1,518
The road was planned to be built anyways without Universal, but now it’s become three times as expensive
Planned, yes. Funded, no. Able to handle new traffic? As designed, doubtful. Like I said, Universal is under no obligation to contribute funding. They could simply build a road out. Worked for Disney to get their new interchanges (Disney basically said, we'll run the EPCOT road but not the interchange. You can explain why traffic backs up on I-4 without it).
 
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Mad Dog

Premium Member
Jan 30, 2013
18,114
Pittsburgh area
At least with Universal the probability is that the company will be there for a long time. That makes the tax incentives a viable inducement to providing longevity in jobs, tax collections etc. for the community. Orlando, and it's surrounding counties, would be a shadow of their self if not for the tourism dollars, and huge taxes on tourist related services. , that fill the coffers of the communities. Where tax incentives are questionable is when they're used to lure a start up or fly by night company to an area that ends up going out of business in a few short years. Unfortunately those types of investment groups give tax incentives a bad name. Universal (Comcast) is a proven viable business that will drive, and enhance, the Orlando area economy for an extended period.
 

WAJAS98

Veteran Member
Aug 15, 2014
3,276
--Classified--
Planned, yes. Funded, no. Able to handle new traffic? As designed, doubtful. Like I said, Universal is under no obligation to contribute funding. They could simply build a road out. Worked for Disney to get their new interchanges (Disney basically said, we'll run the EPCOT road but not the interchange. You can explain why traffic backs up on I-4 without it).
I’m on vacation, so I’m not going to be able to continue this debate because at this point it’s your facts vs mine. I would need to look up historical documents, which takes more time then I am willing to commit.

It was designed with 6 lanes, which is the same amount of general use lanes as are being built now. Also, the bus exclusive lanes lack a common provision for these types of lanes, that they are only restricted based on passengers and axles. This leaves an opening for Universal to attempt to make them exclusive for them. Although, I don’t see this ever being allowed to occur because Universal wrote the documents they were able to use specific and unusual language that benefit them.

Disney was forced to pay for roads outside their property in the 80s when Orange County sued over their exemption from them based on the original legislation passed that also created RCID. Therefore, I do not see where you’re comparison to Disney is relevant or correct.
 

OLSinFLA

Veteran Member
May 26, 2012
1,518
I’m on vacation, so I’m not going to be able to continue this debate because at this point it’s your facts vs mine. I would need to look up historical documents, which takes more time then I am willing to commit.

It was designed with 6 lanes, which is the same amount of general use lanes as are being built now. Also, the bus exclusive lanes lack a common provision for these types of lanes, that they are only restricted based on passengers and axles. This leaves an opening for Universal to attempt to make them exclusive for them. Although, I don’t see this ever being allowed to occur because Universal wrote the documents they were able to use specific and unusual language that benefit them.

Disney was forced to pay for roads outside their property in the 80s when Orange County sued over their exemption from them based on the original legislation passed that also created RCID. Therefore, I do not see where you’re comparison to Disney is relevant or correct.
Disney managed to get Orange county to pay for an exchange that actually sits in Osceola county. And Disney has been known to strong-arm to get what they want. As I said, Universal is under no obligation to pay for any road outside their property. And the exchange I referred to was the EPCOT exchange on I-4 which Disney did not pay for at all.