Volcano Bay Expansion?

Aardvark787

Newcomer
May 27, 2019
25
With many people predicting that a 2020 expansion is on the cards for Volcano Bay, what kind of slides do we hope to see?
Personally, I think I mat racer slide would be very well suited, one because of the current weight issue with the current mat slides and two because it would add a racing element, which I don't think any of the current slides have.
 

MiddKid

Newcomer
Jun 2, 2017
35
Expansions to water parks are a hard sell as investments if you're a destination resort. Some detail:

A new ride at a theme park is about driving length of stay, new visits, and return visits. Take Hagrid's...people will stay longer on a given day to ride it and/or extend their vacation at UO to ensure they get to ride it. People have heard about a "new Potter ride" and will make a point of adding UO to their vacation. People will head back to IOA just to get that 2nd or 3rd ride. We have a few hours before we have to head to the airport...let's add a 3rd day to our 2 day ticket and get a few more rides in.

Water parks are an add-on at best. Your typical family is going to spend a morning or evening at VB. Water parks are tiring and weather dependent. If the family is planning on staying 10am - 2pm, it's likely that's the plan regardless. If a great new slide is built, it simply means one of the more minor slides may get skipped. People want to leave by Xpm so they get over and have dinner at the Three Broomsticks. Very few people say because of that new ride, let's stay and have dinner here in our bathing suits.

Marketing to tourists is very difficult. I live pretty far from Orlando and my non-park friends know UO has a "Harry Potter Theme Park" but good luck getting them to know that VB even exists. Let alone being able to market to them that they have a brand new slide. That marketing falls on deaf ears. The best they can hope for is when that tourist is about to buy their tickets they add on VB. That's going to happen (or not happen) regardless of a new slide complex.

You could make the argument for capacity but the capacity addition of a new slide is minor on the overall capacity of the park. It doesn't mean it goes from closing due to capacity each day to staying open.

Proof of all these? Take a look at Blizzard Beach. After opening and adding Downhill Double Dipper soon-thereafter, zero investment. When I was an Orlando local in the late 90s it was not uncommon for BB to close due to capacity almost every day in the summer. You didn't see Disney jumping to add a bunch of new slides. The reasons above are why. People would spend the same time at BB. A new slide complex wouldn't put a dent in capacity (still close each day). Hard to market to lucrative tourist market.

But why did TL add two slides? Easy...that's about staying relevant and return visits over decades. Hey, you visited TL back in 1996? We have new slides! But you don't see major out-of-market advertising around this.

For all this, I see UO focusing their investment on the parks for now. Further investment in VB for the next few years has very low financial return possibilities.

Last note: this whole argument changes for a local water park. Local parks can market a new ride to that local visitor who goes once or twice a summer.
 

RFRees

Member
Dec 24, 2015
827
Expansions to water parks are a hard sell as investments if you're a destination resort. Some detail:

A new ride at a theme park is about driving length of stay, new visits, and return visits. Take Hagrid's...people will stay longer on a given day to ride it and/or extend their vacation at UO to ensure they get to ride it. People have heard about a "new Potter ride" and will make a point of adding UO to their vacation. People will head back to IOA just to get that 2nd or 3rd ride. We have a few hours before we have to head to the airport...let's add a 3rd day to our 2 day ticket and get a few more rides in.

Water parks are an add-on at best. Your typical family is going to spend a morning or evening at VB. Water parks are tiring and weather dependent. If the family is planning on staying 10am - 2pm, it's likely that's the plan regardless. If a great new slide is built, it simply means one of the more minor slides may get skipped. People want to leave by Xpm so they get over and have dinner at the Three Broomsticks. Very few people say because of that new ride, let's stay and have dinner here in our bathing suits.

Marketing to tourists is very difficult. I live pretty far from Orlando and my non-park friends know UO has a "Harry Potter Theme Park" but good luck getting them to know that VB even exists. Let alone being able to market to them that they have a brand new slide. That marketing falls on deaf ears. The best they can hope for is when that tourist is about to buy their tickets they add on VB. That's going to happen (or not happen) regardless of a new slide complex.

You could make the argument for capacity but the capacity addition of a new slide is minor on the overall capacity of the park. It doesn't mean it goes from closing due to capacity each day to staying open.

Proof of all these? Take a look at Blizzard Beach. After opening and adding Downhill Double Dipper soon-thereafter, zero investment. When I was an Orlando local in the late 90s it was not uncommon for BB to close due to capacity almost every day in the summer. You didn't see Disney jumping to add a bunch of new slides. The reasons above are why. People would spend the same time at BB. A new slide complex wouldn't put a dent in capacity (still close each day). Hard to market to lucrative tourist market.

But why did TL add two slides? Easy...that's about staying relevant and return visits over decades. Hey, you visited TL back in 1996? We have new slides! But you don't see major out-of-market advertising around this.

For all this, I see UO focusing their investment on the parks for now. Further investment in VB for the next few years has very low financial return possibilities.

Last note: this whole argument changes for a local water park. Local parks can market a new ride to that local visitor who goes once or twice a summer.
1)What you didn't mention is cost. VB was something like $150 million total cost, same as Kong, and about $350 million less than Diagon.

An expansion for VB would be what, less than a tenth of the cost of any other ride/development?

2) "The cabanas are sold out" is what I overheard a guest say at my last visit. Minutes later I'm passing the "quick serve" restaurant with the team member saying "it'll be a forty minute line." "Park is at capacity" I've heard multiple times, and have personally been turned away. These are missed opportunities.

3) Disney and Universal are two different beasts. Universal has criticised Disney heavily for being asleep the past decades. I'm not so sure Universal is going to follow the same path as Disney.

4) If I'm not mistaken, VB management largely got transferred from Wet n Wild (correct me if I'm wrong). This leadership had been used to pushing out new slides and keeping the park fresh. There's little reason this culture would change.

5) There's a clear expansion space next to Volcano Bay. Essentially using your argument, because a new slide can't be marketed and people will come no matter what, Universal has this empty plot of land for no good reason and should never expand.

6) Considering Universal has marketed this as their "third gate" and a "water theme park", there's a strong possibility Universal will attempt to heavily market a new water ride. They could do so with a new ride like Krakatau. This would also give them a "pass" for having a year without a new attraction at USF or IOA.
 
Last edited:

MiddKid

Newcomer
Jun 2, 2017
35
1)What you didn't mention is cost. VB was something like $150 million total cost, same as Kong, and about $350 million less than Diagon.

An expansion for VB would be what, less than a tenth of the cost of any other ride/development?

2) "The cabanas are sold out" is what I overheard a guest say at my last visit. Minutes later I'm passing the "quick serve" restaurant with the team member saying "it'll be a forty minute line." "Park is at capacity" I've heard multiple times, and have personally been turned away. These are missed opportunities.

3) Disney and Universal are two different beasts. Universal has criticised Disney heavily for being asleep the past decades. I'm not so sure Universal is going to follow the same path as Disney.

4) If I'm not mistaken, VB management largely got transferred from Wet n Wild (correct me if I'm wrong). This leadership had been used to pushing out new slides and keeping the park fresh. There's little reason this culture would change.

5) There's a clear expansion space next to Volcano Bay. Essentially using your argument, because a new slide can't be marketed and people will come no matter what, Universal has this empty plot of land for no good reason and should never expand.

6) Considering Universal has marketed this as their "third gate" and a "water theme park", there's a strong possibility Universal will attempt to heavily market a new water ride. They could do so with a new ride like Krakatau. This would also give them a "pass" for having a year without a new attraction at USF or IOA.
All great points. And we'll see what happens in the future. I'm coming from a background of building business cases for the amusement industry and having done some of that work for waterparks, expansions were always a tough sell (again, unless it was a locals park and/or the sole business focus).

My thoughts on a few of your points:

1. True. Water park attractions are cheap(er). But you still weigh that investment versus other investments you can make at your other properties. At the end of the day, the game of long term capital planning always comes back to trade-outs. VB may finally have a space on that long-term capital plan in year 3 for a $5M new slide complex...until management finds out that Epic Universe is $20M over budget in year 4. Next thing you know, the slide complex is gone and 3 other projects took $5M haircuts. I've lived this numerous times over.

2. Cabanas sold out, 40 minute lines for food...a new slide complex doesn't really put a dent into this problem. If you increase the amount of people you have in the park due to this new slide, those cabanas are still sold out and the food lines are longer. If you don't increase the amount of people through the gate and let the slide complex make the park feel less crowded you haven't solved your "at capacity" issue. This is why expansions at theme parks usually come with an additional restaurant, additional seating, additional bathrooms, etc. At a waterpark if you just drop the slide complex in you put additional strain on the existing facilities which are already tapped out. So one would hope that any expansion comes with more capacity for facilities as well. But I'd still argue that even a good sized water park expansion has very little overall impact to capacity.

3. I agree that Disney has been sleeping. But there were times when Disney wasn't sleeping...every park gets a new attraction for the Millennium! But during this time, the water parks still got nothing despite being at capacity all summer long. The return wasn't there. You can bet if the financial return was there, they'd build it. Just now we're seeing TL get slides because it had reached a tipping point of 20+ years without improvements.

4. It may be the same management, but I'd argue the goals of the parks have changed. WnW was, at it's height, a standalone attraction fighting for it's share of the Orlando dollar. It would add slides and expand to do so. Now it's an add on to a wholistic Resort experience. The fact that it exists is enough for it to do it's job (hey, we better plan an extra 1/2 day to hit the waterpark). When you walk into the hotel lobby on I-drive and see the rack of brochures the old WnW brochure would be screaming water park and touting the newest slide. You'll find VB on page 4 of the Universal brochure (hypothetically speaking).

5. Not NEVER expand, just wait until it makes sense. Parks leave expansion plots open for decades all the time. Kong was built on an expansion plot that was there on the park's opening day...it took them almost 20 years to finally build there.

6. This is a valid point and the wildcard here. The industry will be interested to watch how they keep up with their new attraction every year promise. Especially when some of those additions start to land like duds (F&F).

I hope they prove me wrong, but my money is on a long wait until we see that expansion.

We have a trip this February where we've carved out some time to hit VB (weather permitting).
 

RFRees

Member
Dec 24, 2015
827
All great points. And we'll see what happens in the future. I'm coming from a background of building business cases for the amusement industry and having done some of that work for waterparks, expansions were always a tough sell (again, unless it was a locals park and/or the sole business focus).

My thoughts on a few of your points:

1. True. Water park attractions are cheap(er). But you still weigh that investment versus other investments you can make at your other properties. At the end of the day, the game of long term capital planning always comes back to trade-outs. VB may finally have a space on that long-term capital plan in year 3 for a $5M new slide complex...until management finds out that Epic Universe is $20M over budget in year 4. Next thing you know, the slide complex is gone and 3 other projects took $5M haircuts. I've lived this numerous times over.

2. Cabanas sold out, 40 minute lines for food...a new slide complex doesn't really put a dent into this problem. If you increase the amount of people you have in the park due to this new slide, those cabanas are still sold out and the food lines are longer. If you don't increase the amount of people through the gate and let the slide complex make the park feel less crowded you haven't solved your "at capacity" issue. This is why expansions at theme parks usually come with an additional restaurant, additional seating, additional bathrooms, etc. At a waterpark if you just drop the slide complex in you put additional strain on the existing facilities which are already tapped out. So one would hope that any expansion comes with more capacity for facilities as well. But I'd still argue that even a good sized water park expansion has very little overall impact to capacity.

3. I agree that Disney has been sleeping. But there were times when Disney wasn't sleeping...every park gets a new attraction for the Millennium! But during this time, the water parks still got nothing despite being at capacity all summer long. The return wasn't there. You can bet if the financial return was there, they'd build it. Just now we're seeing TL get slides because it had reached a tipping point of 20+ years without improvements.

4. It may be the same management, but I'd argue the goals of the parks have changed. WnW was, at it's height, a standalone attraction fighting for it's share of the Orlando dollar. It would add slides and expand to do so. Now it's an add on to a wholistic Resort experience. The fact that it exists is enough for it to do it's job (hey, we better plan an extra 1/2 day to hit the waterpark). When you walk into the hotel lobby on I-drive and see the rack of brochures the old WnW brochure would be screaming water park and touting the newest slide. You'll find VB on page 4 of the Universal brochure (hypothetically speaking).

5. Not NEVER expand, just wait until it makes sense. Parks leave expansion plots open for decades all the time. Kong was built on an expansion plot that was there on the park's opening day...it took them almost 20 years to finally build there.

6. This is a valid point and the wildcard here. The industry will be interested to watch how they keep up with their new attraction every year promise. Especially when some of those additions start to land like duds (F&F).

I hope they prove me wrong, but my money is on a long wait until we see that expansion.

We have a trip this February where we've carved out some time to hit VB (weather permitting).
Thank you for putting thought into your reply. :)

2. I pretty much agree with you when it comes to the fact that Universal doesn't really NEED to open a ride at Volcano Bay. I agree that it's harder for them to market a new slide, especially if they just opened Hagrids or another major attraction in the same year.

But I believe there's a return on investment for an overall expansion, considering the current high demand for VB. And they will be expecting even higher demand for VB come ~2023 (Epic Universe).

I am definitely not one saying they should add a slide just for the sake of adding a slide. I think they should max out that expansion space with cabanas, food, and any other pluses they can sell to guests (like a surfing simulator).

3.
The return wasn't there. You can bet if the financial return was there, they'd build it. Just now we're seeing TL get slides because it had reached a tipping point of 20+ years without improvements.
Could be. But it could also be major external factors:
2001 we saw a major downturn in tourism. 2008 we saw another major downturn in tourism. And Disney had been scared stiff with making any investments due to perceived failures (Euro Disney, CA). Hogsmeade, Comcast, and a booming global economy woke them up.

5. I'm definitely saying now (or soon) is when it makes sense. :) Increase capacity (slide + cabanas + food + other) prior to Epic Universal opening. And use ~$10 million (instead of $200 million) so you can say you've done something in one of your off years like 2020 or 2022.
 

truejonas

V.I.P.
Mar 22, 2018
802
Nashville
All I thought of when I first saw Krakatau was the ol' Master Blaster up at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells. Oh man, I have some memories wrapped up there...

So, no idea how Cheetah Chase is allegedly the first.
 

RFRees

Member
Dec 24, 2015
827
Somewhat related regarding water park expansions, it looks like Aquatica is looking to expand again next year. Project is code named "Project North Beach."

This is after they had already expanded this year (Karekare Curl) and last year (Ray Rush).

I know SeaWorld is not Universal, but they're definitely seeing justification to expand in their water park for one reason or another.
 
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Cheezbat

Veteran Member
Jan 18, 2013
1,380
Orlando Florida
Somewhat related regarding water park expansions, it looks like Aquatica is looking to expand again next year. Project is code named "Project North Beach."

This is after they had already expanded this year (Karekare Curl) and last year (Ray Rush).

I know SeaWorld is not Universal, but they're definitely seeing justification to expand in their water park for one reason or another.
Because new brings people back.

I was a 3 park pass holder with Universal up until this year. I’m a huge water park guy and while I’ve done VB now, they need something to get me to come back. Mako brought me back to Sea World. Hagrids solidified my decision to renew my Universal pass. Rat and Mickey’s Runaway Railway are causing me to renew my Disney Pass...What’s the point in me spending the extra on Volcano Bay if it’s just the same thing year after year? The same thing caused me to drop my Disney pass during the dark years...nothing new, why spend the money?

If Universal is going to call Volcano Bay their 3rd gate, then they need to start treating it like one. They should add something new at least every 3-4 years...regardless of the ‘return on investment.’ You want people to keep coming back and spending money? Keep things fresh. Add new.
 

Cup_Of_Coffee

Veteran Member
Aug 7, 2018
2,588
Because new brings people back.

I was a 3 park pass holder with Universal up until this year. I’m a huge water park guy and while I’ve done VB now, they need something to get me to come back. Mako brought me back to Sea World. Hagrids solidified my decision to renew my Universal pass. Rat and Mickey’s Runaway Railway are causing me to renew my Disney Pass...What’s the point in me spending the extra on Volcano Bay if it’s just the same thing year after year? The same thing caused me to drop my Disney pass during the dark years...nothing new, why spend the money?

If Universal is going to call Volcano Bay their 3rd gate, then they need to start treating it like one. They should add something new at least every 3-4 years...regardless of the ‘return on investment.’ You want people to keep coming back and spending money? Keep things fresh. Add new.
Well "regardless of return on investment" is kinda the entire point. Their in the business to make $$. Its pretty much all about return on investment. I don't disagree that labeling this as their 3rd theme park is a stretch (although I haven't visited but will be in April/May) but they also have limited space to work with here, can only expand so much. I think the rumor is 2022 for a expansion here.
 
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