Harry Potter expansion rumors build steam as Universal Orlando reveals backstage work, Hogwarts Express to follow?

in Theme Parks, Universal Orlando

Close up of a train engine

Credit: Universal

In the eight months since Universal Orlando officially announced they intend to expand the incredibly popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter, much speculation has arisen surrounding exactly what it would include. One of the most popular rumors has suggested that the expansion would not be located within the Islands of Adventure theme park where the existing Wizarding World sits, but rather at the other Universal Orlando park, Universal Studios Florida, with the two linked by a real-life version of the Hogwarts Express train from the “Harry Potter” books and films. That exciting idea has been nothing more than speculation until recently, as Universal Orlando has revealed a map of backstage work that falls just short of confirming this link.

Four days before Universal confirmed the Potter expansion, they surprised the world by announcing their classic Jaws ride would close at Universal Studios Florida, immediately sparking rumors that its replacement would be more Potter attractions. Two months later, permit fillings all but confirmed the former Jaws site as the future home of the expansion.

With limited details and Universal remaining tight-lipped, many naysayers still didn’t think Universal would expand the highly successful Wizarding World across its parks, requiring additional admission tickets to see both. Moreover, for some it was a far-fetched idea to suggest the two areas would be linked by a real-life working version of the iconic Hogwarts Express train, already represented in the existing Potter area by a stationary version – a popular photo op for visiting fans.

But in the latest edition of Universal Orlando’s Team Member newsletter, they have confirmed backstage work will begin five days from now, on Monday, August 20, along what they call Perimeter Road, altering traffic patterns for employees. Work is said to include “infrastructure upgrades and utility maintenance” along the route shown in the official map below:

(Click to enlarge)

The area shaded yellow is the work zone, running behind Universal Studios Florida attractions Revenge of The Mummy and Disaster!. More importantly, the route follows a path directly leading between the former Jaws ride area on the right, labeled “future expansion,” stopping just short of the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad show building on the left, next to the entrance of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is exactly the path that has been rumored to be the future route for a Hogwarts Express train/attraction to connect these two areas.

Rotating that map 90 degrees and overlaying it on a Google satellite map of both parks more clearly shows that connection:

(Click to enlarge)

Removing the buildings and white areas from the map, leaving only the yellow path, shows the direct route between the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter (highlighted in green) and the former Jaws site / “future expansion” (highlighted in blue):

(Click to enlarge)

Naturally, no mention of Harry Potter, the Wizarding World, its expansion, or the Hogwarts Express is made in the information given to employees. Instead, the map is simply intended to help Universal Team Members navigate their daily routine coming and going from work as the “infrastructure upgrades and utility maintenance” blocks their usual paths. But it’s not hard to make the connection between this preliminary work and the Harry Potter expansion.

In the months since the Jaws ride closed, it has been completely demolished, the ground leveled, nearby lagoon reshaped, and construction on something has begun. Without official confirmation, all of the above remains to be speculation and rumor, but all signs continue to point to a dual-park Wizarding World to be built, connected by what’s likely to be an exciting ride in between.

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