IOA Update - May

(c) The Orlando Sentinel

Islands of Adventure offers handicap accessible features, such as this wheelchair space at a photo opportunity area.

While Universal Studios has been poised to break the wrapper on its second park for weeks, officials say Islands of Adventure won't open until May 28.

It seemed all signs pointed to an early May opening. Ads and stories announcing the triumphal entry of Islands of Adventure had been running throughout the country during the last two weeks in April. Universal's web site had been selling single-day tickets that were valid starting May 12. Nnational and international media previewed the park May 10-13, and Rosie O'Donnell was in town, taping her show from IOA.

But Universal officials decided to push back the park's opening date. On May 6, Universal President Tom Williams told The Orlando Sentinel that the park might still open in May, but it would be later in the month, if at all. Williams has long-maintained his stance that the park will not open until its perfect, in sharp contrast to the opening of Universal Studios Florida which was plagued with ride breakdowns and bad publicity. Four days later, Universal confirmed that the park would indeed open in late May, specifically May 28.Islands of Adventure has been in beta-testing phase -- theme park officials call it "soft opening" -- since the beginning of April. With most of its core attractions, shops and restaurants up and running, park officials are putting the finishing touches on IOA's lands. Jurassic Park's Triceratops Encounter (where guests can actually pet the "live" dinosaur) opened the last week in April, and more shops are popping up in Toon Lagoon and Marvel Comic Superhero Island. Consequently, lines are getting longer as more people hear about the soft opening. A typical Saturday wait for major rides, such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, is 90 minutes-plus, and the park isn't even operating at full capacity yet!Universal has been putting things into high gear. Most all of the park's attractions are open. Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, a log-ride water flume, and Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, a circular water flume opened recently in Toon Lagoon; and The Eight Voyage of Sinbad stage show and Poseidon's Fury special effects show have begun technical rehearsals. The Pandemonium Cartoon Circus stage show has been sidelined while Rosie uses its theater. More than 1,400 media from all over the world descended on the park May 10-13 for a sneak preview. Celebs such as Michael Douglas, Jenna Elfman, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg (a creative consultant for the park) were also on hand, touring the park and signing autographs for guests. May 12 saw a huge celebration, with hot air balloons and dancers on each island; loads of fireworks and Spiderman flying around the park straped to a helicopter. The sheer magnitude of the "media preview" event gave more more credence to the rumors that Opening Day was supposed to early May. For more details and photos from the party, check out the Orlando Sentinel.Stay tuned to the Attractions Insider for updates throughout the month. For complete coverage of the new park, check out Go2orlando's Islands of Adventure area.

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