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What to expect inside the new Universal Parks and Resorts theme park in Frisco

What to expect inside the new Universal Parks and Resorts theme park in Frisco

FRISCO – Imagine holding your child’s hand and browsing through a collection of interactive experiences with popular characters from Minions or Sponge Bob SquarePants, then spend the night in a similarly themed 300-room hotel.

That’s the vision that Universal Parks and Resorts is offering young families with its new theme park in Frisco.

Drone video: See the future site of Universal Studios in Frisco on the Dallas North Tollway.

So what do we know so far about the park?

It will be derived from a “great portfolio of attractions that attract young families from around the world,” said Mark Woodbury, president and CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts. He outlined the plan Wednesday to media, city officials and developers of the $10 billion Frisco megaproject known as Fields.

The description was more conceptual than detailed.

Woodbury said the park’s four or five themes will provide plenty of encounter experiences with Universal’s stable of well-known characters. It will be about a quarter the size of Universal’s popular Orlando, Florida park, where themes include Harry Potter and the Gringotts Escape and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

It will be designed to fit into the landscape of the sprawling Fields project, he said. It will join the new PGA of America golf resort as major project attractions.

Woodbury stressed that the park will focus on experiences – interactive attractions aimed at young families and children aged 3 to 9. He said he envisioned it being a one or two day destination.

“These different experiences … come together to create this beautiful universal park designed specifically for families in Frisco in the surrounding area,” Woodbury said.

Frisco is getting a kid-themed Universal Studios park

At the front of the park will be a 300-room hotel, he said. Unlike Universal’s five signature parks around the world, no roller coasters are planned.

Page Thompson, president of new ventures for Universal Parks & Resorts, said the Fields development site gives the company “plenty of room” to build a park filled with family attractions, including playful shows.

“It’s an appropriate scale for our young family audience,” Thompson said. “While it may be smaller in area than our other parks, its quality is at the level worthy of the Universal name.”

Universal executives did not provide a timeline or estimated cost for the project. Property sales records indicate the company plans to open the park within four years.

The home entertainment center market is expected to grow at an annual rate of more than 12% through 2026 to reach $21 billion, according to market research firm Technavio.

These centers range from arcade studios and VR gaming zones to more traditional food and entertainment businesses, such as Coppell-based Dave & Busters, Irving-based Chuck E. Cheese, and Main Event Entertainment, based in Dallas. The category also includes KidZania, the Mexican-owned upscale children’s entertainment concept that opened its first U.S. location at the Stonebriar Center in Frisco. This location is approximately 14 miles south of the planned Universal site.

The overall entertainment industry market is expected to reach $681 billion worldwide by 2027, with North America accounting for 54% of the growth, according to Technavio. Theme parks were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and are still recovering.

Christopher Penney, associate professor of management at the University of North Texas at Denton, said he thinks Universal could test the market for future parks with the Frisco concept. He compared it with the evolution of the business in Florida.

“I think what they’ve been doing for the last decade in Florida could happen here too,” said Penney, who worked in the amusement park industry before entering academia. “They started with Universal Studios, added Islands of Adventure and added to it. Every bet they took was successful.

What Universal’s parent company is banking on is that “everyone was locked in their house for a few years,” he said. “Themed entertainment is going to be the biggest growth segment, and they have all their tokens in place. Virtual reality, the metaverse can only go so far. ‘they can hear, smell and feel.

It’s also what differentiates Universal’s plan from that of Arlington-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp., which operates 27 theme parks in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Six Flags was an industry outlier, posting a 21% decline in revenue in its latest quarterly results.

“What happened was they became very stagnant,” Penney said. “They didn’t have to spend money to open new [rides]. What’s going to happen now is that because of the competition, Six Flags is really going to have to respond, have to step up. Everyone in the community really wins when you have that healthy competition.

Frisco should also gain stature as a regional destination for tourists and as a housing market as Universal begins hiring, Penney said.

“It’s definitely going to be the catalyst for much more growth in this area,” he said. “This growth was going to happen regardless. What it did was it moved the timeline forward, maybe a decade.

Writer Mitchell Parton contributed to this story.

Is the Frisco’s Fields development about to become home to a theme park?