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Universal adds Jimmy Fallon ride to list of new theme park attractions

Jimmy Fallon is about to become a theme park ride at Universal, the Orlando attraction announced Wednesday, in a ride the Tonight Show host likened to the signature Harry Potter experience with a high-energy pace and 3D graphics.

The announcement is the fifth big coming attraction slated for Universal Resort in the next two years, making good on parent company Comcast's promise to keep investing in the parks as it draws record attendance.

The new ride called Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon is coming in 2017. The comedian talked about the announcement on his NBC show Tuesday night saying, "It's like that (the Harry Potter and Forbidden Journey ride), except instead of Harry Potter, it's me," Fallon said. "And instead of Hogwarts, it's New York City.

He said it will have smoke, smells, water and sensory experiences making it 4D.

"And if you really do it right you can get it up 8D," he cracked.

The Twister ride in Universal Studios will close Nov. 2 to make way for the Fallon ride.

Theme park designers said they looked to the Tonight Show's history of pitting its host against celebrity guests in contests and games for the ride inspiration.

"Jimmy wanted a fun and hilarious adventure that was also a valentine to his hometown of New York City," Jason Surrell, creative director at Universal Creative, wrote on the Universal's blog. "Our team found inspiration in the outrageous celebrity races that have become one of the most popular segments of Jimmy's Tonight Show."

This is another is a series of big announcements made in recent months from Universal, which has vowed to open at least one major new attraction every year.

Universal was estimated to have spent $400 million building Diagon Alley, which opened last summer in Universal Studios. And industry buzz, according to theme park expert Dennis Speigel, president of Cincinnati consulting firm International Theme Park Services, is that Universal is spending $100 million to $200 million to build the massive Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which is slated to open in the summer of 2016. The payoff, Speigel noted when Kong was announced, has been "the largest increases we've ever seen in the industry."

Other recent announcements include:

• A new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is already taking reservations for its opening in July 2016. The Caribbean-themed hotel, which will offer early park entry, will have a 16,000-square-foot beach entry pool, water slide, interactive splash area, private cabanas and a fire pit.

• Fast & Furious: Supercharged is coming to Universal Studios in 2017 as a stand-alone ride, which will offer more than the California version, with a queue area that lets visitors explore some of the cars from the Fast and the Furious film franchise.

• Volcano Bay, a huge new water park coming in 2017, in renderings shows a smoking volcano at its center with a platform near the top.

• Partnerships have been announced with other entertainment franchises, including plans to bring the world of Nintendo to life at Universal theme parks, a Hello Kitty store and the recently opened NBC Sports Grill & Brew in Universal CityWalk.

The investment has paid off handsomely so far, with record attendance year after year since Harry Potter opened in 2010.

Just this week, parent company Comcast reported to investors on Tuesday that its theme park business saw record attendance this summer and quarterly revenues rise 34 percent to $651 million.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

Universal adds Jimmy Fallon ride to list of new theme park attractions 10/28/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 2:07pm]
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