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  1. Arts & Entertainment

Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride

Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
Published Jul. 24, 2017

Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

Originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, the Dragon Challenge was part of Universal's Islands of Adventure before the Harry Potter section was built. It was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.

The park didn't reveal details Monday, but said the new ride will be "one of the most highly-themed coaster experiences we've created."

There was one clue from Universal: "This all-new thrill ride will take you deeper into J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World, where you will encounter some of your favorite characters and creatures. It'll be unlike anything we've ever done before and it will be fun for the entire family."

The last day of operation for the Dragon Challenge will be Sept. 4.

The news, paired with a March report of the park obtaining patents for a "vehicle transportation room system and method" and a "system and method for a moving puzzle theatre," had Potter fans guessing that a Floo Network or Triwizard Tournament attraction are headed to the park.

The Floo Powder Network in the Harry Potter series is used to magically transport wizards from one fireplace to another, and the Triwizard Tournament's final task involved a maze populated by various obstacles and dangers.

Keep in mind, patents are not always acted upon and neither patent mentioned the Harry Potter sections of Universal's theme parks.

The Universal theme park's fortunes changed drastically when it brought the boy wizard into the park. Attendance jumped 20 percent and per-person spending was in double digits as well.

Parent company Comcast accelerated its spending at Universal Parks and Resorts to more than $500 million a year. Universal doesn't release figures, but was estimated to have spent $400 million building Diagon Alley, which opened in 2014.

Sales of Universal season passes are at an all-time high and operating cash flow is up by more than half, according to recent earnings reports. Meanwhile, 80 percent of Orlando visitors chose two-park tickets — the only way visitors can ride the Hogwarts Express train between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure next door.

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

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