Universal’s Harry Potter World in Orlando opens to 7-hour waits

A dragon breathes fire above the Diagon Alley during a media preview at the Universal Orlando Resort June 19, 2014. — Reuters pic
A dragon breathes fire above the Diagon Alley during a media preview at the Universal Orlando Resort June 19, 2014. — Reuters pic

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ORLANDO, July 8 — Universal Studios opened its new Harry Potter attraction, Diagon Alley, today in Orlando, Florida, with fans waiting as long as 7.5 hours for the most popular ride.

Guests who wanted to participate in the opening ceremony were let into the Universal Studios Florida theme park at 5.45am, more than three hours earlier than normal, according to Tom Schroder, a spokesman for the company. Later attendees were given passes stamped with times when they could return to enter the attraction. Waits for the Escape From Gringotts roller coaster reached as long as 450 minutes, Schroder said. He declined to specify the number of guests.

Robb Alvey, editor of ThemeParkReview.com, said he arrived at the park at 7.30am and waited two hours to ride Gringotts, joining a faster-moving, single-rider line that put solo guests into empty seats.

“I cannot imagine that this won’t be huge for Universal,” he said. The ride shut down briefly because of what appeared to be technical difficulties, not unusual for opening day, he said.

Photos posted on Twitter.com and websites such as Leakynews.com showed thousands of visitors queued up before sunrise. The new attraction is the latest sign of escalation in Orlando theme-park investments including a new penguin-theme ride at SeaWorld last year and a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney Co.’s Magic Kingdom this year. Universal Studios is a division of Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp.

“We’re feeling really good about our attendance,” Schroder said in a telephone interview. “We knew this day was coming and we’ve planned for it. We’re pacing both the attractions and how we let guests into the rides.”

Fire-breathing dragon

Diagon Alley is an extension of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened in 2010 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure park in Orlando. The new attraction includes a Hogwarts Express train, which takes guests between the two Potter-themed areas, a faux fire-breathing dragon and the roller coaster, as well as stores and restaurants.

Universal Studios Florida was the 16th-most-visited theme park worldwide last year, according to the Themed Entertainment Association. Attendance rose 14 per cent to 7.06 million. — Bloomberg

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