Rumor SPOTLIGHT for February 22, 2014: Will Diagon Alley & Hogsmeade Station be delayed until August?

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Note from the editor: it’s the 100th installment(!) of our popular series, Rumor Round-Up, and, to celebrate, we’ve got some very special news regarding the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley to go over with you all. So sit back, relax, and prepare to take in the culmination of nearly two years’ worth of rumor reporting and fan speculation.

We're celebratin' Universal-style.
We’re celebratin’ Universal-style. Source

We’ve enjoyed the ride so far, and we hope you have, too.

Here’s to the next 100 columns!

 

Harry Potter and the Escape from Construction Hell

Even though it’s been only one month since Universal’s big webcast that revealed the first official tidbits of Diagon Alley, a lot has developed on the rumor front – so much, in fact, that we decided to do another full-fledged Wizarding World roundup for your reading pleasure.

Or should that be for your displeasure? It turns out that Universal is facing the very real possibility of delaying Diagon Alley’s grand opening, pushing it back anywhere from a matter of days (making it late- instead of mid-June) to, even, a few months (hello, August).

Delays?
Delays?

Just how did this come to pass? It’s an interesting story, as Orlando United reports, and it revolves mostly around the bane of every theme and amusement park the world over: construction difficulties.

 

The main culprits: Hogwarts Express and Escape from Gringotts

The new Wizarding World may only have two rides, but they’re both causing Universal more headaches than it bargained for.

First and foremost, there’s the Hogwarts Express. Although the train itself is actually a bit ahead of schedule, its two stops are woefully behind; Hogsmeade Station at Islands of Adventure, which has shown a worryingly consistent habit of trailing behind all the rest of the construction, is still mostly empty inside.

Hogsmeade Station - February 21, 2014.
Hogsmeade Station – February 21, 2014.

And although King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios Florida was much further along, it suffered a huge setback a month or two ago: one of the contractors accidentally installed the wrong brickwork, making development halt as a significantly large swath of the building was essentially gutted and then redone. It’s been a slow, painful process that has cost the operation hours and hours of work.

London waterfront - February 21, 2014.
London waterfront – February 21, 2014.

And then there’s Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which has had all of the programming glitches and operational setbacks that its sibling, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, suffered over at Hogsmeade. This comparison is both reassuring and terrifying: Forbidden Journey may have still managed to make its opening date (June 18, 2010, in case you’re curious), but it did so only at the expense of tearing out a number of its effects, ranging from the Dementors’ arms reaching out to grab you to the ride being in 3D.

This guy was originally supposed to breathe real fire.
This guy was originally supposed to breathe real fire. Source

Given everything we know about Escape from Gringotts’s story, it’d be a shame to lose any of those wonderful, magical details.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though – just what, exactly, is going on within Gringotts Bank? It seems the execution of the ride’s programming and the installation of its busbars is where the main hold-ups are. The cherry on top is that Intamin, the main vendor responsible for the attraction, has proven to be slow to respond to Universal’s concerns or requests for fixes – to the point that, according to scuttlebut, Universal may look to another company to install all future clones of Escape from Gringotts (such as the inevitable versions that will pop up at Universal Studios Hollywood and, possibly, Japan, some five or six years down the road).

 

The bright side of the (Hogwarts Express) tracks

Not all the news these past four weeks has been gloomy, however. We’ve now heard from several employees that beta testing for the Hogwarts Express has been in full swing since early February, meaning that progress is being made. Just don’t expect to be part of the testing (it’s limited to Universal employees only for the time being – sorry, Harry fanatics) or to even see it happen (it’s being done at night, since the company doesn’t want the average guest to see the trains making an emergency stop or sitting dead in the water for hours at a time while the inevitable wrinkles are ironed out).

And within Gringotts, the simulator/coaster’s sets are nearly complete, its show lighting is already finalized, and work on getting the media projectors set up and fully in focus is moving briskly along.

This is almost ready for you to visit.
This is almost ready for you to visit.

All of which underscores one simple point: these types of setbacks – whether from erring vendors or misfiring electrical systems – do happen to every attraction for every company at every park around the world. (And, furthermore, most of these leaks about the possibility of delays come from employees or contractors who are swept up in the heat of the moment, angry that they’ll have to work yet another extra-long shift in order to play catch-up. What is blowing off steam on the one end can translate to an end-of-the-world scenario on the other.)

Universal went into Diagon Alley with its eyes wide open, and the odds are still extremely good that we’ll still be strolling down Knockturn Alley and shopping at Carkitt Market on or right around June 14.

Assuming that no further mishaps occur, of course.

 

Prepare to be wowed all over again

But let’s end on a positive note, shall we?

We have much more to say about what the new Wizarding World will have in store for us beyond the possibility of delays, and the details, as fleeting as they may be, have us falling in love with Diagon Alley all over again.

 

Window shopping – there could be as many as 30 window displays in the new land, roughly doubling what’s on hand in Hogsmeade. And, regardless of whether these front real stores or not, a number of these will be interactive – once Universal starts selling its next-generation, RFID-equipped wands. Best of all? Word from multiple sources all across the net has these interactive elements being retrofitted into Hosgmeade, as well (maybe we can finally make that damn Mandrake be silent for just a moment or two).

 

Knocking Knockturn Alley around – easily the most elaborate of these interactive window displays will be the storefront sitting caddy-corner to Borgin and Burkes within Knockturn Alley.

Be prepared to wait in line for this guy.
Be prepared to wait in line for this guy.

Guests will be able to make the full-size human skeletons contained therein fall completely apart, and then reassemble them piece by piece by further swishes of the wand.

 

Entering Diagon Alley – we’ve long been wondering just how the transition from the London waterfront to the Wizarding World beyond will be handled, and now we have one more piece of the puzzle: although the opening to Diagon Alley will be permanently open, the bricks on the very edges of that opening will mechanically spin around in place, making it look as if you’ve just arrived in time to see the end of the transformation.

Peering into the Diagon Alley entrance - February 21, 2014.
Peering into the Diagon Alley entrance – February 21, 2014.

 

Parking it at Carkitt Market – thanks to the Harry Potter Wiki, which has collected some odds and ends from the reports of the various Potter fansites that were invited to the webcast media event last month, we now have a fairly good idea of what the remaining stores will be in Carkitt Market: Jellied Eel Shop, Shutterbuttons Photo Studio, and the Fambus Station Wagon broom shop.

Get your cameras ready.
Get your cameras ready.

While we don’t know which are real venues and which are simply storefronts, we do know that a broomstick photo op is in the works, and that the Fambus seems to be the perfect fit…

 

That’s it for our 100th rumor article. And remember: if you’d like to learn more about Diagon Alley, we have a complete guide in the OI Universal Center with every detail you want to know!

 

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

The propose of our weekly rumor column is to provide a window into what might be happening by collecting the latest speculation from sources across the internet (which we always link to). We take that speculation and condense it into one weekly post as a service to our readers, so you don’t have to spend hours tracking down all the stories yourself.

We rarely claim to be the source for our stories. In reality, anyone can do what we do: Google “Orlando theme park rumors” and see what the darker corners of the theme park community are chatting about. But we know you don’t have hours of free time to seek out this stuff — plus, Marc is really good at analyzing it — so we do the heavy lifting for you. Overall, this is a simple premise, and we’re happy to have been executing it every week for almost two years (this is our 100th rumor post).

View all of our Rumor Round-Ups

 

[sws_author_bio user=”msunyata@yahoo.com” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Marc” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

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Elaine Gilchrist
Elaine Gilchrist
February 22, 2014 10:23 am

as long as its open by September!!

Laura Kennan
Laura Kennan
February 22, 2014 10:26 am

Doesn’t bother me as I’m not coming back until 2015 :)))) yayyy

DayDreamer
DayDreamer
February 22, 2014 10:37 am

We are there for the first two weeks of October. Surely it will be open by then? Surely?!

Stefanie Walsh
Stefanie Walsh
February 22, 2014 10:29 am

As long as it opens by November 8 I do not care

Marie Edwards
Marie Edwards
February 22, 2014 10:31 am

Hope it opens on time but especially hope it’s open for October

Sarah Miller
Sarah Miller
February 22, 2014 10:35 am

Hope it’s open by 25th August!!!

Katia L. Land
Katia L. Land
February 22, 2014 10:38 am

I just hope to have money when is open lol

Irene Welch
Irene Welch
February 22, 2014 10:44 am

September for me too

sian evans
sian evans
February 22, 2014 10:51 am

I hope its really done by july 4th thats wen me and my family go out.i so cant wait.please please let it b done by then.xxxx

Jason Clapp
Jason Clapp
February 22, 2014 10:55 am

Late September for me too

Tina Chambers
Tina Chambers
February 22, 2014 10:56 am

Really hoping for the first week in September!

Ian Nagle
Ian Nagle
February 22, 2014 10:58 am

Late September for me too!!!!

Sharon Sim
Sharon Sim
February 22, 2014 10:59 am

Hope it’s open in July!

Darren Bown
Darren Bown
February 22, 2014 11:00 am

I hope it opens August latest, it’ll be packed in October otherwise…..

Alex Arellano
Alex Arellano
February 22, 2014 11:00 am

As long as they do it right, I don’t mind the delay.

Ingrid Unsworth
Ingrid Unsworth
February 22, 2014 11:05 am

They’ve got till November for me so no rush thank goodness…can’t wait though!!

Marques Robinson
Marques Robinson
February 22, 2014 11:19 am

Ops is pushing for it to be done by May. I don’t think we will have to worry about that.

Kellie Gleason
Kellie Gleason
February 22, 2014 11:26 am

Ugh…going end of Sept as always for HHN and desperately want the opening crowds to have time to die down!

Mandy Reineke
Mandy Reineke
February 22, 2014 11:29 am

My daughter’s birthday is late june. We have been to a grand opening if some kind the last few years. This is her 13th birthday and she is really looking forward this area and celebrating her birthday there. Sad news for my house 🙁

Jamie Yarnold
Jamie Yarnold
February 22, 2014 11:57 am

This best be open by early september at the latest! Visiting from the UK and won’t have the chance to return for a few years

Michaela Livesey
Michaela Livesey
February 22, 2014 12:02 pm

They have till aug 28th x

Angela Kidd
Angela Kidd
February 22, 2014 12:06 pm

Shona … Disaster!.. We will just have to go back next year?

Rachel Mulieri
Rachel Mulieri
February 22, 2014 12:19 pm

As long as it is up and running for Jan 2015

Tim Taylor
Tim Taylor
February 22, 2014 12:20 pm

A Universal project delayed? Disney fans are gonna eat this up…..

CaptainAction
CaptainAction
February 23, 2014 9:33 am
Reply to  Tim Taylor

Yeah Tim, I had the same thought but only if Universal spends 3 years on a refurbishment of the Flying Hippogriff, then the WDW fans can mock.
I think we, and WDW fans if they would be honest, have all been so amazed at Universal’s pace that any bad news is kind of expected. Universal is making WDW look like a bunch of bums.

CaptainAction
CaptainAction
February 24, 2014 7:02 am

Hey Marc, enjoyed the article as usual. Thank you for putting it together. Honestly, the speed and quality Universal is showing is amazing. I still remember being at Islands of Adventure during soft opening and wondering how one company could open all those cool areas and attractions at once. Universal has really stepped it up since then and this is all just amazing.
Add to this making certain you get it right for JKR and I am just amazed.

Mike Cavanaugh
Mike Cavanaugh
February 22, 2014 12:22 pm

I just booked for the July 4th week.. It BETTER be open then.

SeanEggers
SeanEggers
February 22, 2014 2:32 pm
Reply to  Mike Cavanaugh

you really didn’t want to do that. my cousins went for spring break it was crowded as hell. also you do realize once you’re in the HP park they give you a ticket for that and once you’re in it you cannot leave that area of the park.

Paul Smith
Paul Smith
February 22, 2014 1:30 pm

they want to pull there finger out and get it done. do they know how much it costs to fly from the uk.

Doug Jenkins
Doug Jenkins
February 22, 2014 6:24 pm

Not a delay if you have not given an opening date already. Will be epic lines until 2015 anyway

FLThemeParkGuy
FLThemeParkGuy
February 23, 2014 11:37 am

There still is no official date confirmed. So be careful booking something based on speculation! I think September would be a safe bet. Very slow time of year, crowds down and HP should definitely be open. I don’t think they would do without Diagon Alley until August. Summer is over then! It’d be a total waste. I think they would open Diagon Alley without Hogwarts Express out of desperation. But I don’t think they could delay the entire project that long. Each day of delay past the June date would mean HUGE losses. Universal is not about to let that happen… Read more »

johnnyhala
johnnyhala
February 23, 2014 10:47 pm

I am kind of thankful that the Forbidden Journey is not in 3D, if it was I probably wouldn’t be able to ride it. It is the most sickening ride I’ve ever been on. 
I could ride Hulk all day, but Harry Potter? Once and I’m done, for like a month.

Toni Mcewan
Toni Mcewan
February 23, 2014 5:16 am

I’m going first 2 weeks of sept for the first time. Bet it will be rammed

Cheryl Reeve
Cheryl Reeve
February 23, 2014 6:33 am

Going in September. Feeling nervous now. Hope it opens in time.

Andrea Andressa Cheunamann
Andrea Andressa Cheunamann
February 24, 2014 4:36 am

Andressa Cheunamann look that!

Gina
Gina
February 24, 2014 7:51 am

I just went into the joke shop yesterday and asked when they were going to close. She said they keep pushing it back – for the past month! She said it looks like they will now close first week of April but they can push that back again…that what made me think – Diagon Alley is going to be delayed a month or two.

ChrisGrist1
ChrisGrist1
February 25, 2014 12:11 am

im going in May, so will have to just come visit again

About Marc N. Kleinhenz

Marc N. Kleinhenz’s first dream in life was to be an astronaut. His second was an Imagineer. While neither completely worked out, he's now the editor of Orlando Informer, along with being its podcast co-host. He’s also written for 32 other sites (including Screen Rant, IGN, The Escapist, and California Informer [OI's sister site]), has had his fiction featured in several publications, and has even taught English in Japan. Imagineering school won’t be too far behind.