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New theme park at Universal Orlando on hold, more layoffs expected

Along with delaying the opening of Epic Universe, the theme park is also laying off more workers.
Credit: AP Photo/John Raoux

ORLANDO, Fla. — Theme park fans will have to wait a little longer for the opening of Universal Studios Florida's 4th theme park -- Epic Universe. The company announced the park last summer, with plans for it to open in 2023.

Back in April, Universal announced plans to push the parks opening date back. Construction has already started, but this week executives with Universal's parent company Comcast said the project is on hold indefinitely. More layoffs are coming, too.

It's another consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused mass shutdowns, cancellations and delays for everything from celebrations and pro sports to school and work.

Universal Studios announced a second round of layoffs Friday, but did not say how many workers would be impacted, according to WKMG. Back in June, mere weeks after reopening, the theme park laid off more workers. The company didn't say how many people were losing their jobs or which parks were impacted, but it did say laid-off workers would get severance pay, subsidized health benefits and professional reemployment assistance.

In a statement to WKMG in Orlando, the company says "we are prioritizing daily operations and shorter-term projects and continuing our pause on longer-term projects such as Epic Universe as we allow the tourism industry to recover. We have again made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce to reflect current priorities and needs.” 

Universal says it's still trying to recoup the losses from a more than 2-month long closure, WFTV reports. Universal Studios Florida closed back in March. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay all reopened on June 5 with new safety precautions, making it the first major theme park in Florida to reopen after initial shutdowns because of the virus. Even though the park is back open, some events are still canceled because of health and safety concerns during the pandemic.

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While it's opening date is up in the air, here's what we know about the Epic Universe theme park. It's expected to be the most expensive Universal has ever built, with the bill projected to top $6 billion. Public records of land permits shows we can expect about half a dozen rides and restaurants. Orlando Weekly spoke with longtime Universal blogger Alicia Stella. Stella says we should expect to see attractions themed around Nintendo video games and the How to Train Your Dragon! film.