January 6, 2016 – Welcome to a new year and a new photo update! There are a lot of changes at Universal Studios Hollywood this month, ranging from the work being performed in front of the park, to ongoing construction occurring at the heart of CityWalk. On top of the recent construction, this update also covers Jurassic Park’s ongoing refurbishment alongside the current status of Wizarding World West.
Let’s jump right in!
» Lankershim Projects
» E.T. Parking Structure
» CityWalk / Fountains
» Universal Studio Store / Park Entrance
» New Retail/Dining/Entertainment Complex
» Mel’s Diner
» The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
» StarWay Emergency Exit
» Jurassic Park: The Ride Refurbishment
» NBCUniversal Replacement Project
Work is starting to pick up on Universal Hollywood Drive, with crews continuing to work on the retaining wall facing the Hilton and Sheraton hotels. It’s nice to see considering not much has been happening in recent months. We’ll see if they can get the bulk of the work done in time for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening on April 7th considering the slow pace of the Lankershim projects thus far.
The pedestrian bridge over Lankershim is also starting to take form with escalators and staircases being placed on either side. It’s going to be a nice change compared to the old crosswalks on the street.
Meanwhile on Universal Studios Blvd., Universal has added a new sign to the entrance of the parking area. The new E.T. lot seems like it could open any day now with the addition of new lights, escalators, a large parking sign, and complete bridges to Curious George parking. It is also important to note that the E.T. Parking Structure has been undergoing soft openings with employees, with team members using the lot as an employee parking space.
Universal has also installed new LED speed limit signs along with green arrow indicators for which parking booths will be open. All in all, it’s looking quite nice for a parking lot!
Lots of construction has been happening at CityWalk this past month. ShoePalace is taking over the old locations for Salvatory Shoes and Stop & Play. It’s interesting that we are getting one new shoe store in replacement for another after a similar situation happened with the replacement of Tommy’s for Salvatory Shoes and Smashburger. It will be interesting to see if crowds in this area pick up with the addition of the new E.T. lot.
On the other side of CityWalk the new fountains seem nearly complete. Universal appears to be installing fountains that will be very similar to the first incarnation with the addition of new lighting. Kids will still have a great time running through them on a hot summer day! Over at Camachos, they have removed the waterfall that used to spill down onto their patio section.
The Universal Studio Store is still undergoing its expansion, taking the place of the former Things From Another World Store. Tarps have been draped alongside the far left side of the building with crews dismantling portions of the original Studio Store structure.
With walls up around the right side of the main gate, we can see they have removed the decade-old palm trees with the same shorter squatter versions we have seen pop up on the left side of the main gate. The new brickwork is also shaping up nicely alongside the ticket booths!
The Universal Studio Store is under heavy renovation at the moment as preparations begin to attach it to the new building where Hollywood Photoland and House of Horrors previously stood. Not all of the new building will be a Studio Store expansion however, with the rest of the space dedicated to dining and entertainment.
The new entertainment complex is getting little details added everyday with construction crews adding decorative flourishes to the main facade. The side parallel to Baker Street is also receiving its final touches, with crews finishing the facades in front of the main structure. Unfortunately, it appears that Universal hasn’t fully covered the show building behind the new street facade, with portions of the new structure peering over Universal Plaza.
Mel’s Diner continues to look the same from the guest perspective, with an expected reopening early this year with an increased interior seating capacity. All in all, not much visible progress has been made.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is nearly complete. Just this week, construction crews have moved construction walls at the entrance back behind the actual Hogsmeade entrance.
In addition, crews have also moved construction walls back near Disco Stu’s in the Springfield area, allowing guests to see peer into an alternate pathway into Hogsmeade. We can also get views of the outdoor patio for Three Broomsticks, the queue for Forbidden Journey, and parts of the track for Flight of the Hippogriff.
The emergency exit on the first StarWay platform is being completely refurbished. In the meantime, they have set up a temporary emergency exit that looks somewhat scary.
In other news, Jurassic Park: The Ride is undergoing its yearly refurbishment. Lots of work is being done on track at the final drop, with crews welding temporary black bars onto the track. It also appears that Universal may be adding or replacing the water cannons, which operate during the summer season or during especially hot park days.
The ride should reopen within a month if previous refurbishments are any indication, though Universal has not specified a specific date for reopening.
Finally, new incarnation of NBCUniversal Experience is expected to be another food location with grab-and-go options. The building itself is getting a little taller, with construction crews stripping some of hte building’s existing walls. It’s clear the interior has also been completely gutted at this point.
That’s it for this photo update! Please follow Inside Universal for all the latest news from Universal Studios Hollywood, and be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more information from the park. Hope you had a great New Year!
Tyler Crouch is an editor for Inside Universal.
Tyler is a Los Angeles native who grew up going to theme parks in Southern California and Orlando. His love for the parks grew from a young age. Fueled by his passion, he founded AttractionFaction.net. He has always wanted to visit Japan and will forever miss E.T.
You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.