ORLANDO, Fla. — It's official! Universal Orlando is approved to reopen Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay on June 5.
The county's economic recovery task force gave initial approval to the theme park company's plan to reopen the gates Thursday, which have been shut since March. That plan then went to Gov. Ron DeSantis' Office for final approval.
Under the plan, the theme parks will begin a phased reopening on June 1 for team members. Then, on June 3-4, a limited number of guests will be invited into the park, during a meeting Thursday officials noted these dates would be for annual passholders. They'll be followed by all guests on June 5.
Attendance will be limited and guests should be aware of the times parks will be open during this restricted plan. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure will be operating from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, while Volcano Bay will be operating from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"This carefully managed reopening comes with stringent new health, safety and hygiene procedures in place. So, as we enjoy our parks together again, everyone will need to follow CDC guidelines and the recommendations of health officials, and Universal Orlando’s policies," the park wrote in a release.
When guests return, there will be changes, including additional screening and sanitation along with more touchless experiences.
"I wouldn't have any expectation these parks are going to be what you remember prior to COVID-19," said theme park safety expert and University of Florida professor Brian Avery. "There's obviously going to be quite a few changes."
Guests and employees will be given temperature checks before coming on-site, and the parks will promote social distancing. Both will also require guests to wear masks. Guests who do not have a mask can purchase one at the park.
There will be limited capacity in lines and gift shops to help with that distancing. Signage will be placed across the park to assist guests in staying separated.
No children's play areas will be opened -- at least not at first. And, Universal Orlando says it will reduce or eliminate mist areas.
Guests can also say goodbye to the single rider line and post-show entertainment meet and greet opportunities which are set to be eliminated when the parks reopen. The resort will also be using "virtual line" to allow guests to select a time to experience an attraction through its app.
“We want to invite guests back to our theme parks in a cautious and thoughtful way,” said Tom Williams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Universal Parks & Resorts. “We have put new health and safety procedures in place for both our team members and guests. And we have worked hard to make sure our guests can enjoy their time with family and friends."
As for dining, all menus will be single-use paper and thrown away. Payments will shift to contact-less, though the park said it will not completely rule out cash.
Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, says not only will parks have to create new rules, but they'll have to enforce them too.
"They’re going to have some risk," Marty said. "The bottom line is the devil is in the details. You have to figure out exactly what they’re doing and how well people are going to comply with those things."
Universal Orlando Resort said that it cannot guarantee that guests will not be exposed during their visit stating:
"Note that any public location where people are present provides an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 and we cannot guarantee that you will not be exposed during your visit."
Plans to reopen Universal's resort hotels are being finalized and will be shared soon, according to the park.
A list of frequently asked questions can be found here.
What other people are reading right now:
- 250 Victoria's Secret stores, 50 Bath & Body Works stores to close
- Sheriff: Drugs, guns and more than $30K seized in River hotel raid
- NOAA predicts busy season with 3 - 6 major hurricanes
- Questions continue to swirl around the accuracy of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard
- LEGOLAND wants to open June 1, if plan gets final approval
- More than 1,700 coronavirus tests damaged on way to lab, Florida says
- Hospital that's been closed for almost a year get $121K in COVID-19 relief money
FREE 10NEWS APP:
►Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Brightside Blend Newsletter