Florida’s exciting rail development, Brightline, cancelled its plans for a stop at Disney Springs; Universal would be an ideal replacement.
Florida’s Brightline Train
The Brightline high-speed train has designs on connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Orlando, and Tampa. The current completed track has train stations throughout South Florida with the passenger rail line running from Miami to West Palm Beach with stops along the way.
Connecting Miami and Orlando has long been a dream, not just for the tourism industry, but for travelers too who might be more inclined to visit both cities during a trip to the region. Original plans called for a stop at both Disney Springs and Orlando International Airport reducing the need for a rental car.
Disney Plans Cancelled
A spokesperson for Disney confirmed that Disney and Brightline severed ties. The “Sunshine Corridor” would run from Orlando International Airport to the Convention Center (a potential stand-in for Universal Studios’ current operation, and Sea World) before carrying on to Tampa.
The planned Disney Springs stop was cancelled over the route the train would take. An alternative has been mentioned that would reside off Disney-owned property but still serve Disney Springs. Few details are available at this time with regard to the alternatives.
Universal’s Epic Opportunity
Universal Studios is opening its “third gate”, a park whose real estate matches all of its current hotels, water park, and two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure) combined. The new Universal Orlando park, Epic, is slated to open in 2025 and is currently under construction. Universal is expanding roadways that connect its fairly concise property alignment with this new development, a few miles away.
For Brightline, a stop at Disney World or with a reasonable connection is a great marketing addition to the line. It makes almost any international traveler to Florida, and most domestic flyers, available customers for the train line. However, by adding the convention center and Sea World as well as Universal to the mix, Brightline likely has an easier path to growth and fewer hurdles with Disney who jealousy guards its brand.
Universal is going to be at the forefront of American tourism in a way that it hasn’t been since it opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Supporting Brightline opens up more visitors looking for a seamless experience to their Florida itinerary and will grow Universal at a moment when the brand is ready for expansion.
I, and presumably other visitors, could treat Florida airports as co-terminals. A flight into Orlando may be the most convenient, but if there is significant cost-savings or better availability, I may choose to fly into Fort Lauderdale for a Universal trip and just take the Brightline north.
Disney might have had any number of reasons to depart the partnership with Brightline. It’s not been clear whether Brightline added the “convention center” stops and Disney didn’t want to compete, or if the partnership with Disney dissolved, and the new stops were added. Regardless, it’s bound to be a big win for Universal.
What do you think? Is this Disney’s loss, Universal’s win, or neither?