The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will get a new thrill ride at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, but lose an old one in the process this year. The last day to ride Dragon Challenge will be Sept. 4.
The two-sided, intertwined, inverted coaster was one of the original rides for IOA’s grand opening in 1999. The attraction was then called Dueling Dragons; its name was changed when Wizarding World opened — and absorbed part of the Lost Continent land — in 2010.
Its replacement opens in 2019, Universal Orlando announced Monday (24th July).
The original design of Dueling Dragons had two trains on separate tracks racing past each other, creating a series of twisting near misses, which, at one time, were touted as being inches apart. In 2011, there were reports of accidents and related injuries, including the loss of an eye of one passenger. Later that year, IOA began dispatching the trains at different times, eliminating the closer encounters.
“In my opinion, it wasn’t the same. They took away the most unique experience of the coaster ride — the dueling,” said Chris Kraftchick, regional representative for the American Coaster Enthusiasts fan club. “They were still great coasters, and if you split them in half and moved one to one park and one to the other park, I think they would still be great draws.”
He said he was disappointed to be losing a ride that came from Bolliger & Mabillard, a respected coaster designer based in Switzerland. B&M also built the Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure.
“The dueling is what made them a must-do if you were coming to Orlando or lived in Orlando,” he said
Monday’s announcement was light on details and didn’t include a name for the new arrival. Universal did say it will include interaction with “Potter” characters and that Universal Creative is collaborating with Warner Bros. and its design team, just as it has with previous Wizarding World attractions in Universal parks in Orlando, California and Japan.
“This ride is going to redefine the category and transport you to thrilling places, drawing you into even more exciting adventures within the wizarding world,” a post on Universal Orlando’s official parks blog said.
Last year, Universal rebuilt the Hulk coaster from the ground up. Its course was retained from the original 1999 design, but its ride vehicles, special effects and storyline were updated.
Next year, Universal Studios plans to open a thrill ride called Fast & Furious — Supercharged. It is under construction at the former site of the Disaster attraction. The company also has two new hotels in the works on International Drive at the former site of Wet ’n Wild.
The Dragon Challenge news comes on the heels of a flurry of announcements from Walt Disney World. The company revealed, among other news, plans to add rides based on “Tron,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Mickey Mouse shorts in the coming years.
Although Disney and Universal are competitors for entertainment dollars, Kraftchick said he doesn’t see the announcements as tit-for-tat.
“I don’t think that they sit in their boardroom and say ‘Well, the other park is doing this. We have to beat it,’ ” he said.
Ramping up the offerings is a benefit to the park-going public, he said.
“We, as the fans of the theme parks, win because we wait with great anticipation for the next chess move, almost,” he said.
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