Universal Orlando laid out its plans to reopen to the public on June 5 with intentions to require everyone to wear masks, while dealing with numerous changes to theme park visitors’ experiences compared with before the coronavirus crisis.
Mayor Jerry Demings‘ Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force voted unanimously (with five abstentions) to approve the theme park reopening plan presented Thursday afternoon by John Sprouls, Universal Orlando’s chief administrative officer.
Sprouls said Universal Orlando, which shut down all its public operations in mid-March, intends a test-drive reopening for employees on June 1, a soft public opening for invited guests on June 3, and a full reopening, albeit for a much smaller than normal crowd, on June 5.
“We’re going to manage capacity and we’re going to ramp up very slowly in terms of how many people we allow each day in each park,” Sprouls said.
This will also apply to every attraction and food outlet.
“We believe there will be a safe attendance maximum, that we will manage effectively, just as we manage now,” he added. “As folks know, we get pretty busy around Halloween Horror Nights … and we are able to manage capacity across the resort and also in each park to make sure we don’t overcrowd. We will use those exact same procedures that we’ve always used. It’s just that the numbers we will be managing will be significantly less.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he asked all the major theme park operators to submit plans for reopening, and to get those plans endorsed by local officials. Universal Orlando is the first major theme park to come forward with plans to reopen during the coronavirus crisis. Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando, and Busch Gardens Tampa are in the wings.
Universal first opened some of its stores and restaurants in its CityWalk entertainment district, on May 14. Sprouls said many of the same measures that will be used at its Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay theme parks, were tried out at CityWalk.
“All the way through the process we have tried to identify every single ‘touch point’ we have with a guest so that we can keep them safe,” Sprouls said.
Temperature checks were run on 30,000 guests, and only “a handful” tested above the 100.4 degrees guideline established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said. And all of them except one person was taken to a cool-down place and retested and found to be OK, he said.
“The technology works great,” Sprouls said. “It has gone very smoothly. I would say our guests have been very supportive… We’re not hearing any complaints about the temperature checks or the masks.”
Among the points in Universal’s plan:
– Everyone, including employees and visitors, must have their temperature taken before they can be admitted.
– Everyone will wear masks. Universal will have disposable masks available for anyone who does not bring one.
– Social distancing spacing standards will be in place throughout, including on rides. Parties that are traveling together can ride together, but parties will not be mixed on rides.
– All lines will be managed virtually through apps, so that people will not be standing in lines.
– Restaurant menus will be on one-use disposable paper.
– Single-rider lines will be eliminated.
– There will be no valet parking.
– Cars will be parked every-other-space.
– Employees will be given frequent breaks and places to go where they may remove their masks for breaks. They will be required to wash their hands every 30 minutes.
– Interactive play areas will be closed.
– Water misting stations will be closed.
– Hand sanitizer stations will be at the entrance and exit of every attraction and restaurant, and in numerous other locations.
– Universal will position “ambassadors” throughout to explain and remind people of the rules.
– Employees will go through additional health checks, including having to take their own temperatures at home every day.
John Weiss, Orange County’s director of planning, environmental and development services, was among a handful of county officials who toured Universal Thursday morning to get a closer presentation of what the company has in mind.
“The Orange County team had no significant concerns,” Weiss told the task force in a Zoom meeting Thursday afternoon. “
The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force also unanimously approved plans for the reopening of a number of smaller tourist attractions in Orange County,