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Skyplex developer: Ride parts being built, themes being considered
As work on Hollywood Plaza inches closer to completion, developer Joshua Wallack continues to tackle his next major project: the $500 million Skyplex complex.
The planned 250,000-square-foot International Drive entertainment complex — anchored by the 501-foot-high Skyscraper polercoaster — was first introduced more than four years ago and has yet to break ground.
But Wallack's confidence isn't shaken. In fact, he's eyeing how to combine intellectual properties into the complex to help further enhance the attraction's longterm appeal.
Along with the Skyscraper, plans for Skyplex also include the 450-foot Skyfall drop tower, a 600-foot Skyfly zip line, the Skysurf park, the Sky Jump and SkyLedge thrill experiences, plus other features, such as a 450-room hotel and the SkyPlaza retail/dining area.
"Skyplex is a gigantic project," Wallack told Orlando Business Journal. "It's happening. We just have a lot incredible opportunities to determine."
The Skyplex team in May traveled to the 2017 Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, in which the industry's premier brands and characters sought new business opportunities. Wallack didn't reveal if he's in talks with licensing firms, but stressed the unique opportunity he has to blend a global brand to his attraction.
Implementing licensed characters into products isn't something unknown to Wallack. He previously operated two companies that dealt with licensing in products: Railway Media, where Wallack provided portable pre-loaded movie players to Amtrak trains nationwide; and CR Media, where he provided pre-loaded Nickelodeon players to Hertz vehicle-rental customers in 49 airports.
The idea of incorporating themed characters into rides can help appeal to guests. But it's not something that's required if the attraction design — like being the world's tallest coaster — is the real draw in itself, said John Gerner, managing director of Richmond, Va.-based theme park consulting firm Leisure Business Advisors LLC, who isn't working on Skyplex.
"Intellectual properties can be good for an attraction," Gerner told OBJ. "But if the ride is about the thrill of the coaster, the developer may not need to dive too deeply into the character story aspect at all."
Six Flags is well-known for this, with Superman- or Batman-themed roller coasters that feature minimal theming like color schemes and some artwork to match the characters, Gerner said. The real appeal is the uniqueness of the coaster.
However, it couldn't hurt to have a well-known intellectual property tied to the project, if the opportunity arises and Orlando is well versed in successfully melding theming with rides.
Theme parks giants Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld all brand heavily with characters. But other regional attractions, like Fun Spot, have carved a niche with unique attractions. So, both avenues can work well for Skyplex as it moves forward — it's really just a matter of where the cards fall.
Meanwhile, work on Skyplex is progressing, as engineering of the tower coaster and the Skyfall drop tower are underway, Wallack told OBJ. And more opportunities for more potential additions to Skyplex are on the horizon, as the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo brings the tourism industry's ride/show suppliers to town again in November, Wallack said.
"Skyplex has a lot of space to fill and theme. Theming is tremendous in providing an immersive feeling inside of it that could be tied to the roller coaster. The opportunities to get artistic with properties can be huge."