Photo of Universal Orlando entrance with Florida Problem Project graphic

Construction work for Universal Orlando Resort’s delayed Epic Universe park may finally be starting. The filing of a $7.5 million performance bond is good news for the park’s progress, and suggests parties are ready to move forward with early-stage construction. Yet recent lien claims against the project raise questions about the pandemic’s lingering financial impact on theme park construction

A Contractor’s Guide to Performance Bonds

On September 22, 2021, The Nassal Company filed a $7.5 million performance bond underwritten by Westport Insurance Corporation, listing Universal City Development Partners, Ltd. as the owner. The Nassal Company specializes in theme park scenic fabrication and rockwork, and has previously worked with Universal on other sections of their parks.

First announced in 2019, Epic Universe will be an entirely new park in addition to Orlando’s existing Universal Studios. On completion, the roughly 750-acre plot of land will be transformed into the US’ largest theme park.

The project appeared to stall in the past two years, as the site remains largely undeveloped. However, contractors were likely working on infrastructure and site development, leading to at least one apparent payment dispute on the project already.  

In March 2021, subcontractor Comprehensive Energy Services (CES) filed an $833,000 mechanics lien on the property, which was later released. While it’s not entirely clear that the lien is directly related to Epic Universe work, it was filed against the same parcel of land some of the theme park’s projects are tied to.

CES was hired by general contractor Hubbard Construction Company, the same contractor Universal City Development Partners, Ltd. has chosen for Epic Universe’s “site development services.”

With the payment dispute apparently resolved, contractors are preparing to resume construction work on the megaproject. The Nassal Company’s performance bond references three projects titled “Project 900,” “Project 901,” and “Project 920.”

Project 900 and 901 are believed to refer to parts one and two of the Epic Universe Hub, and Project 920 likely refers to the Park Entrance Courtyard.

A notice of commencement separately filed on September 20 lists Hubbard Construction Company as the contractor and is in reference to “site development services.” Hubbard is a heavy construction firm based in Florida and has a track record of roadway, airport, and paving projects, which suggests they may be involved with Universal’s transportation infrastructure plans.

Hubbard is also named in a bond dated September 13, 2019, for “Project 931,” which may refer to work for Epic Universe’s “back of house.”

A second notice of commencement was filed on October 8 for “general construction services.” DPR Construction, a general contractor specializing in “highly complex and technical projects,” is listed as the contractor.

The types of contractors currently involved provide further evidence that early-stage site work is indeed beginning for the Epic Universe park.

In the last year, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and commercial permits were issued to the following projects:

  • Project 900 and 901: Epic Universe Hub part one and two
  • Project 903: How to Train Your Dragon
  • Project 904: Super Nintendo World
  • Project 931 and 940: Back of House

Altogether, new photo evidence alongside a number of recently filed documents suggests early-stage development is finally underway for America’s (soon-to-be) largest theme park.

Barring any more unforeseen delays, some are hopeful 2025 can be a realistic opening date for Epic Universe.