April 17, 2014

The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium Open Spring 2015 on International Drive

Filed under: Orlando Attractions,Orlando Events — ngw101 @ 8:58 am

With less than a year to grand opening, Merlin Entertainments PLC (Merlin) is gearing up to introduce three of its exciting global brands to the Central Florida region, with the launches of The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE aquarium in Spring 2015 at I-Drive 360 on International Drive.

Merlin, the second largest visitor attraction operator in the world, already operates LEGOLAND Florida, the highly successful theme park uniquely targeted at families with children under 12, which opened in 2011.

The Orlando Eye, the cantilevered observation wheel at the heart of the complex, will be a little sister icon to London’s world-famous landmark, providing breathtaking views of Central Florida in all directions within fully enclosed, air-conditioned glass capsules.

Madame Tussauds, the world’s most famous celebrity wax attraction, provides visitors with the ultimate fame experience and its signature red carpet treatment. Madame Tussauds showcases incredibly detailed and lifelike wax figures that lovingly pay tribute to the most influential celebrity and historical figures of our time.

SEA LIFE Orlando will offer a new wave of underwater adventures with beautiful displays of colorful fish, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses and more, that turn the traditional aquarium observation on its head. Winding tunnels, floor-to-ceiling tanks and bubble aquariums provide an immersive experience for children and adults alike. Additionally, the aquarium, known for its strong conservation efforts, will have unique educational components for young marine life enthusiasts.

“The success of LEGOLAND Florida has underlined to us the potential for Merlin’s high quality global attractions in Central Florida; and particularly in Orlando, undoubtedly the best and most exciting location for family entertainment anywhere in the world,” said Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin Entertainments PLC. “We believe that this is an exceptional group of attractions which will not only provide three quite different new experiences for visitors; but also together add an exciting new dimension to what is already available in the region.”

“We are very excited to be bringing some of Merlin’s best-loved global attractions to International Drive. SEA LIFE and Madame Tussauds have already proven their popularity with audiences across North America; and in Europe and Asia,” added James Paulding, Head of Openings for North America, Merlin Entertainments. “From 2015, these two, together with the unique views from the Eye will become must-do experiences for every visitor to Orlando.”

All three attractions are scheduled to open in Spring 2015, in addition to numerous shopping and dining options in the complex, adding a new dimension to Orlando’s world-class entertainment options.

MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS plc is the leading name in location-based, family entertainment. Europe’s Number 1 and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin now operates 100 attractions, 10 hotels/3 holiday villages in 22 countries and across 4 continents. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its almost 60 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and more than 20,000 + employees.

Merlin has twenty attractions and one hotel in North America – including two stunning LEGOLAND Resorts – LEGOLAND Florida with its theme park, water park, and LEGOLAND California theme park with water park, SEA LIFE aquarium and themed hotel; Madame Tussauds celebrity wax attractions in New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Hollywood; LEGOLAND Discovery Centers in Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Kansas City Missouri; Atlanta, Georgia; and Westchester, New York; Toronto, Canada; and SEA LIFE aquariums in Phoenix, Arizona; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas/Fort Worth; the Mall of America in Minneapolis and Charlotte – Concord – underlining the company’s position as the world’s biggest global aquarium operator.

Here’s some video:

April 15, 2014

Populous, Barton Malow & ICON Venue Group Announced As Core Members for New Orlando City Soccer Downtown Stadium Project

Filed under: Orlando City soccer — ngw101 @ 2:27 pm

Orlando City SC and the City of Orlando have announced the selection of Populous as the lead architect and Barton Malow as the construction manager for the new, downtown Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium. Orlando City concurrently announced the selection of ICON Venue Group to serve as the Club’s owner’s representative overseeing the project.

The stadium is expected to break ground in 2014 and is funded through a 50/50 public-private partnership, with $40 million pledged by the Club and the remainder via public contributions secured to date from Orange County, City of Orlando, Seminole County and Osceola County.  Orlando City SC has agreed to cover any cost overruns associated with the project.  The stadium will be operated by the City of Orlando.


“We are truly excited to have Populous, Barton Malow & ICON Venue Group on board for the design and construction for the new, downtown stadium in Orlando,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins. “They each have proven track records and I look forward to working with them as we continue our progress toward our inaugural MLS season in 2015.”

The stadium will be located on Church Street, in a vibrant and expanding section of Orlando’s sports and entertainment district adjacent to the Parramore neighborhood. The new stadium will be accessible by both car and public transportation. The stadium’s location is adjacent to Amway Center, also designed by Populous, and will allow for synergy between the two facilities and increased activity in the surrounding community.  Prior to moving into the new stadium, Orlando City will play matches on a temporary basis at the newly renovated Citrus Bowl stadium.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the City of Orlando to engrain soccer into the fabric of the city with the design of a new, soccer-specific urban stadium,” said Bruce Miller, Principal at Populous and leader of the design team. “Our design team is excited to work to capture the spirit of both the city and the fan base in our design to create a stadium that will be vibrant, intimate and iconic. It’s an opportunity for the team to redefine the soccer experience for an entire region.”

Populous is responsible for the design of the two newest MLS Stadiums – Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. and BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex. – as well as the design of iconic sports and entertainment destinations that include Yankee Stadium, Wembley Stadium, O2 Arena, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Amway Center and main stadiums for the London, Sochi and Sydney Olympic Games.

Barton Malow is widely known for providing quality construction management, design build, program management, general contracting and technology services. Consistently ranked among the top construction firms in the United States, Barton Malow has earned a reputation as an industry leader that pushes the quality and innovation envelope.

“Barton Malow is thrilled with our selection as the Construction Manager for this landmark project.,” said David Price, Vice President at Barton Malow and leader of their construction team. “As a lifelong soccer fan, I look forward with excitement to the many positive benefits and opportunities that the Orlando City SC’s new stadium will bring to our community.”

During construction, Barton Malow will focus on providing innovative solutions that emphasize a complete “street-to-seat” experience for the Orlando City fans.  We will do this by using an array of advanced construction technologies to accomplish the project’s program, budget and schedule goals. We also look forward to engaging our community by maximizing opportunities for local firms and residents to participate in the construction process.”

Barton Malow has a long history of building sports venues that provide an intense fan environment where championships are won and history is made.  Their body of work includes redeveloping some of America’s most iconic sports venues including Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the University of Michigan’s “Big House,” The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA and the Daytona International Speedway.    

ICON Venue Group (ICON), the industry-leading owner’s representative and project management firm will oversee the planning, design and construction for the new stadium.   ICON has served as project manager on eight of the eleven MLS stadiums that have been constructed or renovated in the last ten years. ICON and Populous have a long working history and have completed more than a dozen projects together, including BBVA Compass Stadium, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, CONSOL Energy Center, Sprint Center  and most recently, Las Vegas Arena.

“From the enthusiasm of the fans, the dedication of ownership, support of the City of Orlando and success of the team, this project has so much momentum,” said Charlie Thornton, ICON Venue Group Executive Vice President. “We are invigorated by the movement and thrilled to be part of Orlando’s soccer legacy.” 

April 13, 2014

Bubba Watson wins 2014 Masters

Filed under: golf,Orlando Golf — ngw101 @ 6:38 pm

Bubba Watson, born and raised in Bagdad, Florida, claimed his second Masters title on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club. Watson, who won his first major tournament at the 2012 Masters, shot a final-round 69 to finish at eight-under-par 280.

Jordan Spieth, a 20-year-old Masters rookie from Texas who began Sunday as co-leader with Watson at five under, shot even par for the day to finish tied at five under with Sweden’s Jonas Blixt, who had a final-round 71 while also playing in his first Masters tournament.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, a 50-year-old Spaniard who jumped into contention Saturday with a six-under 66, finished fourth at four-under 284 after a 71. The only other golfers to finish under par were Americans Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar at two under and England’s Lee Westwood at one under.

“I don’t remember the last few holes, I just remember hanging on and thinking ‘make pars, make pars,’” Watson said before he was presented with the ceremonial green jacket. “The first one for me, it’s almost like I lucked into it. This one was a lot of hard work and dedication.”

 

 

April 12, 2014

Orlando City 1 Charleston Battery 0

Filed under: Orlando City soccer — ngw101 @ 10:03 pm

In another disjointed performance, Orlando City SC secured their second consecutive win on Saturday night as they beat Charleston Battery 1-0 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. In his debut appearance, F.C. Dallas loanee Brian Span scored the only goal of the game that helped move City into first place in USL PRO.

“Apart from a few isolated incidents, I thought that it would have been a travesty had we not won the game tonight,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “Overall I’m pleased with the win, and I’m pleased that Cobi [Brian Span] got a goal because he’s been working very hard in training.”

In the past, the two teams have competed in some memorable games but this one was more like a game of chess as each team probed for an opening. The first half was a fairly even affair in terms of possession and actual quality of play but it was the Battery who created the better chances and only some last ditch Orlando defending prevented them going into the break with the lead.

The second half followed a similar pattern until Orlando Head Coach Adrian Heath rang the changes. In the 56th minute he brought on MLS FC Dallas loanee Brian “Cobi” Span and quickly followed that in the 60th minute as Dennis Chin and Adama Mbengue took the field. Immediately a new sense of urgency came into the Lions game and they started to put the Battery defence under some real pressure.

Several half chances went begging before Span found himself in an ocean of space from an Mbengue cross and he made no mistake, firing home into the roof of the net, in the 74th minute. 

The Battery then set their stall out to attack and in doing so, opened the game up so much that Orlando created further chances to put the game beyond doubt. Only a superb save from Battery keeper Cooper prevented Chin from making it two – nil before Mbengue was denied by a last gasp defensive clearance on the goal line by John Wilson.


Orlando and Charleston are responsible for the past four USL PRO Championships and it seems both teams are again destined for the play offs later in the year. Orlando now goes top in the USLPRO table and next week they will travel to take on F.C. Dallas reserves.

City’s next home game will take place on Wednesday, April 30, against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the I-4 Derby before returning back to league-play with another home fixture set for May 4 against OKC Energy F.C.

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com


Orlando City vs Charleston Battery at ESPN Wide World of Sports Tonight

Filed under: Orlando City soccer — ngw101 @ 9:47 am

Orlando City SC will finish off their three game home-stretch this weekend when the Lions line up against the Charleston Battery, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

After drawing with the Battery in Charleston for the season opening game, City will look to build on last week’s 3-1 victory over the Rochester Rhinos. After struggling to score more than one goal in each of their first two matches, Orlando found the back of the net within the first two minutes against Rochester, leading to their best attacking performance of 2014.

Midfielder Kevin Molino was instrumental in the Lions’ dominance in the final third, and managed to record his first goal and assist this season. The assist was Molino’s 14th all-time with Orlando City, moving the Trinidadian International into first place in club history.

“I came into this game with a different mindset– to go out there and score and to work hard for my team,” Molino said. “Getting a goal and an assist is good, but most importantly we got three points.”

Charleston, meanwhile, is still looking for their first win of the season.The Battery have only been able to secure a point in their opening two matches.

Charleston has lacked the firepower OCSC has shown, recording only 15 shots to City’s 46. The two sides will play a total of three times this season with the third match occurring on May 31.

The Lions have yet to concede a match to the Battery at home in club history, boasting a 6-0-0 overall record. Orlando fans will be hoping the winning run continues.


11th Annual Celebration Exotic Car Festival Today!

Filed under: Celebration - Orlando,Orlando Charity Events — ngw101 @ 8:02 am

Looking for something to do today? If you’re in Central Florida, you might like to wander along to Celebration as today is the 11th Annual Exotic Car Festival.

The event showcases North America’s largest collection of exotic cars, race cars and iconic Hollywood movie cars, coming together to help children with life threatening medical conditions. It’s an opportunity to stroll through the world class exotic car concourse set along the waterfront of Celebration and perhaps enjoy a drink or two from one of the town’s many watering holes on the way!

The cars begin arriving around 9am and the judging goes on throughout the morning and early afternoon before the Class trophy awards presentation begins at 3pm. At approximately 6.15pm, the exotic cars then line up for a police escort (at normal highway speeds) to the concert at House of Blues featuring Styx and special guest Tone Loc . Cars will depart from Celebration at 6:30pm.

It’s your chance  to get up close to 250 of the world’s most exotic cars, race cars and Hollywood movie cars such as Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Spyker, Saleen, McLaren, Pantera, DeLorean, and other ultra-exotic marques.  Don’t miss it!

April 11, 2014

SeaWorld Orlando’s One Ocean Show Reopens

Filed under: Orlando Theme Parks,SeaWorld — ngw101 @ 12:50 pm

After taking a break for routine maintenance since January, SeaWorld Orlando reopened their One Ocean Shamu show at Shamu Stadium today.

The show was closed for approximately three months as the 40 foot deep main pool was repainted and the clear panels that separate the animals from the audience were replaced

“This is the first time we’ve had to pause shows during stadium maintenance, but it’s also the first time we’ve had to do this kind of maintenance since the stadium opened in 1984,” said Nick Gollattscheck, a spokesman for SeaWorld Orlando.

We were present for the first show of the day, at noon, as a large crowd built up to see the first show in quite some time. The 5,000 seat stadium was packed with Shamu fans who had missed the show and there was hardly a seat to be had. It also seemed a lot of them forgot how wet you actually can get when you sit in the first 15 rows! Never mind, it’s a beautiful day in Central Florida today and they’ll soon dry off!

Other show times today are at 2.00pm and 5pm. If you fancy going tomorrow or on Sunday, you have a choice of shows at 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM, 5:00 PM, 8:30 PM.

More photos at FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

 

April 10, 2014

50th Anniversary of “It’s A Small World” at Disney Parks

Filed under: Disney,Walt Disney World — ngw101 @ 9:18 am

Oh lordy! The day has arrived. One, I must confess to being thoroughly bemused about.One where I want to go back to bed and cover my ears to protect my sanity.

Today is the day when Disney parks around the globe are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their “It’s A Small World” attraction.

The global celebration kicked off early this morning with a live sing-along at ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” in Times Square, New York City.  In addition to Times Square, GMA also featured choirs singing live at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort as well as a choir at the Unisphere in New York at the original location of the 1964 World’s Fair, where “it’s a small world” debuted.

Throughout the day, guests at Disney Parks will be participating in the celebration at all five resorts around the world as follows:

  • At the Walt Disney World Resort, hundreds of Magic Kingdom Park guests are joining in the song during a special “pre-parade” before the “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade.” Throughout the day, in-park performers – the Dapper Dans, Coke Corner Pianist, Notorious Banjo Brothers, Royal Majesty Maker Musicians and Main Street Philharmonic – are scheduled to include “it’s a small world” in their appearances.
  • At the Disneyland Resort, songwriter Richard Sherman is scheduled to appear in a sing-along cavalcade down Main Street, U.S.A., conducting hundreds of Disneyland guests in their “it’s a small world” sing-along.
  • At Hong Kong Disneyland, cast members and students from Hong Kong Children’s Choir are singing “it’s a small world” in Cantonese.
  • At Tokyo Disneyland, cast members and guests are gathering to sing in Japanese at Tokyo Disneyland.
  • At Disneyland Paris, a “blue carpet” event featuring international cast members is planned for on Main Street, U.S.A., with students from the European International School, singing a multi-language version of the iconic anthem in front of “it’s a small world.”

As for me, I’m keeping well away from this one. Yes, I’m a Disney fan but let me categorically state here and now, I am not a Small World fan. I absolutely hate the attraction and the daft little ditty that accompanies it. Hate it!

Where does this hatred come from? Well, naturally, there’s a story behind it. A painful story.

My hate-hate relationship with Small World started back in the mid 90′s when I visited Walt Disney World with my family. My kids were young ones back then, aged 1 and 3, and we decided to take a trip to Orlando, Florida while they were young. It was a trip that we were to make repeatedly, sometimes two or three times a year, before we took the plunge and moved here in 1998. Anyway, one of the rides we went on was Small World.

After lining up for the traditional 45 mins (that’s what it seemed every ride line was back then), we took the ride around Small World. Then, every trip back to Magic Kingdom saw us repeat the episode until I’d reached breaking point. I stopped going on it altogether. The rest of the family didn’t however and they took great delight in annoying me with the humming or singing of that stupid little tune.

So, fast forward some seven years and many trips to Magic Kingdom later, I’d avoided Small World like a plague. Then one day, in the ultimate moment of weakness… (or was it madness?) I was talked into going on the ride again. From the moment we got on, I knew I’d made a huge huge mistake. One that would have severe consequences. One that would affect me for the rest of my days.

The ride broke down.

Yes, read that again. The bloody ride broke down.

45 mins to an hour we sat there as they tried to fix the damn thing… and all the time that dumb tune was playing away.

So folks, the rest is history. Those that have met me, now you know why I act so strange. Why my brain is messed up.

It’s not my fault. Honestly. Blame “It’s A Small World.”

And thinking about it, it’s probably responsible for the madness we see in the world today. Millions of people around the world have heard that stupid little tune and you can bet most politicians in the world have too. Robert & Richard Sherman … you have much to apologize to the world for. A song that came from the attraction’s working title “Children of the World” and born from the Cuban Missile Crisis, supposedly to promote peace and brotherhood, has probably caused more family wars than any other known tune. 50 years is a long time… time to put it down and do something new!

 

April 8, 2014

Disney FastPass+ & MyMagic+ Finally Released to Day Guests!

Filed under: Orlando Theme Parks,Walt Disney World — ngw101 @ 9:52 am

Disney’s MyMagic+ program recently reached a milestone as Walt Disney World has now begun offering the advance ride and show booking abilities of FastPass+ to all guests, whether staying on property or not.

Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs provided an update on the system:

“This week marks an exciting milestone for us in that we are now providing guests who might only be visiting for the day with the ability to fully engage in MyMagic+ before their visit. Guests can register on My Disney Experience online, reserve access to some of their favorite experiences with FastPass+ and also purchase MagicBands on-site, if they choose.

FastPass+ has been a crucial part of our testing, and we knew it would be popular, which is why from the beginning we more than doubled the experiences people could reserve in advance. We enabled FastPass+ access for a number of attractions and included other guest favorites like fireworks, parades and character meet-and-greets for the first time.

As expected, most of our guests think that securing times to ride our attractions is one of the best ways to maximize the fun of a Walt Disney World Resort vacation. We’ve heard from a number of guests that they would like the opportunity to add additional FastPass+ entitlements during their visit, in addition to the three they can plan in advance. So, we’re working on providing them with the ability to add and enjoy additional entitlements on the day of their visit. Once they’ve used the three they’ve booked, we’ll enable them to select another at kiosks in the parks. And once they’ve used the fourth, they can select another, and so on. We also heard that other guests liked the fact that with the FastPass+ service they could use FASTPASS when they park hopped. So we’re working on a service enhancement to add that feature to FastPass+ as well.”

So, the system is no longer exclusive to just hotel guests or annual pass holders. Day guests can now register at MyDisneyExperience.com and are now given access to reserve FastPass+ selections in advance of arriving.

The Disney MyMagic+ program is the most ambitious and expensive infrastructure system that the Walt Disney Company has ever implemented. If you’re a Disney Stockholder you’re going to have a “Love/Hate” relationship with it. At a reported cost of over $1.5 Billion this is an investment that needs to work because the impact on the bottom line will be significant. An investment of this nature will always see expenses continue to mount as the infrastructure associated with this state of the art system will need to continually be refreshed. If it fails, heads will roll but if it turns out to be a success, the company will have the ability to make an enormous amount of extra revenue…more on that later.

So, what if you’re not a Disney stockholder, annual pass holder or hotel guest? Just recently we thought we’d try out the new system as a day guest and see how it works.

The first thing you have to do is purchase you FastPass+ ticket (We have a link to the side of this blog). Then you visit the web site www.StartYourDisneyExperience.com.  Note,  you are currently allowed, as a day guest, to plan your day at a Disney theme park some 30 days ahead. To proceed with the planning you first have to create a “My Disney Experience” account and we found that process nothing short of frustrating as we had to enter the same information three or four times before it finally took my details. Once that step was achieved, and we’d poured myself a strong drink to celebrate, it was then time to move onto the “Get Started” button. In theory, you follow the so called “easy steps” but again, this proved a source of frustration as it takes some getting used to. Along the way, you have to link a purchased ticket to each member of your travel party to be able to make Disney FastPass+ selections but we found it something of a cumbersome step to say the least.

Eventually we worked it out, but then found ourselves being annoyed with the way the FastPass+ tried to route our journey around the theme park. Our planned visit was to Epcot and our first step was to plan a dining experience at Chef Paul’s in the French Pavilion. Next, it was time to plan our FastPass+ rides and we wanted to do Soarin’,  Journey Into Imagination with Figment and Maelstrom at the Norway Pavilion. As we played with the onlin