ORLANDO, Fla. — Universal is delaying construction on its new Epic Universe theme park in Orlando due to the coronavirus pandemic, Comcast executives said Thursday.

The new park was originally on track to open in 2023. Executives didn't say whether the delay would affect that timeline.

However, in a briefing later in the day, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he was in contact with senior officials from Universal who told him on Wednesday that the project would be delayed by a year.

“What they said to me was that their overall construction project is going to be delayed by a year,” Demings said. “However, they’re going to continue with $300-plus million worth of construction that is really underway at this time. In terms of the impact on our economy, there still would be robust construction activity centered around that development itself.”

That construction is likely related to site development and road extension work at the site.

In a statement sent to Spectrum News 13, Universal Orlando spokesman Tom Schroder said Epic Universe’s delay is about timing.

"This will give us and all our contractors, vendors and creative partners flexibility to work within a changing environment,” he said. “This is about timing only. Our confidence in our business, our communities and our industry is as strong as ever.  We will share more specifics as we move forward.”

Universal previously said that despite coronavirus-related closures, construction for the new park was still active.

In an update shared with employees last month, Universal Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Williams said “our construction projects around the globe — Super Nintendo World in Osaka and Hollywood, Universal’s Epic Universe in Orlando and Universal Beijing — all remain active and on track under protocols established by government officials with their support.”

The Universal Parks & Resorts division has taken a hit because of shutdowns caused by the pandemic, Comcast revealed in its first quarter earnings report. Revenue for the theme parks was $869 million in the quarter. That’s a 32% dip from the same period last year, where the division brought in nearly $1.3 billion in revenue.  

“This is a moment in time; and when it passes, I am very confident that the decisions we are making now will enable us to emerge from this crisis as a healthy, strong company that is well positioned to continue to grow and succeed,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement.

The news comes as Universal’s parks remain closed because of the pandemic. Universal Studios Japan temporarily closed its doors in late February, while Universal’s domestic parks — Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood — have been closed since mid-March.

During an earnings call, Comcast said it didn’t know when any of its theme parks would reopen. If the parks remain closed through the second quarter, which end in June, it could result in a $500 million loss for Universal, executives said. 

Universal announced pay cuts for some parks employees earlier this month. It also said it would begin furloughing part-time hourly employees on May 3.

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