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Disney World Rival Is Arming Itself Up For a Theme Park War

Real estate matters if you want to take on Disney (NYSE: DIS) in Florida, so it's fitting that Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is beefing up its turf portfolio. Comcast is buying 101 acres of land less than two miles from its Universal Orlando resort, adjacent to the 475 acres that it acquired in a $130 million transaction early last year. The new parcel provides frontage on a popular road with highway access, a pretty big deal if you want to do battle with the House of Mouse. 

Comcast hasn't discussed what it plans to do with the more than 575 acres that it now owns just outside of Universal Orlando. It recently filed plans to use part of the land for overflow parking, but sooner or later that valuable real estate will likely be developed into at least one more theme park and probably several more hotels.

Image source: Comcast.

Catching up to Mickey 

Universal Orlando is fine for now. It has its eyes set on 2019 when it plans to open at least two new significant attractions. A couple of years after that we'll see the arrival of Super Nintendo World at the resort. 

However, with space drying up at the original resort after Comcast has gone on a hotel-building spree and opened the Volcano Bay water park it will eventually be time to look south to the growing parcel of land that Comcast has been acquiring. Development and construction of the land should take years, so it may as well start now before it gets to 2021 and it needs new catalysts for theme park growth.

Comcast's Florida resort has been gaining on Disney in recent years. It's the hot resort, closing the gap by growing its turnstile clicks substantially faster. 

Park 2009 Attendance 2016 Attendance Change
Magic Kingdom 17,233,000 20,395,000  18.3%
Epcot 10,990,000 11,712,000   6.6%
Animal Kingdom  9,590,000 10,844,000  13.1%
Hollywood Studios  9,700,000 10,776,000  11.1%
Universal Studios Florida  5,530,000  9,998,000  80.8%
Islands of Adventure  4,627,000  9,362,000 102.3%

Data source: Themed Entertainment Association.

The debut of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2009 was a game changer, and a largely dormant Disney has only helped. The bad news for Comcast is that Disney is finally waking up to the fact that it can no longer just phone it in. Disney unveiled several new attractions and experiences that will debut in the next four years.

Disney's starting to dream out loud again, and if that's happening Comcast is doing the right thing by getting ready for its next act. It's a smart land grab for Comcast, and it can figure out how it will bridge Universal Orlando with the distant parcels it's acquiring later.  

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.