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Orlando to rename street for longtime Universal CEO Tom Williams

Tom Williams, Chairman & CEO Universal Parks & Resorts, could be honored by the City of Orlando by having the name of the street leading to the theme named for him.
Tom Williams, Chairman & CEO Universal Parks & Resorts, could be honored by the City of Orlando by having the name of the street leading to the theme named for him. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/AP)

The man who helped bring Spiderman, Harry Potter, Nintendo and King Kong to Orlando could see his name on future road maps leading to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Universal Parks & Resorts has asked the City of Orlando to rename a portion of Major Boulevard in the tourism corridor “Tom Williams Way” to honor the company’s chairman and CEO and celebrate his 50 years of industry leadership.

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“We are re-naming the portion of this road that is within our destination and serves as a major entryway in honor of his contribution to our industry and our community,” Spokesman Tom Schroder said.

The section of Major Boulevard on Universal Orlando's property, outlined in red, would be renamed Tom Williams Way.
The section of Major Boulevard on Universal Orlando's property, outlined in red, would be renamed Tom Williams Way. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

The entire street section being proposed for change is located within the confines of Universal Orlando Resort, and city staff recommends approving the request.

Williams was tapped in 1987 to oversee the development of the first Universal Studios theme park in Florida. He led the design and development of all operational aspects for the new park, which opened in 1990.

As President and CEO of Universal Orlando, Williams oversaw the resort’s expansion with the Islands of Adventure theme park in 1999, Universal’s CityWalk and five resort hotels, followed by the 2017 opening of the Volcano Bay water park. He was integral to the deal that will bring the new Epic Universe theme park to Orlando in 2022.

Tom Williams, shown here in 2005, was tapped to lead the development of Universal's first theme park in Orlando. The company is now building its fourth park, Epic Universe.
Tom Williams, shown here in 2005, was tapped to lead the development of Universal's first theme park in Orlando. The company is now building its fourth park, Epic Universe. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel file photo)

As the head of Universal Parks & Resorts, Williams also oversees Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan, both of which have Wizarding World of Harry Potter within their theme parks, and the new theme park scheduled to open next year in Beijing, China.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the naming is a fitting tribute to recognize Williams career.

“The philanthropic and economic impact Universal infuses into our community year after year is a direct result of Tom’s dedicated work,” Dyer said. “Through Tom’s steadfast leadership, he has grown Universal Parks and Resorts to not only our City’s largest employer, but into a global headquarters for four existing theme park destinations and the development of a fifth in Beijing.”

Visit Orlando President George Aguel added his own testimony to Williams highly recognized leadership on a global scale within the tourism industry.

"For decades, he has significantly helped fuel the exciting growth of Universal’s iconic presence in Orlando, reinforcing our region’s overall tourism reputation while contributing greatly to the growth and betterment of our community,” Aguel said.

Williams actually began his career in tourism upon his graduation from California State University Fresno in 1970 when he accepted a position at Yosemite Park managing the resort’s sports retail operations. He worked his way up to the position of vice president of hotels and restaurants, managing 12 hotels, 14 restaurants and all guest services.

It was at Yosemite where Williams forged a bond with Joe Stein, chairman of MCA’s recreational division, which had bought the resort in 1973. Stein lured Williams to Florida to be a part of the pre-opening launch team for Universal Studios.

The city’s Municipal Planning Board is set to consider the request on April 28. The name change would apply only to the quarter-mile section west of Kirkman Road that ends at Universal Boulevard. The city’s planning staff noted that Orlando already has a Williams Street in unincorporated Orange County, the county has signed off on the change, according to the staff report.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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