With Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature angling to take control of it, Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District leaders met this week to discuss the future of Disney property, including the potential building of another major theme park by 2032.
The 2032 Comprehensive Plan notes that “there are no plans under review” for the theme park developments, which could use about 850 acres of available space, but the development regulations nonetheless set a groundwork for land to be used that way.
Len Testa, owner of the vacation planning website Touring Plans, attended the meeting. He said his impression was that the district was seeking approvals for future plans now, while the Disney-appointed board is “as friendly as it’s ever going to get for Disney.”
“I think it’s one of those things where it’s like, ‘Is there anything that we think we could conceivably do in the next 10 years, where getting board supervisors’ approval now would be easier than any future scenario that we might envision?’” he said, adding that the plan was largely unchanged from the previous one approved in 2010.
But Reedy Creek Administrator John Classe said the meeting was part of a regular process of updating the 2032 Comprehensive Plan, which the district adopted in May. It was held by the city council of Lake Buena Vista, which is part of the district.
“It is a normal course of business to continue these actions in response to the state approving our comprehensive plan last year,” he said, adding that further reviews are still in store.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week he wants Florida legislators to put the state in charge of the district, and lawmakers intend to discuss the matter in an upcoming session. DeSantis signed the law dissolving Reedy Creek in April after a dispute with Disney over the so-called “don’t say gay” legislation.
Analyst Dennis Spiegel, CEO of International Theme Park Services, said he believed Wednesday’s meeting showed the district working at a normal pace, albeit with additional pressure given its uncertain future.
“It’s just all part of the plan, and some of it is politics, I’m sure,” he said.
The theme park community quickly noticed the detail about future theme park development in the regulations, which would also allow for Disney to build more hotel rooms. The plan also describes potential minor attractions such as water parks or something similar to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
It provides no description of what a fifth major theme park would be.
The district deferred comment to Disney when asked about those provisions, and Disney World representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Testa said he thinks it is unlikely Disney will build any new theme parks soon. He predicted will instead focus on updating and enhancing its existing parks.
Speigel said he could see Disney building a fifth theme park in Orlando within the next 10 years, especially as Universal aims to open its newest park, Epic Universe, by summer 2025.
It could be designed for families with young children like the one Universal announced Wednesday it is developing near Dallas, he said.
“Disney’s in a difficult period right now. They’re at one of the weakest levels they’ve been at in a long time because of the last two years,” Speigel said, mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic among Disney’s business challenges. “Universal’s coming on strong, and they’re coming at a point when Disney may not be on their game 100%.”
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