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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Why a fifth Theme Park Will NOT Be Constructed at Disney World within the Subsequent Decade

Followers are hopeful that Walt Disney World will construct a fifth theme park given the billions of {dollars} the corporate plans to speculate on enlargement in Florida. This makes the pessimistic prediction {that a} fifth gate received’t come to WDW any time quickly…and shouldn’t! Right here’s why it received’t occur, what we’ll get as an alternative at Magic Kingdom and past, and why that’s higher for followers. (Up to date June 1, 2024.)

It is a subject that has been mentioned to dying by Walt Disney World followers for some time. As quickly as Animal Kingdom opened, individuals started seeking to the long run once more at what would come subsequent. To a point, this was comprehensible. California Journey and Tokyo DisneySea each opened a number of years later, with new parks in Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai after that. All provided superb sights and lands that Walt Disney World followers would love to see in Florida.

Extra not too long ago, there’s been quite a bit within the final year-plus that’s given followers optimism that Walt Disney World will construct a fifth (and even sixth!) theme park in coming years. This has actually kicked into excessive gear within the final couple of months, after the corporate hosted Wall Road analysts and traders at Walt Disney World for an investor summit. That’s the place they first revealed a plan to double funding to $60 billion in Disney Parks over the following decade.

June 1, 2024 Replace: Following the settlement of a lawsuit between the events over the previous former Reedy Creek Enchancment District, a growth settlement has been reached between the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) and Walt Disney World. Amongst different issues, the jointly-drafted and agreed-upon growth settlement supplies for minimal funding quantities over the lifetime of the 15-year settlement.

The event settlement commits the Walt Disney Firm to speculate as much as $17 billion from Walt Disney World over the following 10 to twenty years. Underneath the phrases of the deal, Disney is required to speculate at the very least $8 billion throughout the first 10 years of the settlement. Disney additionally agrees to fund at the very least $10 million in reasonably priced housing tasks and create a neighborhood enterprise hiring program that will award at the very least 50% of all development work to Florida-based companies.

The event settlement covers the entire land owned by Disney in Central Florida. One wrinkle concerning the settlement that has caught the eye of followers is that it authorizes a most of 5 main theme parks, which is yet one more than the present depend (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom). It additionally permits a most of 5 minor theme parks (suppose Blizzard Seashore, Storm Lagoon, and different area of interest ideas) in addition to almost 1.3 million sq. ft of workplace house, 1.7 million sq. ft of restaurant/retail house and 53,467 lodge rooms.

This has followers excited, as a result of absolutely this language was included purposefully as a result of Walt Disney World has plans to construct a fifth gate, proper? RIGHT?! Improper. The settlement merely provides Disney the autonomy to construct a fifth park–holding its choices open–with out having to revisit the event settlement. Critically, that is like DisneylandForward over again, with followers making large assumptions that can’t conceivably come true.

The useless giveaway of this must be the truth that the event settlement additionally authorizes Walt Disney World to construct three extra minor theme parks…regardless of the corporate not even working each of its present water parks concurrently. Nobody critically believes Disney goes to construct extra different water parks or different area of interest ideas, so why get your hopes up over a theoretical fifth gate that Disney has–not as soon as–evinced an urge for food to construct. We already know a few of what the corporate plans to do within the coming decade. And none of it’s a fifth gate!

The true story right here is–or must be–that the Walt Disney Firm and the state of Florida in addition to the CFTOD have repaired their relationship and are working collectively once more. That is vastly constructive information for what the corporate really plans to assemble at Walt Disney World. (That is one thing we first mentioned in Disney “Responds” to Common’s Epic Universe–nevertheless it’s good to see ahead momentum proceed!)

Except for that, there isn’t actually any new-news right here. Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro and CEO Bob Iger have hyped funding and “turbocharging” progress in Parks & Resorts during the last 12 months. Even the quantity isn’t new–though the $60 billion quantity for all of Parks & Resorts has been talked up extra, the corporate revealed $17 billion funding plans for Walt Disney World over a 12 months in the past.

Even with great optimism for the way forward for the Florida Undertaking, we nonetheless do NOT count on a fifth gate at Walt Disney World. First, as a result of each Iger and D’Amaro have particularly stated they wish to broaden the present parks. Throughout the many interviews the 2 have provided that mentioned plans for the long run and bullishness on parks, they talked about capacity-expanding additions.

We mentioned all of this in nice size in Bob Iger Needs Large Expansions at Walt Disney World & Disneyland and once more in Reimaginings Contained in the Park and ‘Past the Berm’ Growth at Magic Kingdom. There aren’t any scarcity of quotes from Iger and D’Amaro about reimaginings and new lands on the present Walt Disney World parks. There are zero about fifth gates.

Iger and D’Amaro are cautious and deliberate when talking publicly, selecting their phrases rigorously. If there have been plans for brand new theme parks, they’d say as a lot. As an alternative, they repeatedly have invoked Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and Pandora – World of Avatar because the blueprints for a way Disney plans to broaden its parks and “spend money on rising capability” and “alternative inside these present footprints to optimize.” These phrases are fairly clear.

If that’s not sufficient for you, there are the ideas which have already been introduced or teased. Walt Disney World has solely confirmed one main enlargement challenge, the Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom. Past that, they’ve repeatedly urged there are plans for Past Large Thunder in Magic Kingdom. They’ve additionally talked about World of Frozen and Wakanda lands coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World–however not in new parks.

There’s actually no want to invest. D’Amaro and Iger have repeatedly and persistently shared the plan, and it isn’t for a fifth gate!

Followers are additionally taking a look at that headline $60 billion or $17 billion quantity and performing some dreaming of their very own. To make sure, these are colossal sums of cash. Taking simply the $17 billion, which is conceivably sufficient for fifth, sixth, and seventh gates. That’s theoretically sufficient for roughly three new Shanghai Disneylands (~$5.5 billion upon opening in 2016).

Nonetheless, there’s zero probability of a fifth gate at Walt Disney World costing that little until it had been completed within the spirit of the OG Walt Disney Studios Park in France and, belief me, nobody really needs that mess. For one factor, development isn’t as low-cost in the USA as it’s in China (that was additionally virtually a decade in the past).

Labor and materials prices have skyrocketed and Disney doesn’t have an ideal monitor document of holding prices in test. A brand new Disney theme park in Florida would simply value $8 billion until it had been an absolute barebones, half-day park.

On high of that, that is all of the CapEx at Walt Disney World over the course of a decade. Even Disney may construct a brand new park for $6-7 billion, that will be an enormous chunk of that whole, and would necessitate CapEx reductions within the present 4 parks as in comparison with the final decade.

At first blush, $17 billion looks as if a ton of cash, nevertheless it’s really solely barely above the final decade at Walt Disney World when adjusted for inflation (it might not be above it in any respect when trying completely at development prices). To make sure, there have been a ton of superior additions during the last decade–and it’d be nice to get one other 10 years of that–however zero new parks.

Constructing a fifth theme park at Walt Disney World would imply that the Tropical Americas and Past Large Thunder tasks, which they’ve already stated are taking place, wouldn’t be capable of occur. (Relaxation assured, they very a lot are taking place…together with a number of different main uannunced tasks that’ll value at the very least a number of hundred million a pop.)

Nonetheless, many Walt Disney World followers suppose a fifth gate should occur for one easy cause: as an “reply” to Common’s Epic Universe, the third theme park being inbuilt Central Florida by Comcast. Many followers consider Walt Disney World must have a response to Epic Universe, and the one factor that may actually compete with a brand new theme park is a brand new theme park. 

In all probability, Tropical Americas is the following main challenge on the horizon (exterior of journey reimaginings) and it’ll begin in late 2024 and be completed in 2026 or 2027. It seems more and more probably that Walt Disney World goes to “sit out” 2025 and never attempt to compete with Epic Universe.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Walt Disney World had constructed a fifth gate and it additionally opened in 2025. Not less than in relation to theme park followers or individuals eager to do the new new factor, Epic Universe and that fictional Disney fifth gate aren’t going to compete with each other–they’d each cannibalize attendance from the present parks.

That’s a pure segue right into a core level that Walt Disney World will solely ever construct one other theme park if it received’t draw back from its present gates. You may additionally hate to listen to this, however Walt Disney World isn’t going to construct one other park to scale back crowds or attendance in its present parks. There’s no situation the place they’re going to spend billions of {dollars} to tread water–that doesn’t make any sense.

Walt Disney World will solely construct one other park if it could improve per visitor spending by way of trip period and add at the very least ~8 million new visits to Walt Disney World’s cumulative whole in its first full 12 months. That might be a troublesome feat. The common American’s trip is between 4 and 6 days lengthy, and that common has been on the decline for the final couple of a long time with Individuals leaving a document variety of trip days on the desk (there’s article after article concerning the shrinking American trip).

Anecdotally, we’ve heard from many journey agent associates that the most typical “reply” from purchasers to rising prices at Walt Disney World is reducing size of keep. Fairly than doing a full week or 6 days, they’re doing 4-5 and avoiding weekends. There’s really oblique information to assist this–look no additional than the slowdown on Saturdays and Sundays.

With the period of the typical American trip on the decline, including extra gates is a tricky promote. After factoring in journey days, many Individuals already don’t have sufficient time to expertise all 4 parks plus Disney Springs or water parks plus no matter Common’s parks would possibly siphon away.

It is a downside as a result of it essentially signifies that a brand new theme park at Walt Disney World would cannibalize attendance from the present gates, at the very least amongst a great phase of friends. If the vast majority of guests to Walt Disney World don’t have one other park day so as to add, constructing a fifth gate is a nonstarter. It’s simpler to get extra individuals to come back to the present parks than to take the present demographic and have them add one other day.

As all the time, there are outliers–and people of you studying this who measure your annual time at Walt Disney World in weeks are precisely that. However if you happen to’re studying this, you already don’t match the median visitor profile for Walt Disney World, so let me cease you proper there. You’re very a lot above common. It’s essential that we don’t confuse our personal trip time or preferences for the norm.

Then there are the logistical impediments or explanation why constructing a brand new theme park could be much less fascinating than increasing present gates. Staffing shortages have been a sizzling subject for the final couple of years, and though they’re largely resolved within the parks, it’s nonetheless not good. It’s a decent labor market, with almost two job openings for each unemployed individual. The foundation causes of this are past the scope of this put up, however the backside line is that it’s unlikely to alter within the Central Florida hospitality business.

Whether or not the native labor market (to not point out the housing market, which is already pricing hospitality business employees out–that’s the rationale why Disney helps to construct reasonably priced housing) can maintain not only one, however two extra parks, is an open query. It’s not simply these parks, both. There’s the $1.5 billion Evermore Orlando Resort, Area15, and dozens of different sights and motels which are below development. All of those locations want individuals to work at them.

In fact, Walt Disney World has the School Program and varied different technique of importing momentary employees from out of state–and that would definitely assist present the workforce needed for a fifth gate–however so far that has not been the case for his or her 4 gates within the final couple of years.

If Disney goes to allocate present or further workers to new developments, they’d in all probability prioritize timeshares and motels over a theme park. There’s higher ROI and fewer danger, and people aren’t almost as resource-intensive. Personally, I feel Disney is probably going reticent to construct new motels within the near-term, however timeshares are full steam forward.

Relating to rising theme park attendance, the simpler and more cost effective answer is the one we’ve been seeing during the last a number of years: increasing the present parks. Walt Disney World has already constructed out the capability of its present gates with sights like Remy’s Ratatouille Journey, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, TRON Lightcycle Energy Run, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

This strategy of increasing the footprint of present parks or changing underutilized sights is advantageous from Disney’s perspective as a result of it retains infrastructure prices decrease. It additionally doesn’t require playing massive on a brand new, untried idea and having to throw more cash at that sooner or later to spice up its reputation.

With a brand new park comes new toll plazas, ticket cubicles, turnstiles, backstage services, roads, transportation hubs, and different infrastructure that already exists in assist of the present theme parks. These infrastructure bills aren’t insignificant, and it’s troublesome to justify their expenditures when the present parks could be built-out with out incurring all of those similar prices.

Then there are the working prices, which might even be increased with a brand new gate versus an present gate with added capability. New theme parks require extra labor (see above) for staffing stated toll plazas, ticket cubicles, turnstiles, transportation, and so forth. Merely put, increasing the present parks is the conservative, cost-effective, and low-risk strategy. It prices much less for the corporate, and meaning much less expense to be handed on to customers.

This brings us to the purpose that Walt Disney World ought to not construct a fifth gate. Right here, we’re switching gears from what is going to probably occur to what ought to occur. Frankly, Walt Disney World has no enterprise fascinated with one other brand-new theme park anytime quickly. I do know that is going to get me some hate mail, however hear me out.

Followers love the thought of a fifth theme park as a result of it’s a clean slate, able to holding an extended want listing of rides and lands. As an alternative of getting 1-2 rides right here or there, we get a half-dozen new lands. I get it. A model new theme park is horny and thrilling, and it’s enjoyable to daydream about Florida DisneySea or no matter is perhaps in your good park.

Don’t get me improper–I’d like to relive the sensation of setting foot in a model new park that’s completely unfamiliar. There’s nothing like that–expansions completely don’t evaluate! However I’m additionally a realist. It’s enjoyable to dream, however the sensible actuality of a brand new theme park within the late 2020s or early 2030s wouldn’t be good or meet what you’re imagining; at finest, it will open incomplete.

If this fictional fifth gate at Walt Disney World had been on par with Walt Disney Studios Park (Paris), Disney’s California Journey, or Hong Kong Disneyland when any of these opened, the expertise could be totally underwhelming. Constructing Shanghai Disneyland…because it exists at present…in Florida, USA…within the 12 months 2030 would value at the very least $12 billion as soon as all is claimed and completed. Possibly extra. Need Tokyo DisneySea? Say goodbye to just about the whole thing of the $17 billion.

As thrilling as that will be–and it’d be very thrilling!–it’s troublesome to advocate for that when Animal Kingdom continues to be a half-day park for many friends and in want of 2-3 extra rides. When Disney’s Hollywood Studios wants extra all-ages sights in order that its headliners don’t common 60+ minute waits. When EPCOT, even post-overhaul, wants one other new World Showcase pavilion and reimaginings to a couple rides on the entrance of the park.

And people are simply the issues that basically must be completed on the present parks. That listing didn’t embody Past Large Thunder at Magic Kingdom. Not as a result of I feel it’s a nasty thought, however as a result of Magic Kingdom “wants” the least assist. (It’s going to occur, regardless.) There are a ton of discretionary tasks that would occur on the present gates to actually enhance them, and Past Large Thunder is a kind of.

Outdoors of the Dinoland plot, there’s a ton of unused or underutilized house in Animal Kingdom. That park already has nice bones–now how about a few all-new (not substitute) lands–that turns it right into a 1.5 day park? There’s infinite potential at EPCOT. Backstage services may very well be relocated at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, permitting for the smallest park to develop into bigger (and have an easier-to-navigate) structure. Imagineering is loads able to dreaming up tens of billions of {dollars} of improbable concepts for the present 4 parks at Walt Disney World.

If you happen to’re not persuaded that fixing or constructing out the present parks is the best plan of action, I get it. The shiny new object (fifth gate) is all the time going to be extra thrilling. However how about with this added to the combo: the infrastructure prices alone of constructing a brand new theme park would eat away at the very least $2 billion of that $17 billion. So until you’re a street and drainage fanatic, these are sunk prices that will not improve your trip.

Said in another way, let’s say that if the corporate merely chooses to broaden present parks, we would get round $13 billion value of recent stuff, whereas we’d get $11 billion in whole if there’s a brand new gate thrown into the combo. (I’ve already skimmed $4 billion from the highest below the idea that it’ll go to DVC/motels or different non-attractions tasks, regardless.)

For me, the reply is simple: I’ll take a maximization of the funding, and have that cash allotted in the direction of increasing the present parks and reimagining rides which are at the moment underutilized or outdated. I do know that’s not the thrilling selection and is perhaps an unpopular opinion. However the different is the present 4 gates stagnating for at the very least a full decade–and that’s assuming a brand new gate could be correctly built-out within the first place, and wouldn’t require one other decade to repair or broaden.

As a Disney fan, I’ve lived via a long time of stagnation and I don’t actually desire a repeat of that. From my perspective, the final decade was far, much better. Certain, I feel every little thing took too lengthy and an honest amount of cash was poorly allotted at EPCOT. However at the very least a part of that may be blamed on the pandemic, and hopefully that received’t occur once more. If management coalesces round a transparent imaginative and prescient for Walt Disney World’s 10-year plan, the fruits of that within the present 4 parks may very well be improbable.

The present parks are nice, however they’ve lots of untapped potential and room for enchancment. I’d relatively see billions of {dollars} invested into the present 4 parks than for them to be uncared for for 10+ years. The excellent news, at the very least from my perspective, is that Walt Disney World followers don’t get a vote on this. My opinion and your opinion don’t matter within the least–that is the route that Disney has already indicated it’s going to go.

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Your Ideas

Do you suppose a fifth gate is on the horizon at Walt Disney World? Would you prefer to see $10 billion of that $17 billion spent on a brand-new theme park, or would you like it spent on constructing out the present 4 parks? Do you agree or disagree with our causes as to why one is unlikely–or fascinating–within the foreseeable future? Some other ideas or commentary so as to add? Any questions we may also help you reply? Listening to your suggestions–even whenever you disagree with us–is each fascinating to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas beneath within the feedback!

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