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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 on investing on growth 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 a substitute at Magic Kingdom and past, and why that’s the higher end result for followers and the corporate.

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

Extra lately, there’s been so much 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 Avenue 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 subsequent decade.

That wasn’t the primary time within the final yr or in order that Walt Disney World followers had heard teases of a vibrant future for the Florida parks. Finally yr’s D23 Expo, Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro teased growth plans for Animal Kingdom and ‘Past Massive Thunder’ at Magic Kingdom. These have been as soon as once more reiterated and refined at Vacation spot D23 this fall.

D’Amaro and Disney CEO Bob Iger have hyped funding within the parks past that. Throughout the latest earnings name just a few weeks in the past, Iger recognized 4 “constructing alternatives” for the Walt Disney Firm that will probably be central to future success, one in every of which is “turbocharging” development in Parks & Resorts.

Whereas different followers are skeptical, we imagine each Iger and D’Amaro are honest. We do suppose there are some essential conditions that the corporate should tackle earlier than switching gears and transferring into ‘constructing mode’ however we’ll give the good thing about the doubt and assume that’ll occur by late 2024 or 2025. We will even assume that the $60 billion quantity is correct for all of Parks & Resorts, and that of that, the corporate has $17 billion funding plans for Walt Disney World.

A few of these is likely to be optimistic assumptions, however they’re ones we’re prepared to make. And even in mild of those charitable numbers that is likely to be diminished later, we nonetheless do NOT anticipate a fifth gate at Walt Disney World. Listed below are the entire the explanation why…

First, as a result of each Bob Iger and Josh D’Amaro have particularly mentioned they wish to increase the prevailing parks. In the course of the many interviews the 2 have given this yr that mentioned plans for the longer term and bullishness on parks, they talked about capacity-expanding additions.

We mentioned all of this in nice size in Bob Iger Desires Massive Expansions at Walt Disney World & Disneyland and once more in Reimaginings Contained in the Park and ‘Past the Berm’ Enlargement at Magic Kingdom. There are not any scarcity of quotes from Iger and D’Amaro about reimaginings and new lands on the current 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 a substitute, they repeatedly have invoked Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and Pandora – World of Avatar because the blueprints for the way Disney plans to increase its parks and “spend money on growing capability” and “alternative inside these current 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 growth undertaking, the Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom. Past that, they’ve repeatedly prompt there are plans for Past Massive 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 constantly shared the plan, and it isn’t for a fifth gate!

In some way, some Walt Disney World followers nonetheless discover this unpersuasive, pondering possibly that D’Amaro and Iger are taking part in their playing cards near the vest. That’s fairly the charitable interpretation, particularly of two dudes who’ve developed a behavior of publicly blue sky daydreaming within the final yr. So that they haven’t any downside sharing unconfirmed idea explorations for the prevailing parks, however are holding a fifth gate a carefully guarded secret? That’s a stretch.

Extra seemingly, followers are 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).

Nevertheless, there’s zero likelihood of a fifth gate at Walt Disney World costing that little except it have been finished within the spirit of the OG Walt Disney Studios Park in France and, belief me, nobody truly needs that mess. For one factor, building isn’t as low-cost in the US 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 incredible monitor report of holding prices in examine. A brand new Disney theme park in Florida would simply value $8 billion except it have been an absolute barebones, half-day park.

On prime of that, that is all of the CapEx at Walt Disney World over the course of a decade. Even Disney might construct a brand new park for $6-7 billion (they will’t–except you desire a unhealthy park), that be an enormous chunk of that complete, and would necessitate CapEx reductions within the current 4 parks as in comparison with the final decade.

At first blush, $17 billion looks as if a ton of cash, nevertheless it’s truly solely barely above the final decade at Walt Disney World when adjusted for inflation (it will not be above it in any respect when trying solely at building prices). To make sure, there have been a ton of superior additions over the past 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 Massive Thunder initiatives, which they’ve already mentioned are occurring, wouldn’t be capable of occur. Once more, there’s each purpose to imagine the plan is growth to the prevailing parks quite than improvement of a brand new one.

Nonetheless, many Walt Disney World followers suppose a fifth gate should occur for one easy purpose: as an “reply” to Common’s Epic Universe, the third theme park being inbuilt Central Florida by Comcast. Epic Universe is full steam forward, and slated to open by Summer season 2025. Many followers imagine 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. 

The fact is that completely is not going to occur. Even when Disney wished to construct a brand new theme park and introduced one immediately, there’s a 0.000% likelihood the corporate might have it open by Summer season 2025. Heck, even when Walt Disney World began work on Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom tomorrow (they received’t) that land most likely wouldn’t be finished by Summer season 2025.

In all probability, Tropical Americas is the subsequent main undertaking on the horizon (outdoors of experience reimaginings) and it’ll begin in late 2024 and be finished in 2026. It seems more and more seemingly that Walt Disney World goes to “sit out” 2025 and never attempt to compete with Epic Universe. (I stay of the idea {that a} reimagined Rock ‘n’ Curler Coaster would be the tentpole addition of 2025. That plus possibly a few redone issues in EPCOT. Sufficient to be marketable, however to not truly compete with Common.)

Disney has most likely concluded that the one solution to “win” is to not play the sport. No new experience or land goes to meaningfully compete with a brand-new theme park. Sitting out this spherical of the theme park wars, conceding the highlight for a yr, and claiming “a rising tide lifts all boats” (their official reply to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when it first opened) is likely to be one of the best hand that Disney can play. No Disney fan needs to listen to this, however is likely to be the smarter transfer than making an attempt to steal Epic Universe’s thunder.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Walt Disney World had constructed a fifth gate and it additionally opened in 2025. At the very least in the case of theme park followers or folks desirous 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 prevailing 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 current gates. You may additionally hate to listen to this, however Walt Disney World is just not going to construct one other park to cut back crowds or attendance in its present parks. There’s no state of affairs 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 enhance per visitor spending through trip length and add not less than ~8 million new visits to Walt Disney World’s cumulative complete in its first full yr. That may 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 many years with People leaving a report 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 this yr 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 truly oblique knowledge to help this–look no additional than the slowdown on Saturdays and Sundays.

With the length of the typical American trip on the decline, including extra gates is a tricky promote. After factoring in journey days, many People 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 implies that a brand new theme park at Walt Disney World would cannibalize attendance from the prevailing gates, not less than amongst a very good phase of visitors. If nearly all 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 folks to come back to the present parks than to take the present demographic and have them add one other day.

As at all times, there are outliers–and people of you studying this who measure your annual time at Walt Disney World in weeks are precisely that. However in case you’re studying this, you already don’t match the median visitor profile for Walt Disney World, so let me cease you proper there. You might be 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 the explanation why constructing a brand new theme park could be much less fascinating than increasing current gates. Certainly one of these is staffing.

Staffing shortages have been a scorching subject for the final couple of years, and though they’re largely resolved within the parks, it’s nonetheless not good. It’s nonetheless a good 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 vary within the Central Florida hospitality trade.

Whether or not the native labor market (to not point out the housing market, which is already pricing hospitality trade staff out–that’s the rationale why Disney helps to construct inexpensive 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 points of interest and lodges which might be below building. All of those locations want folks to work at them.

In fact, Walt Disney World has the School Program and numerous different technique of importing momentary staff from out of state–and that would actually assist present the workforce essential for a fifth gate–however up to now that has not been the case for his or her 4 gates within the final couple of years.

If Disney goes to allocate current or extra workers to new developments, they’d most likely prioritize timeshares and lodges over a theme park. There’s higher ROI and fewer danger, and people usually are not almost as resource-intensive. Personally, I feel Disney is probably going reticent to construct new lodges within the near-term, however timeshares are full steam forward.

On the subject of rising theme park attendance, the better and more cost effective resolution is the one we’ve been seeing over the past a number of years: increasing the prevailing parks. Walt Disney World has already constructed out the capability of its current gates with points of interest like Remy’s Ratatouille Journey, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, TRON Lightcycle Energy Run, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

This method of increasing the footprint of current parks or changing underutilized points of interest is advantageous from Disney’s perspective as a result of it retains infrastructure prices decrease. It additionally doesn’t require playing large on a brand new, untried idea and having to throw extra money at that sooner or later to spice up its recognition.

With a brand new park comes new toll plazas, ticket cubicles, turnstiles, backstage amenities, roads, transportation hubs, and different infrastructure that already exists in help of the prevailing theme parks. These infrastructure bills usually are not insignificant, and it’s troublesome to justify their expenditures when the prevailing parks may 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 current gate with added capability. New theme parks require extra labor (see above) for staffing mentioned toll plazas, ticket cubicles, turnstiles, transportation, and so forth. Merely put, increasing the prevailing parks is the conservative, cost-effective, and low-risk method. It prices much less for the corporate, and which means 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’s going to seemingly occur to what ought to occur. Frankly, Walt Disney World has no enterprise fascinated by 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 a protracted want listing of rides and lands. As a substitute 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 attractive and thrilling, and it’s enjoyable to daydream about Florida DisneySea or no matter is likely to be in your good park.

Don’t get me incorrect–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 might open incomplete.

If this fictional fifth gate at Walt Disney World have 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 Tokyo DisneySea or Shanghai Disneyland…as they exist immediately…in Florida, USA…within the yr 2030 would value not less than $10 billion as soon as all is alleged and finished. Perhaps extra.

As thrilling as that might 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 visitors and in want of 2-3 extra rides. When Disney’s Hollywood Studios wants extra all-ages points of interest 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 some rides on the entrance of the park.

And people are simply the issues that actually needs to be finished on the current parks. That listing didn’t embrace Past Massive Thunder at Magic Kingdom. Not as a result of I feel it’s a foul thought, however as a result of Magic Kingdom “wants” the least assist. (It’s going to occur, regardless.) There are a ton of discretionary initiatives that would occur on the current gates to actually enhance them, and Past Massive Thunder is a kind of.

Exterior 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 countless potential at EPCOT. Backstage amenities might be relocated at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, permitting for the smallest park to turn out to be bigger (and have an easier-to-navigate) structure. Imagineering is lots able to dreaming up tens of billions of {dollars} of incredible concepts for the prevailing 4 parks at Walt Disney World.

When you’re not persuaded that fixing or constructing out the prevailing parks is the proper plan of action, I get it. The shiny new object (fifth gate) is at all times 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 not less than $2 billion of that $17 billion. So except you’re a street and drainage fanatic, these are sunk prices that might not improve your trip.

Said in another way, let’s say that if the corporate merely chooses to increase current parks, we would get round $13 billion price of recent stuff, whereas we’d get $11 billion in complete 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/lodges or different non-attractions initiatives, regardless.)

For me, the reply is straightforward: I’ll take a maximization of the funding, and have that cash allotted in the direction of increasing the prevailing parks and reimagining rides which might be presently underutilized or outdated. I do know that’s not the thrilling alternative and is likely to be an unpopular opinion. However the different is the present 4 gates stagnating for not less than 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 increase.

As a Disney fan, I’ve lived by means of many years 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 thing took too lengthy and a good amount of cash was poorly allotted at EPCOT. However not less than 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 current 4 parks might be incredible.

The present parks are nice, however they’ve quite a lot of untapped potential and room for enchancment. I’d quite see billions of {dollars} invested into the present 4 parks than for them to be uncared for for 10+ years. The excellent news, not less than 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 wish 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 prevailing 4 parks? Do you agree or disagree with our causes as to why one is unlikely–or fascinating–within the foreseeable future? Another ideas or commentary so as to add? Any questions we might help you reply? Listening to your suggestions–even once you disagree with us–is each attention-grabbing to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas beneath within the feedback!