Disney World deal ‘paves the way’ for multibillion dollar investment

Orlando, Florida, USA - February 9, 2022:  A Walt Disney World e
Disney World and its state-controlled governing board have made peace.

Walt Disney World and its Governing Board pledged to work together under a developer’s agreement approved Wednesday, which allows Disney to build another theme park in Central Florida.

The state-controlled Central Florida Tourism Oversight District approved the agreement at a Wednesday night meeting.

“This new development agreement paves the way for us to invest billions of dollars in Walt Disney World Resort, supporting the growth of this global destination, fueling the Florida economy, and allowing us to deliver even more memorable and extraordinary experiences for our guests,” Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said in a statement after the vote.

Disney pledged to spend $8 billion in the first 10 years and up to $17 billion within 20 years, with CFTOD agreeing to provide the infrastructure to keep up with the growth. The details of how that money would be spent are unknown, but Disney is authorized to add a fifth gate at Walt Disney World.

The agreement comes with the two sides making peace after a short but turbulent history of lawsuits and angry words.

Last year, the Republican-led Legislature approved a law meant to punish Disney World for speaking out against Florida’s parental rights law, known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay.” The law stripped Disney of its ability to handpick its own Governing Board members and gave that power to Gov. Ron DeSantis instead.

Disney later sued DeSantis and CFTOD. CFTOD countersued Disney.

In March, Disney and CFTOD announced they reached a settlement, ending their legal battle.

CFTOD and Disney officials have publicly expressed that they are ready to move forward and collaborate to improve the district that brings millions of people to Central Florida and employs tens of thousands.

Nothing compares with the relationship between Walt Disney World, the tourism oversight district and Central Florida, “and, for that matter, the entirety of the state,” said Robert Earl, CEO of Planet Hollywood and other restaurants, during the meeting’s public comments.

“I’m here today to show my support for the agreement before you. It very clearly demonstrates to the world that the district and Disney are eager to resume working together for the great state of Florida,” Earl said. With Disney’s upcoming investments, “It’s impossible for any of us to grasp the enormous impact that these announcements will have on a global basis.”

In the heart of the tourism corridor, near the Orange County Convention Center, Universal is preparing to throw the next punch at its competitor, Disney, which has long been the king of theme parks. Universal, however, is catching ground.

Next summer, Universal will open Epic Universe, a theme park built from the ground up with three hotels.

Disney hasn’t disclosed if it will build a fifth gate in Orlando, but The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger has made it clear that Disney wants to beef up its parks.

“We haven’t announced specifics yet, but we’re looking at a few of those parks to place some pretty big bets on,” Iger said last month.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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