Today marked another milestone in Walt Disney World’s phased reopening: the return of All Star Sports. We mention this not because we’re huge fans of the hotel (it’s only our second favorite A.S.S. at WDW, after Alien Swirling Saucers) but because for the first time since March 2020, every single hotel at Walt Disney World is open.
It’s been a long, slow road to recovery for the resorts of Walt Disney World, spanning almost two years at this point. Disney Vacation Club resorts began welcoming guests back during June 2020, even before the parks even reopened. Other hotels returned slowly, with several false starts and postponements due to low occupancy numbers.
The most extreme example of this is at Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is operating at about ~10% occupancy because the hotel rooms were not in use at the time. We did a number of “surreal stays” back when the resorts were veritable ghost towns–like haunted hotels in real life. It was emotional and uplifting at the time, a breath of fresh air after being stuck at home for two months.
Honestly, those memories have not aged well. Don’t get us wrong–we’re still very grateful that we had Walt Disney World in our backyard and were able to start doing things again earlier than most people. We were also pleased that the resorts were relatively quiet and that Disney took health safety protocol seriously at the time.
In addition to that, the multi-month closure put things into perspective and gave us a fresh appreciation for Walt Disney World. All of this prompted a reset that was, frankly, necessary for us with regard to Disney. Even now, with one frustrating decision after another by the corporation, we still don’t take the parks and resorts themselves for granted.
However, those post-reopening visits and stays aren’t great memories because they’re inextricably intertwined with what was happening in the real world at the time. The fear, uncertainty, anger, arguing, and everything else. At the time, returning to Walt Disney World was a much-needed reprieve from all of that. Now, it just blends together with the scars, trauma, or whatever you want to call it from that spring and summer.
A few readers have asked us to do a retrospective or look back at the closure of Walt Disney World, and I guess this will have to suffice as that. Otherwise, I’m wholly uninterested in revisiting 2020. It’s not just a Disney thing, either. We long ago “retired” other habits from then, from foods we regularly ate to our neighborhood walking route. Suffice to say, we won’t be watching the inevitable Disney movie about the year, and I certainly won’t be writing about it.
That’s probably an odd digression, but the point is that I’m very glad not only that every resort is back, but also in having them and the parks full of people. Walt Disney World crowds are a hot topic here, but honestly, right now I do not mind them in the least. If anything, the ghost town parks of late Summer 2020 has tainted the empty park experience for me. (Those perspectives on low and high crowds, I suspect, will wear off in due time.)
All of this is a big part of why we’ve “celebrated” every seemingly insignificant development in Walt Disney World’s return to normalcy. Each incremental step away from the phased reopening and towards the pre-closure experience, even if it’s something we don’t care about at all, is good news. It should go without saying, but it’s great for the Cast Members and other people who enjoy those things. For us, it’s also slightly cathartic–like a little bit of closure.
I don’t know how else to explain my emotional reaction to hearing the news that Disney’s All Star Sports Resort reopened. (Well, I also chuckled upon learning that they did not remodel the rooms during the prolonged closure.) This is literally my least favorite hotel at Walt Disney World–too many unpleasant memories of stays during Pop Warner or some random cheerleading thing. And yet, here I am, way too happy about this news.
Seeing Walt Disney World’s update on the reopening of All Star Sports “got me.” Per that, Cast Members were all smiles as the first guests arrived, and enthusiasm only grew as guests once again played, dined, and enjoyed their favorite sports-themed areas of the resort.
Against that rambling backdrop, I hope you enjoy this cheesy video as much as I did:
Throughout the phased reopening at Walt Disney World, approximately 70,000 Cast Members have been welcomed back in a variety of roles. From housekeeping to merchandise, engineering services to food and beverage, these Cast Members bring the parks and resorts to life.
These Cast Members are the heart and soul of Walt Disney World, and we are so happy to see more and more of them return.
To give this post some practical purpose and value beyond my rambling, let’s quickly discuss potential implications of Walt Disney World reopening another resort. As you’re likely aware, some hotels are already “sold out” or rather, are unavailable for many dates in the coming months. (See What’s Up with Sold Out Hotels at Walt Disney World?)
This is still a problem, but it appears to be getting much better based on our recent searches for availability (knock on wood). We’ve found everything from single nights to weeklong stays at pretty much every resort (outside of Deluxe Villas) and room category. It’s a night and day difference as compared to last holiday season.
With that said, this isn’t simply a byproduct of more resorts reopening–or any one thing. The problem persisted last fall even after every resort but All Star Sports had reopened, and that was because even operational resorts were short-staffed. Consequently, entire sections of Port Orleans and other resorts were going unfilled.
Staffing shortages have clearly been addressed to some degree, as evidenced by standard housekeeping practices resuming at many resorts. (See What’s Up with Hotel Housekeeping at Walt Disney World?) Our guess is that All Star Sports isn’t opening with only a couple buildings in use. It’s probably much closer to normal guest loads, which means it should help absorb demand in a meaningful way.
Ultimately, we’re probably not out of the woods yet with resort availability woes at Walt Disney World, even with all hotels now being open for the first time in over 2 years. We’ve had flickers of hope about normalization in the past, only for another surge of pent-up demand to disabuse us of those notions. (I wrote that Park Pass reservations would likely be a “formality” after the holiday season, and clearly that was wrong!)
It remains to be seen how the saga of supply v. demand will continue to play out at Walt Disney World, and at what point discounting, resort occupancy, restaurant capacity, and so many operational aspects will stabilize. What we do know is that we’re savoring each little bit of normalcy that returns, and would certainly love to welcome things like the Disney Dining Plan, bounceback offers, full menus, and more to the mix. In the meantime, we’ll be patient and appreciate what we do have.
Thoughts on the reopening of Disney’s All Star Sports Resort? Are you happy that the phased reopening ‘era’ of Walt Disney World is finally coming to an end, or do you miss the low crowds of Summer 2020? Have you noticed more resort availability on Disneyworld.com in the last couple of months, even as the parks have gotten busier? Feedback on anything else discussed here? Do you agree or disagree with our WDW assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!