BoardWalk’s Reimagining Begins: Changes & Construction
Walt Disney World shared more details about the changes coming to BoardWalk Inn as part of its reimagining. Additionally, construction has commenced on some aspects of the project. This post shares details about what’s on the horizon, plus a look at the work around Crescent Lake.
The latest announcement is that Walt Disney World will reimagine BoardWalk Bakery into a deli inspired by those of the American Northeast. The location will be renamed BoardWalk Deli when it reopens later in Summer 2022.
Menu highlights will include an overstuffed warm pastrami Reuben and a hand-piped cannoli, in addition to house-baked bagels, savory warm sandwiches and a variety of mouth-watering desserts. BoardWalk Deli will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Earlier this year, Walt Disney World announced that they’d be making “a seaside splash at Disney’s BoardWalk!” Over the next few years, Walt Disney World is adding and reimagining elements of the beloved turn-of-the-century promenade and inside the Deluxe Resort, including a charming new lobby design, nearby coffee bar, delectable dining options, refreshed guest rooms, and other special touches.
Inside Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, light and airy touches will reinvigorate the lobby, lounge, and guest rooms. Just off the lobby, a new coffee bar with artisanal beverages and quick bites will be available to-go or in newly refreshed seating spaces inside or outdoors.
Per Walt Disney World, the first of these major additions to debut will be storybook sweet treats and dreamy desserts at The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers, a new table service restaurant and bakery that’s sure to delight.
Expected to open in 2023, this restaurant will offer both savory and dessert menus, along with afternoon tea service, in a whimsical atmosphere that complements the magic of the idyllic charm of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn that guests know and love.
This is a good place to start, as visible construction has finally started on the exterior of ESPN Club.
ESPN Club never reopened after the closure of Walt Disney World, and there were rumors as far back as late 2020 that it would not be returning. No word on whether anything has occurred inside the restaurant, though.
On the exterior, crews were busy removing elements of themed designs and ESPN branding from the exterior.
Most notably, the fist pumping iron was craned off the top of the restaurant marquee. Sort of surreal seeing these up close on the ground. I never really thought about just how big these things are. I guess that’s a bit of reverse forced perspective!
Here’s a look at the marquee with that element removed. I can’t say I’m upset about ESPN Club leaving, but I did get hit by a bit of nostalgia and memories watching this come down.
This used to be one of my family’s go-to spots at Walt Disney World, and I remember visiting when it was brand new back in the late 1990s.
The loss of ESPN Club definitely creates a void. Even with more and more sports bars opening at Walt Disney World, they’re almost exclusively at Disney Springs. While most people dedicate significant time to watching sports on vacation, some do. (Especially those who book a vacation months in advance, and their team makes a surprise run to or in the playoffs. It happens a lot!)
ESPN Club was a nice option within walking distance of EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios that had minimal impact on the rest of the family’s vacation. While it’s not a big loss to me personally, I still think it would’ve made much more sense to replace Big River Grille & Brewing Works. But who knows what the third party contract situation is there.
During the construction, all other venues at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn remain open. This includes the inventively-named BoardWalk Ice Cream. (Hey, at least it’s better than “BoardWalk Ice Cream: An Edy’s Eating EXPERIENCE! ~ at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort.”)
I’ve poked fun at BoardWalk Ice Cream (only because I still miss Ample Hills), but I do have to give Disney credit–they replaced the temporary signage with a nice, dimensional one. I’m not sure when this happened, but it’s not new. I noticed it a few months ago and didn’t have anywhere to mention it until now. Didn’t seem worthy of its own post. Also to Disney’s credit, at least this venue isn’t sitting empty. (Ample Hills’ downfall wasn’t Disney’s fault.)
Construction crews made fast work of removing all of the thematic details and ESPN elements from the former club. The first photos were taken on Friday morning, and this was only a few hours later. Walls only went up and work began the previous day.
Given that Disney owns ESPN, the rapid pace might be about brand integrity. Even though the location has been closed for 2 years, the company wants as few average guests as possible to see an ESPN venue going out of business and being demolished, essentially.
Two doors down, BoardWalk Bakery is still operating as normal.
It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens with BoardWalk Bakery. We’ve said for years that the Deluxe Resorts in the Crescent Lake area need better counter service restaurant options. The recently redone marketplaces at Yacht & Beach Club are improvements, but really only half-measures.
Our hope was that BoardWalk Bakery would be similar in that regard–an imperfect solution, but still an upgrade from what’s there now.
However, given that it’s currently still operational and based on the announced changes, it doesn’t seem like it’ll have anything but a modified menu and new name. Given the space constraints and layout alone, that’s understandable to a degree. Maybe it’s time Disney built BoardWalk a dedicated counter service restaurant elsewhere?
There’s also a ton of minor work occurring all around the BoardWalk.
Crews were repainting railing, AbracadaBar is having work done around it, and more. There’s no reason to believe any of this is related to the reimagining–all appeared to be routine.
Inside Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, work has still yet to begin on the lobby.
Every time we’ve been in the Crescent Lake area lately, I’ve popped into the lobby for one last look “just in case.” I have no idea when work here will begin, and am hoping some advance notice will be given. From my perspective, this is unnecessary. BoardWalk’s lobby is a thematic gem with quirky charm and character. Modernize the rooms to appease normal guests, but leave this alone. No matter what Disney does here, there’s no way it’ll have the same personality.
In addition to the construction at BoardWalk, there’s also work across Crescent Lake at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.
For the last several months, there has been work on the building facades at Yacht Club. That’s finally finished, and has moved on to the iconic lighthouse.
The lighthouse is now behind scaffolding for a similar refresh.
It’s great to see this getting done. The exterior of Yacht Club looks much better, which we really noticed when watching the section by section work progress earlier this year–the completed areas were a huge improvement. While not something you might actively notice just while strolling along the promenade, it makes a difference in aggregate. Always nice to see Disney doing this type of restorative work!
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to watch how work progresses around the promenade and inside the hotel over the next year or so. We’re big fans of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and hope its quaint style is preserved through this reimagining and that whatever modernization occurs isn’t too jarring from a time period perspective.
However, we also realize that there’s a lot of room for improvement, with a lot of spaces that have stagnated for years and could use a shot in the arm. It’ll be nice to see some new dining options, and here’s hoping that others are refreshed. As a whole, I’m cautiously optimistic about the changes at the BoardWalk. Hopefully Imagineering uses a deft touch to bring BoardWalk into the 21st century while maintaining its (last) turn of the century personality.
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What do you think of the construction and changes coming to Disney’s BoardWalk Resort? Sad to see ESPN Club removed, or ready for something new? Think this reimagining will work with the hotel theme, or is it unnecessary? Have you stayed at the BoardWalk Inn or Villas in the last few years? Do you think the resort is dated and tired, or still has a good look? Think the lobby, guest rooms, or both need an overhaul? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!
We just got back from a two week stay at Boardwalk! They redid the concrete outside of Abracadbar and I believe were doing the same just to the left of Boardwalk Ice Cream. I am so devastated to see ESPN CLUB go. I have so many memories of chowing down on the massive hot dog or sharing a SuprBowl sundae with my family, as well as meeting amazing athletes and even seeing Drew Carey there in 2000 watching the Browns. Got his autograph and talked with him for about fifteen minutes, it was surreal as a 14 year old. Excited to see new energy coming to the Boardwalk though. We absolutely adore this resort and do everything we can to stay there on every trip we take. The cast members are amazing (shout out to Al and Laura in bellhop and at the front desk).
Absolutely love reading your blog Tom. We look for you every time we are down there from the Northeast hoping to see you with your camera. Keep doing the amazing work and reporting that you do!!!
They need to add a decent counter service spot. Husband and I just went for an overnight at the Vero Beach DVC after a week at Polynesian. Since we last stayed they added a wonderful counter restaurant… Such an improvement as the resort isn’t in a town. They had so much to choose from and we said over and over again “Why aren’t ALL Mickey’s counter service places like this?” The menu had Sandwiches, salads, burgers, personal pizzas, hot dogs, packaged goods, Dole Whip from a soft serve machine and bakery items. We realized that a good counter service spot is really a godsend when you’re too tired or lazy to go anywhere. It’s a wonderful amenity.
DVB counter service is just so so…what I really miss is the Orchard Island Pizza Meryl steps from the resort…better pizza than Disney!
Here’s the real question: what’s going to happen to the nanny chairs? I’m not sure if I’m hoping they stay or go.
Hi, we stay at Yacht Club every year and I was thinking of booking Boardwalk for summer 2023, for a change. I am wondering if the construction projects will interfere….
The BoardWalk has always been my favorite Disney resort. It’s very quaint. I also love the new changes that are going on with the common restaurant areas. But…will non-resort guests be able to visit, enjoy these new amenities and spend money? It seems that getting into Disney Resorts now without a reservation is impossible. I get the third degree at the security gate when I just want to spend money in their stores, restaurants, or just browse holiday decor. And what if I want to dine in a restaurant that’s not full service?
Been a DVC member since 1998 with Boardwalk out home. We loved ESPN as an easy place to go to who catered to the kids and where we could watch sports and get out of the crowd. It was a great change in pace and being located there was very convenient. I agree that Big River should’ve taken the hit before ESPN. The Boardwalk lobby is iconic and while some of the furniture can be updated and brighter the rest should stay as is. I hope they don’t change the boardwalk itself too much and lose its theme.
We love the Boardwalk. I do look forward to the deli. We’ve watched from our balcony the never ending stream at the pizza window and the beer stand. It’s a no-brainer for more boardwalk type of food and treats.
I’m with everyone else. What is there to change in the lobby? Nothing.
My big fear is changes to Belle Vue lounge, one of our favorite spots in all of WDW. I will be heartbroken if this ends up as some modern coffee bar lounge.
Question for the board, where else could they locate the coffee bar?
I spoke to the front desk staff on Thursday when I was there and they told me the concierge counter (across from Dundees Sundries) that hasn’t been used in years is the place the coffee bar will be installed. It makes sense. A lot of unused space.
I feel about GF’s looming lobby overhaul/desecration the way you do about Boardwalk’s…fingers crossed they’ll both end up better than feared.
I like the Boardwalk lobby a lot too, and definitely agree with you that the lobby that truly needs an overhaul is the Contemporary’s.
Sorry not the Contemporary’s lobby, meant the Grand Concourse
I have been a DVC member since 2000 and Boardwalk is my home resort. Just left there two days ago. I’m happy ESPN club will be changed for a new dining venue. It was a nice idea but I really only ate there twice in a 20 years so I can’t be too sad. The Bakery also needs a change. I found the options lacking most of the time so I’m interested in this update. The rooms need a change too. However, I can only speak to the Villas which are DVC (and likely not in the refurb) With their last refurbishment any true themeing was removed and I find them WAY too generic. What I love most about Disney is being transported to a different place and time. Please bring back in-depth themeing! However, I LOVE the lobby and Belle Vue lounge and choose to spend a lot of time in these areas during my visits. I really hopes the lobby keeps its strong turn of the century vibe. Don’t mess up these two areas Disney!
So when stuck on family Disney vacation, where can one go on Disney property to watch nfl on Sunday?
I watched football at the Crew’s Cup Lounge at Yacht Club once while staying at Beach Club. It’s funny because I found the Beach Club lounge/bar to be stuffy and the Yacht Club bar was loud and into football. Someone told me that it had to do maybe with the fact that Yacht is a convention resort, so they tend to get that type of crowd.
Rix Sports Bar at Coronado was also a great spot. Lots of TVs and the food is pretty good
I’m excited to hear of these changes, especially the demolition of the ESPN Club, a thematic monstrosity in both design and context. No issue with sports and bar food; just not in my face when I want to escape into another era.
And yes, by all means update the rooms but please leave the lobby alone. It may be my favorite space in all of Disney World. Every time I’m near Crescent Lake I make a pilgrimage to that cool, sun-splashed room, if only to sit for a time and hear the concierge greet guests with a genuine, “Welcome home.”
I’m happy for Boardwalk owners about this but selfishly annoyed for Boulder Ridge Villa owners still waiting on the delayed, much needed refurb!!
Unless I missed something, it doesn’t appear that the BoardWalk Villas are included in the overhaul. They very well might be, but I don’t think Disney has ever indicated that definitively.
I’ve asked multiple people about the Boulder Ridge refurb, and it’s supposedly still on track. As for a timeline, the best I can get is “soon.” I truly don’t know what the holdup is–to my knowledge, they settled on a room design almost 2 years ago.
Sorry Tom, you are right, I just meant the updates and construction in general going on at Boardwalk versus nothing at Boulder Ridge. Thanks for sharing what you’ve heard, that is good to know it’s on track!!
Very nice and interesting report, enjoyed.
Hopefully they will assign someone to walk the boardwalk at sunrise every morning and pound down the nails and screw down the screws that I always seem to notice that stick up to grab an unsuspecting shoe.
Boardwalk is our DVC home resort. I enjoyed ESPN Club but it is time for a change. The Cake Bake Shop should be a nice fit here and re-theming the current bakery to a deli sounds promising. I enjoy Big River’s beers and outdoor seating although the food menu is pretty tired and quality is average at best. I agree about the lobby. I still love its current state and hope for minor changes. Overall we’re happy to see refreshed areas and empty spaces disappear.
A DELI is an EXCELLENT idea ! visiting from New York it will be nice to get some good comfort food.
Thanks for the Ample Hills link – very interesting reading! And hopefully Smith and Cuscuna learn from it and can have a successful new venture.
We have stayed at the boardwalk many times and I have always been disappointed in the Bakery. We had friends with us and she wanted to go, and just like me found nothing to buy that morning. I took her to France in Epcot and she said YES this is what I was looking for!
Really hope they improve the selection at the Boardwalk Bakery – Chocolate Croissants!!!
We love the BoatdWalk Inn & their one-bedroom suites. I enjoy most of the lobby there. Are me question, though. Are the creepy chairs still in the lobby? Those can go at anytime!
I have never stayed at Boardwalk, but I visited many times. I enjoy the lobby and the theming of the resort.
Like yourself as a kind in the 90s, I have fond memories of ESPN Club when I was a huge sports fan and loved SportsCenter. Now that my sports and SportsCenter fandom has subsided, I am not sad to see it closed. Hopefully, they will be replaced with something original or highly themed restaurant or experience similar to 50s Cafe, Ohana, Whispering Canyon, or Hoop-Dee-Doo-Revue.
We have been DVC member since ‘98. Our home resort is Boardwalk. We had points that needed to be used so we are going in September to Riviera. I hear it’s beautiful but to be honest a bit disappointed that we couldn’t get our HOME resort. I hope whatever renovations they have planned will not destroy the ambiance that we have been enjoying and coming home to. We will stop by the Boardwalk lobby during this visit to see it probably one last time before construction. Thanks for all the info.