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.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

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!

35 Responses to “BoardWalk’s Reimagining Begins: Changes & Construction”
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