We’re back with another Walt Disney World news & rumor roundup! In this post, we’ll share tidbits we’ve gleaned from reopening, new permits being filed for Star Wars & Toy Story Land projects, the Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom walkway, NBA bubble life, and more!
Let’s start with the NBA. The topic many of you love to hate for reasons that are still unbeknownst to me–even after we’ve learned that the league is spending $150 million to be at Walt Disney World, that there will be colossal benefits for Disney in airing coverage on ABC and ESPN, and that occupancy at the other resorts that Disney has opened to guests has been abysmal. Basically, the MLS and NBA bubble have been the lone bright spots for Disney thus far in all of this. But I digress.
As it turns out, the social media accounts of NBA players and league reporters have been another bright spot. Now, I’m not into reality television, but I’ve become absolutely addicted to the @NBABubbleLife account on Twitter. The adventures, shenanigans, and amount of fishing on Bay Lake is absolutely wild. Many of these players are enjoying the Vacation Kingdom of the World in ways that many of us longtime fans never have. It’s endlessly entertaining and I highly recommend checking out the account. I truly hope Disney and ESPN have documentarians chronicling life inside the bubble…
Next up, the Grand Floridian walkway to Magic Kingdom. It’s been over one full year since Walt Disney World revealed plans to build this walkway that would connect the Transportation & Ticket Center, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian Resort to Magic Kingdom.
Several of you have asked about this in the comments of recent park reports, and I’m happy to report that construction has once again resumed on the walkway.
You’ll have to excuse the quality of these photos as they were taken from the ferry to Magic Kingdom–and I didn’t bring my telephoto lens.
If you squint really hard at the above shot, you should be able to see 4 construction workers (in orange) plus their vehicles near the cleared area (between the other ferry and monorail). The below image shows other construction, plus where this path will connect at Magic Kingdom.
A lot of this entrance area is now finished, but it appears that considerable work remains to be done on the path itself. My hope at this point is that the pathway is done by late fall. The weather would probably be too miserable to use this path before October, and that seems like a reasonable timeline given the present status of construction.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to make it over to Grand Floridian (or I’ll bring a better lens to the TTC/Magic Kingdom next time) for a better look at this.
Moving along, Walt Disney World and Walt Disney Imagineering have started to file more construction permits and notices of commencement over the last few days. Most are uninteresting (relating to minor DVC things or work on existing resorts) and pale in comparison to the pre-closure permit flow, but there are a couple of interesting ones.
There are also a lot of construction liens being filed by various contractors and subcontractors working on projects around Walt Disney World (here’s one such example). This is happening throughout the themed entertainment and amusement park industries (Orlando Sentinel reports vendors have filed 56 liens totaling ~$16 million against SeaWorld during the closure), so it’s not surprising to see the same happening with Disney.
The filing of these liens itself is not cause for alarm, and they do not mean any of the park operators are teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy. (It could mean that down the road with some of these parks, especially the regional ones.) It also doesn’t mean there’s animosity between the construction companies and the parks, or even a heated dispute.
Rather, it’s about contractors safeguarding their interests and prioritizing potential claims when cognizant that there’s a recession. It’s a practice that often increases when there’s a possible slowdown in cash flow or funding for projects. For contractors, it’s about erring on the side of caution. In other words, don’t worry about or read too much into all of these liens–yet.
In positive news–assuming you’re excited for additions to Toy Story Land–Walt Disney Imagineering filed this permit for “Support Structure Installation” for 555 Stage Lane at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is almost certainly for Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant.
In case you forgot, Roundup BBQ Restaurant is Toy Story Land’s new table service restaurant. The premise is that Andy has cut and taped three cardboard boxes together to create a new rodeo arena using some of his favorite toys, games, and play sets. Once inside, guests will be surrounded by all of the rodeo festivities in-action as well as western town and train station play sets.
As you might recall, All Construction Stopped at Walt Disney World during the closure of Walt Disney World. While progress has since started to resume on major projects that are nearing completion, Toy Story Land’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant is not one of those projects (which we know from aerial photos courtesy of @bioreconstruct).
Nevertheless, Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant is one of the projects we expected would be finished, even before this permit. While construction on the new dining spot wasn’t beyond the point of potential abandonment, all indications are that this is a pretty cheaply-done addition and one that’s necessary in a land that’s otherwise devoid of shade and air-conditioning.
It’s likely Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant will be bumped from its previously-announced 2020 opening into 2021, but it seems unlikely to be cancelled. We’d caution against getting too excited about this–even before, it didn’t sound like an exemplar of ambitiousness. That’s likely to be doubly true as Disney tightens the purse strings on existing projects.
Walt Disney Imagineering also filed this permit for “Project H – Installation of Show Set Elements” by the contractor Themeworks, Inc. for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort.
As with Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant, no visible progress has been observed on the Halcyon Hotel, which was previously slated to debut sometime in 2021.
A couple of months ago, we shared an update to our Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort: Opening, Hotel Reservations & Pricing Info speculating on the future prospects of this project. That’s pretty comprehensive, so check it out if you’re interested in our perspective.
Not much has changed since then, save for increased recommendations by public health experts to avoid enclosed indoor spaces. Our expectation is that this advice is amplified in the next year, not reduced. That probably does not bode well for a windowless hotel that operates like a cruise ship.
Beyond that, circumstances are pretty much unchanged. It’s unlikely that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort will be cancelled entirely. So much has already been spent on research & development, the hotel does hold a lot of promise, and it has relatively few rooms to fill.
However, Disney is going to have a difficult time launching this product as announced in the midst of a recession. This means that either cutbacks to its ambitiousness or delays are inevitable (or both). The extent to which either or both of these things occur really depends upon viability.
Our guess is that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort launches in 2022 or 2023 with a partially-diluted live action role-playing game experience, but still most of its high-tech features. That’s entirely speculative based on current and anticipated real world circumstances. This hotel getting the Pop Century: Legendary Years treatment isn’t out of the question if the situation dramatically deteriorates.
Ultimately, these new permits are interesting and give us some optimism about upcoming additions to Walt Disney World (at least to some degree–hard to ignore the elephant in the room completely). Speculating about Walt Disney World’s future is fun and a welcome change of pace. However, we’d still encourage reduced expectations, as even the filing of new construction permits doesn’t mean that Walt Disney World or Imagineering are powering full steam ahead on existing projects. A lot will definitely resume, but other announced and unannounced projects will be postponed, reduced in scale, or cancelled outright at Walt Disney World.
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!
What do you think of these construction permits? Excited about Toy Story Roundup BBQ Restaurant or Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort? Optimistic that these projects will come to fruition as announced, or think there will be delays, cutbacks, etc? Thoughts on the liens being filed against Disney? Have you been following the NBA Bubble ‘reality’ show on Twitter? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!