It’s time for yet another Walt Disney World closure & reopening news roundup. This time we’ll cover a wide range of topics, from June reservation cancellations to specific health safety measures agreed upon by WDW and its unions to sporting events and more.
The good news is that some of this is a change of pace. It includes what’s up with the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon, the potential for future major events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, and more. There have been a lot of rumors about the latter, and we’re finally going to discuss those since they’re fascinating and fun.
The bad news is that there’s more same old, same old. This includes Walt Disney World starting to cancel June reservations and more discussion of health safety measures. We had hoped to limit this type of roundup post to once per week, but a lot has happened in the last couple of days (and it wouldn’t surprise us if Disney does another late Friday news dump given that Disney Springs reopens next week).
Let’s starting with sports. Per the Athletic, Major League Soccer’s plan to return to play is coming together, with the league having recently distributed a proposal to plays and clubs that would entail a summer tournament in Florida involving all 26 teams. The proposal calls for players and coaches to head to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World to begin training on June 1, with the tournament set to begin on June 22, 2020.
This is far from the first rumor about a professional sports league playing out its season at the “bubble complex” of ESPN Wide World of Sports. What seemingly started as a theoretical idea for the NBA by one sports journalist is now something being reported by Disney-owned ESPN and has been greeted with enthusiasm by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Personally, I’ve found this saga incredibly fascinating, but I’m not sure how much Walt Disney World fans care about this (if there is interest, let me know–I’ll consider covering it).
It’s clearly a popular time for sporting events at Walt Disney World, as next year’s Marathon Weekend events (set for January 6-10, 2021) sold out in record time. Pre-registration took place last week for Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Golden Oak Residents and many on social media reported difficulties booking because options were gone so quickly.
This week, general public registration began for the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and all of the events similarly sold out in under 30 minutes. Much less, in some cases. In years past, registration for runDisney events moved fast…but I don’t recall anything like this recently as prices have skyrocketed and popularity has waned.
There are a couple of possibilities here. One is a mix of pent-up demand and this hitting the sweet spot of exactly what people are daydreaming of doing. While stuck sitting at home, the prospect of participating in an outdoor recreational activities at Walt Disney World sounds delightful.
The other is that runDisney significantly capped attendance as a preliminary measure, as they’re unsure what runner-spacing requirements might be necessary in January if social distancing requirements are ongoing (which seems like a safe bet). It’s easier to cap numbers now and release more bibs later than to deal with the backlash of arbitrarily cancelling some registrations. (I’d bet on this possibility, but I’m perhaps overly bearish on the true extent of pent-up demand.)
Next, the first week of June 2020 is now officially out of the question for a reopening of Walt Disney World’s parks and resorts. Disney has removed theme park hours between now and June 6, 2020. Additionally, cancellation emails have gone out to those with vacation arrival dates between June 1 and 6, 2020.
Week by week rolling cancellations has been Walt Disney World’s standard practice (save for Disney Vacation Club reservations, in our experience). As with all email notifications from Walt Disney World, it’s entirely possible not everyone impacted received one–either check your spam folder or attempt to view the reservation directly on My Disney Experience if you didn’t get an email but should have.
This squares with Walt Disney World Delaying New Reservations Until July 1, 2020. At this point, it seems like any of the parks or resorts being operational in late June is a long shot. July is more reasonable, but potentially still overly optimistic in light of Disney’s recent comments at the Orange County Task Force meeting.
One big blow here is that Walt Disney World ended its Free Dining Summer Recovery Deal early. Many guests have already learned this while attempting to rebook, which is frustrating (to put it mildly). We speculate as to the reasons for this in our update to that post, but the bottom line is that we remain optimistic about future discounts once Disney has solidified operational plans and logistics. While there is pent-up demand, there are also lags between booking and traveling, plus economic realities. (As we’ve said before, locals aren’t booking hotel rooms in huge numbers.)
Regardless of when the parks and resorts do reopen, we should have an idea a couple weeks in advance. Supplies will need to be ordered, infrastructure adjusted, and Cast Members will be called back to work (you can’t notify tens of thousands of people of something and have it remain a closely-guarded secret).
Suffice to say, there’s a lot of groundwork that will need to be laid, it’s not like flipping a switch. On the plus side, that’s starting to happen with Walt Disney World and its unions…
Last up is the agreements between Walt Disney World and its unions, which offer a sneak peek into the health safety measures and policies that will be implemented once things start to reopen. Most of this is unsurprising given the recent comments of both Chairman Bob Iger and CEO Bob Chapek, but those were crouched with “likely” and other ambiguity.
A statement from Unite Here Central Florida (corroborated to the Orlando Sentinel by another union), offers new details and confirms what was previously floated by those executives. First, Cast Members who get sick will receive guaranteed paid time-off to quarantine. (We would expect this to be extended to non-union Cast Members, as well.)
Second, Cast Members will be trained on how to conduct self-assessments of symptoms at home–anyone with symptoms can call in sick without violating the attendance policy. Walt Disney World will provide a thermometer to any Cast Members who request one. In addition to multiple levels of health safety training before returning to work, Cast Members will be involved with monthly safety meetings to discuss the evolving situation.
Third, safeguards will include social distancing practices, installation of plastic barriers at all cash registers, touchless transactions at cash registers, high traffic areas will be cleaned more regularly, and additional hand-washing stations are being installed, and guest temperature checks.
Finally, three washable face masks will be provided to each Cast Member. These will be required for all guests and Cast Members. Most of these practices are consistent with what was previously intimated by Disney officials, and are consistent with the policies implemented by Universal for its reopening of CityWalk.
With this information leaking out to the press via unions, we would expect an official announcement directly from Walt Disney World after the close of business today. Such an announcement, if one happens, will likely only address Disney Springs at this point. However, it’s our understanding that the agreement reached with the union covers everywhere at Walt Disney World. If there’s anything new to report in terms of safety procedures at the theme parks or resorts, we’ll follow-up.
These formal agreements between Disney and unions are significant as they set standards for Cast Member safety that cannot be unilaterally undone or changed. That should put to rest the back and forth arguments among Walt Disney World fans about all of this. (Naivety or wishful thinking on my part? Perhaps!) This is going to be the temporary abnormal for some period of time while things get back to the long-term normal at Walt Disney World.
You now can vote with your wallet one way or the other, or perhaps contact Walt Disney World directly (although that is an exercise in futility at this point). Quarreling with fellow fans about this in the comments section of a Disney blog is now about as effective as shaking your fist at a cloud. If you’re inclined to do the former, please do the latter instead. (Just be sure to observe proper social distancing practices if you go outside to shake your fist!) All jokes aside, we appreciate everyone who has been reading these updates, and especially those who have shared their opinions–whatever those might be–in a respectful and courteous manner. By and large, you’ve all been great!
What do you think of this news? Did you receive a June cancellation email from Walt Disney World? Successfully register for the 2021 Marathon Weekend races? Intrigued by pro leagues potentially coming to ESPN Wide World of Sports? We welcome a variety of viewpoints here, and will never delete anything on opinion alone. However, we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Don’t ruin a 95% fine comment with an unnecessary cheap shot–that 5% will get it deleted. Please do not incessantly harp on the same point. Say your piece and move along.