Saratoga Springs Project Problems & Progress

Saratoga Springs Resort is undergoing a 2-year construction project to refurbish building exteriors and reimagine guest rooms. In this post, we’ll share photos, an updated 2021 timeline, and thoughts on how this will impact stays at Walt Disney World’s largest DVC resort.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since we last checked in on construction at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and offered an update. Back in January, we did a stay and won the Walt Disney World lottery…twice! Not only were we put in a newly-reimagined room but we were also upgraded from a studio to a one-bedroom unit.

If you’re simply interested in the reimagined rooms, see our Splendid Stay at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, which features photos & video of the new rooms. Suffice to say, we’re big fans. It’s rare for a resort to get better with age, but we think Saratoga Springs is a more attractive property than when we joined DVC over a decade ago…

This marks Saratoga Springs Resort’s first hard goods refurbishment since it opened in phases from 2004 to 2007. In the most extreme cases, such as Congress Park, that means the resort rooms haven’t seen this type of work in just over 15 years.

Fortunately, Congress Park is now finished with the refurbishment, so those preferred buildings with the best location–an incredibly convenient walk to Disney Springs–are now finished.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the layout of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, above is a map to familiarize you with what we’ll be looking at in this post. The buildings that are pictured here are those in the Paddock, which is the green section–above the red Congress Park buildings.

This project began last June and at the time was projected to last nearly 2 full years, meaning it would be finished before Summer 2021. However, the best laid plans of the Mouse and men often go awry…

First came the closure of Walt Disney World, and subsequent pausing of virtually every construction project–including the overhaul of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.

That pushed back the timeline by at least a few months, making the completion of the Saratoga Springs in only 2 calendar years from start to finish optimistic or ambitious.

Next came litigation. A fire code violation found at the resort caused major construction delays and spiked costs during what was expected to be a $48 million renovation.

According to a lawsuit that depicts a legal fight between Disney Vacation Club and Validus Construction Services, per the Orlando Sentinel.

The owner of that construction company also accused Disney’s construction team of making misogynistic comments and belittling her with memes and messages. The lawsuit further alleged that during the closure, Disney terminated the Validus contract without cause.

While the litigation has not been resolved, Disney Vacation Club has begun working with a new general contractor (previously a subcontractor on the job) to finish the project for $13 million more than Validus’ original deal. With that, work resumed over the summer.

It’s unclear how all of that will impact the timeline of the construction to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, but work has progressed at a relatively brisk pace since Walt Disney World reopened.

As of the beginning of this year (late January or early February), work had finished in Congress Park and those buildings had totally reopened, with crews moving on to the Springs (in purple above). The Springs was in the process of refurbishment when the closure occurred.

By early fall, work in the Springs had been completed, meaning that booking a preferred category room at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa guaranteed a new room.

At that point, construction crews bounced across the pond, commencing work in the Paddock. Before, the refurbishment was taking two buildings out of commission at a time, with exterior work being done on buildings that were still open.

Construction has now moved to the Paddock, with buildings 6101-6436 and 6501-6936 all having crews working on their interiors and exteriors. Work seems to be moving at a faster pace this fall than last summer through winter. Our assumption is that the pace has picked up on the construction because the refurbishment fell behind schedule and lower occupancy is allowing it.

Even with all of the aforementioned delays, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Saratoga Springs Resort refurbishment project is finished by Summer 2021. At the current rate, we’d be surprised if it’s not done by the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021.

As of right now, the Paddock buildings 4501-4836, 5101-5436 and 5501-5836 are now totally finished and reopened to guests. This also means there are a limited number of reimagined standard rooms available if you’ve booked that and want to place a room request.

These are located to the left of the Paddock Pool if you’re crossing the bridge from the main lobby area of the resort.

Speaking of which, Walt Disney World has announced on the official website that the Paddock Pool waterslide will close for refurbishment beginning this winter. As part of this work, the bridge connecting The Paddock to other resort areas will also temporarily close.

Guests can board the resort shuttle or follow posted signage for alternative routes around the lake while the bridge is under refurbishment. The Paddock Pool will remain open through the majority of this work. Additionally, guests can enjoy the High Rocks Spring feature pool and waterslide, as well as two leisure pools at Saratoga Springs Resort.

To each their own, but I would not want to stay in the buildings adjacent to the Paddock Pool while this bridge is closed. It’s a long hike around the water to access the lobby, restaurants, and main pool.

With that said, once work is done on the Paddock’s two buildings closest to Congress Park, we think those are “sleeper picks” for the best rooms at Saratoga Springs–convenient access to the core of the resort and an easy walk to Disney Springs.

Above is a closer look at the building interiors.

As you might be able to see, the windows are tagged in the two Paddock buildings that are actively under construction. They’ve all been gutted and there’s equipment inside some of them.

There are currently about a dozen lifts, closed parking, and dozens of construction workers in the Paddock as they work on the interiors and exteriors of these three buildings that are currently gutted. The waterfront walkway remains open, meaning there’s still access to the Paddock Pool and Disney Springs without taking the long route around.

Based upon what we observed, we’d expect building 6101-6436 to reopen by early January 2021. Building 6501-6836 is a bit further behind, but should be done later in the month, or by early February 2021. It would appear that the Carousel is next up, with staging starting in the parking lot of building 7501-7836.

While we did not do a stay at Saratoga Springs Resort for this construction update, our past experience was that there was minimal impact–and that was when we were staying adjacent to a building that was actively under construction. Right now, the construction is separated from guest-occupied buildings by bodies of water.

Moreover, the closed paths and parking area are around buildings that are closed, so these won’t impact you. Noise is minimal, and there are no large walls or heavy machinery outside of the construction area. The main paths connecting various sections of the resort to one another and to Disney Springs are all open. We would not hesitate to stay at Saratoga Springs Resort right now, and will probably do exactly that during the 2021 low season.

On a semi-related note, it was yet another great visit to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Even though this was during the end of December, it looked and felt like fall–a season that doesn’t “exist” in Florida. This is our home resort, and we bought into DVC here because of the strategic advantage and value SSR provided–but strongly disliked the property itself. (Conventional wisdom says “buy where you want to stay” but we ignored that.)

We ended up getting really lucky, because Saratoga Springs itself has improved considerably during that time with a variety of resort-wide improvements and now these excellent new rooms. More significantly, the transformation from Downtown Disney and a dead Pleasure Island to Disney Springs happened, reinvigorating that area. Most Walt Disney World resorts have their thematic integrity or allure erode over time–but Saratoga Springs Resort has aged like a fine wine! We can’t wait to see what else the future holds for this hotel, and we’ll keep you posted with periodic updates on this construction at Saratoga Springs!

Thinking about joining DVC? First be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge. If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” and rent points from DVC Rental Store. If you are convinced a membership is for you, check out the discounted options at DVC Resale Market. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.

YOUR THOUGHTS

Are you looking forward to the room renovations at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa? Will these new rooms plus easy access to Disney Springs make the Springs, Paddock, or Congress Park more appealing to you? Do you agree (or disagree) that, unlike many other Walt Disney World resorts, Saratoga Springs has gotten better with age? Any additional insight into the construction? If you’re an owner at Saratoga, what do you think of the property? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!

34 Responses to “Saratoga Springs Project Problems & Progress”
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