The title says it all, so let’s get right to it! Rumors of a 5th park at Walt Disney World are back and better than ever with a recent land purchase by Walt Disney World. On December 18, 2018, we discovered Disney bought 965 acres of land about 10 miles southeast of Walt Disney World, right next to their “planned community of tomorrow” Celebration, FL not EPCOT (see what we did there?). The land previously known as B.K. Ranch was purchased for $23 million. When the deal was finalized on that fine December day, Disney didn’t make any comment on the future use of the land. In the DVC Duo house, we did some digging for information and have a few ideas on how Walt Disney World will use the additional acreage. Grab a shovel and as Governor Ratcliffe would say, dig! And dig! And dig! into the rumors around a 5th park at Walt Disney World.
A Little Disney History
The date is May 27, 1965. On this infamous date Walt Disney purchased 47 square miles (about 30,000 acres) of land in central Florida and we know the rest, it’s history as they would say. The interesting tidbit is the majority of the land purchased was considered “swap land”. For Walt to develop on the land, Imagineering had to develop over 55 miles of canals and lakes to handle drainage. The water levels are automatically managed by a mechanism that is about the size of NYC, #maintenancefree. To date, Walt Disney World has developed only about 7,100 acres of land for the resorts and theme parks. The largest theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, uses 580 acres.
In addition to the developed area, 7,500 acres of land has been set aside for conservation. Walt Disney believed in preserving the cypress trees and creating an area for the natural inhabitants to live. It was the first thing Walt did after the purchase was finalized.
All and in all, about half of the land remains “available” to be developed.
What to do with all the land? Now that Walt Disney World owns another 965 acres of real estate in Florida is easy to assume that they will use it to expand the parks. We’re thinking the same thing, but maybe in a totally different way. If we look where the land is located, it’s 10 miles from the center of Walt Disney World, which would be at least a 20 to 25-minute bus ride on a good day. We’re thinking that is way too far for another park, but it doesn’t mean the land wasn’t purchased for expansion.
We believe the land was purchased to use for reallocation of non-guest facilities and buildings. Basically, a place to store machinery, supplies, and items that would be deemed eyesores for guests. By moving these facilities further away from Walt Disney World, it would create more usable land within the given footprint. Maybe for a 5th park at Walt Disney World or other types of expansion? Hmm, so many options!
Is Expansion Needed?
The simple answer – yes, please. With crowd levels reaching all-time highs and expected to grow even more with the addition of Star Wars Galaxy Edge, further expansion is definitely needed to handle all the new guests. Additionally, if we look at the footprint of theme park attractions in recent years they are taking up more land than ever before. For example, Pandora World of Avatar is about the same size as Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. Pandora has two attractions, and Tomorrowland has 7, well 8 when Ralph settles in. It’s a major shift in theme park design that has had an even larger impact on crowds, as there are less attractions to entertain everyone.
Our gut reaction is, “we need a 5th park at Walt Disney World!” We would love a 5th park, but unfortunately, it would take much longer to design, and build a new park compared to expanding the current 4 parks. We bet you can figure out where we’re going with this!
The DVC Duo is guessing the new land will be used to move facilities away from the 4 current parks to allow for further expansion. We already know that all of the parks have room for additional attractions (expansion pads) to be added without the removal of any current attractions. Here’s the list of known expansion pads:
- Magic Kingdom – Adventureland – Behind Jungle Cruise
- Epcot – World Showcase – Minimum of 5 Additional Countries
- Epcot – Future World – Between the Land and Living Seas
- Hollywood Studios – Behind Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Hollywood Studios – 3rd Attraction/Restaurant in Toy Story Land
- Animal Kingdom – Pandora – 3rd Attraction
- Animal Kingdom – Conservation Station Area
- Animal Kingdom – Africa attraction
Outside of the expansion pads, we’ve heard many rumors of Walt Disney World updating the Indiana Jones and the potential addition of a Monster’s Inc Land (Monstropolis) at Hollywood Studios and the potential updates to DinoLand at the Animal Kingdom. Expansion within these areas, combined with updates to the existing lands would make sense before building a 5th park at Walt Disney World. Plus there are only so many construction companies available. Should we grab a hardhat and help out?
What About a 5th Park at Walt Disney World?
We believe one is on the horizon, but a little further away than we may think. Leading up to the 50th anniversary it is safe to assume we won’t hear anything about a 5th park at Walt Disney World. Looking at the timelines we would project any type of announcement happening at the bi-annual D23 event in 2021, during the 50th anniversary. Once announced would we expect a new park to take around 3 to 4 years, as Disney’s Animal Kingdom took about 3 years to build phase 1 (Africa, DinoLand, Camp Minnie and Mickey, and Discovery Island).
All of this could change very quickly if Universal Studios makes the announcement we all know they’re waiting to make, the addition of the Fantastic Worlds theme park to Universal Orlando. It could expedite everything depending on Universal’s timeline. The rumor is Universal is sitting on this announcement while they wait for the right moment to capture the spotlight from Walt Disney World. Hmm, maybe just before the 50th anniversary? It could be sooner, and if so, we should expect some type of hint or announcement from Disney at that time. Just like when Universal announced it’s first Orlando park and Disney followed up with MGM Studios!
Any time Disney buys more land in Florida or anywhere in the world, it is a good thing for Disneyphiles. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we get both expansion at the current parks and a 5th park at Walt Disney World! Maybe even at the same time, magical dreams!