Report: Walt Disney World to halt construction projects

March 17, 2020, 12:06 PM · Our friend Richard Bilbao at the Orlando Business Journal is reporting that Walt Disney World is shutting down all current construction projects in an effort to comply with the new federal recommendation barring gatherings of more than 10 people.

The Journal quoted the president and CEO of the Central Florida chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors as the source for its story. The source said that he expects other construction projects in the area to close soon, too.

I have reached out to some of my sources in the Central Florida construction community for their perspective.

One of the silver linings that fans were looking to when the parks announced their closures was that having guests off property would allow the parks to accelerate their construction and refurbishment projects. At Disney, one of its most visible current projects has been the repainting of Cinderella Castle, which seemed to be moving briskly toward conclusion. But the big work is over at Epcot, where the whole front half of the park has become a maze of construction walls, as Disney works on the transformation of the Future World section of that park, including a Play Pavilion in the old Wonders of Life space and a new Guardians of the Galaxy-themed "story coaster" in the former Universe of Energy pavilion.

But the biggest project in town is Universal's next gate, the Epic Universe theme park under development near the Orange County Convention Center. Epic Universe was mostly still site prep rather than vertical construction, but that's still essential work in a construction project.

If construction pauses, obviously that could push back the estimated completion for works in progress. Disney's been coy about announcing opening dates for its Epcot projects, but Universal had announced a 2023 opening for Epic Universe. Again, it all comes down to how long shutdowns last. If it's eight weeks - using the CDC recommendation from last week - a project slated to open in three years has more of a chance of making up that time than a project schedule to open next summer. But if delays last longer than that, even a project that's supposed to be completed three years or more down the road might not be able to meet that deadline.

If Disney applies the same standard to California, that obviously endangers Disneyland's announced July opening for its Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure, as well as potentially its planned 2022 opening for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway in Disneyland's Toontown.

Replies (7)

March 17, 2020 at 1:45 PM

Any thoughts on whether the Spaceship Earth reno is likely to be scrapped? I figure they’re going to have to cut the expenses big time after this.

March 17, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Will this affect Avengers Campus?

March 17, 2020 at 4:24 PM

All of this is fine. As much as we crave new content, nothing is more important than safety and health. I saw this today and felt it was especially timely with what's going on these days:
“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.”

– Chinese Proverb

March 17, 2020 at 4:27 PM

@timbo23: If Disney applies the same standard to California, that obviously endangers Disneyland's announced July opening for its Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure.

I know it can be difficult to read entire articles. ;)

March 17, 2020 at 11:01 PM

If there is someone who has actually participated in theme park construction, I will defer. But, failing that. I don't think it's the 10 person rule. In my observation of commercial construction projects, It seems like it would not be that difficult to avoid being 6 feet from each other and do the work. It's a matter of no theme park revenue coming in for some time. Even since the 80's, Disney has remained more conservative than other corporations in borrowing money. We are going to get a projected u.s. parks opening date of approx July 15, 2020. Mark this prediction.

March 18, 2020 at 2:26 PM

@davedisney ... your opinion is way off and made from unfamiliarity of the subject. I was on numerous construction sites at Disneyland in the past. I have spent more than 25 years in the architecture and construction fields. I regularly make site visits and interact with the construction crews. The different phases of construction have varied amounts of people working, touching materials, and interacting. Not to mention all the surfaces and materials that are touched by all these people at different times. I am not surprise at all they are halting construction out of an abundance of caution and at the direction of the government recommendations. Disneyland but all their construction on hiatus as of March 16.

I am also not so sure your opinion about Disney being conservative about spending and borrowing is accurate. Prior to Eisner (death of Walt to Eisner [84]), Disney was well know for paying for movies as they made them etc. Under Eisner, and to protect the company from hostile raiders, Disney took on a lot of debt. I am sure revenue is a great concern, as it should be, for many companies, including Disney.

March 19, 2020 at 11:07 AM

Really more concerned with them opening this year again

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