Walt Disney World good to go for major expansion

June 13, 2024, 11:00 PM · The Walt Disney World Resort has gotten final legal approval to go ahead with $17 billion in expansion plans over the next two decades.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has approved a development deal with Disney that will guide additions and expansions at the resort over the next 20 years. In return, Disney has committed to spending $17 billion on development at Walt Disney World during that period.

The deal was made possible after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped his campaign for the Republic nomination for U.S. President and realized that he nothing to gain and everything to lose if Disney won its appeal over its corporate free speech rights. An appellate court ruling against corporate free speech could endanger legal precedent that is now allowing basically unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns, which favors Republicans. At the same time, Disney had no interest in spending years litigating a case that ultimately could limit its ability to make contributions and lobby for what it wants, too.

So the two sides settled earlier this year, with DeSantis making some changes in the administration of the district to make it more Disney-friendly. And now the district has agreed to let Disney do what it wants at the resort. Ultimately, we are back at the Reedy Creek Improvement District under a new name, but with the governor appointing the board members that Disney wants rather than Disney having to go through the motions of having a few handpicked executives register to vote in the district in order to conduct an "election" for those seats.

It's been widely reported that the now-approved development deal allows Disney to build a fifth major theme park and two minor parks at the resort, in addition to expanding hotel and retail space. Disney also must contract at least 50% of construction work to Florida-based companies and spend at least $10 million on affordable housing projects.

Keep in mind that the new park developments are simply legal approval that allows Disney add those gates. It does not commit Disney to building them. Fans will need to keep waiting for an announcement from Disney - or a leak of construction bids going out - to learn if and when and where a fifth park might be coming to the resort.

In the meantime, we got a filing today detailing the next development change at Walt Disney World. And this one makes me especially happy that I got an opportunity finally to conquer the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade, because Disney officially killed it today. Disney filed a notice of commencement for construction to convert that space to a "pioneer-inspired" DVC member lounge.

And in more Orlando-area theme park development news, Universal Orlando has gotten approval from Orange County to expand development space on its new south campus - the home of Epic Universe - by more than 1,000 acres.

* * *
To keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive