Wednesday, April 25, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 5 - The Disneyland Resort

For the last post on the Disneyland Resort, I will be focusing on the resort area as a whole.  Specifically, this post will discuss changes to parking, hotels, and use of the potential expansion pads that Disney has identified.

In reality, while new attractions and lands are the more exciting additions, these are the type of additions that Disneyland needs.  With the parks at near full build-out and given how frequently they are hitting an overwhelming capacity, infrastructure needs are the most pressing.  Particularly where to house people and where to park people.  The goal will be to accomplish these needs in the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing manner possible. 

To help envision the different steps, it's a good idea to have an overview of the resort as a whole.  This image below provides a good look at the current expansion plans (on the left of the image) and identified areas for future expansion (on the right).

Current Disneyland Resort Overview
The current parking structure (in green above) refers to the Mickey & Friends parking garage.  Seven stories, over 10,000 parking spaces, and a quarter of a mile long.  The yellow box indicates the newly announced parking garage that will be six stories and hold 6,500 cars.  Though these two structures will hold a large amount of cars, they reflect only a fraction of the parking needed for the entire resort.

Between the two garages and the hotel area (the red box above), Disney will convert this space into better utilized surface parking for the hotels.  Disney will also be building an additional parking garage for hotel parking behind the Paradise Pier hotel (the box in dark blue above) and repurposing a surface lot for Downtown Disney parking (the box in purple).

Both areas identified on the right of the image (the eastern gateway parking expansion in orange and the potential third park location in light blue) are designated for additional surface parking.  Blue is currently being used as "remote" parking and orange will be converted shortly.

Disney is currently maximizing all space it can on the west (left) side of the resort.  They are building garages which can be masked from the inside of the theme parks and are maintaining surface parking in the other locations.  The main issue for the future is what to do on the east side.

The current long range plan as it stands is to use the orange area above for a large parking garage.  Even just last year, the parking garage was moving forward on this side, adding a garage just slightly larger than the new one to be added on the west side.  The Eastern Gateway plan. This parking garage was desired because it would be between the Disneyland parks and the planned location for a third park.  In this location, it serves as a connector for both and could be used to divert traffic away from the already congested west side.

The Eastern Gateway plot
The hitch that is required to make this work is a bridge across Harbor Boulevard directly connecting the expansion plot to the entrance plaza.  Disney has two pieces of land that they could work from, the Carousel Inn land (the top red line) and the vacant strip (the bottom green line).  The plan was to use the Carousel Inn strip to build the bridge, connecting much closer to the current Harbor entrance.  The bridge would then become the only entrance on that side of the resort, with the security checkpoint back on the garage side of the bridge - meaning all of the hotels that fill the area above between the red and green boxes would now lose their front door entrance to Disneyland.  Between these unhappy hotel owners and a less than friendly city council, needless to say, Disney went back to the drawing board to devise the current west-side focused expansion.

To further complicate the issue, the land that Disney has earmarked for a future third park has problems of its own.  While the land is large enough, it is surrounded by some residential space including low-income housing.  This can severely limit some of the use of the space by Disney including night-time festivities (like fireworks) and attractions (sound shields on a roller coaster or space shot).   Further, the city of Anaheim has its own desires for the land as well.  Anaheim would like to expand Gene Autry way to connect it to Convention Way, fully connecting the Anaheim Convention Center with the Angels Stadium.  This route of course would completely bi-sect the planned resort.  I've indicated this in the image below.

Tough to have a theme park with a wide street in the middle of it
So with this, Disney has a problem.  The Eastern Gateway land is not large enough to build a full-scale theme park on by Disney standards, but could house a couple of lands or several attractions if space is well utilized.  The third park location is ideal in size, but problematic in terms of connection to the overall resort and the city's plans.

This previews a bit of my thoughts on general future expansion, but I do not feel that the Disneyland Resort needs a third theme park.  Given the land constraints, the logistics of connecting a third park with the rest of the resort, the feelings of the city of Anaheim and the difficulty in identifying a new unique theme, I would focus on other infrastructure and other compelling draws beyond a new theme park.  To that end, I would work with the city to offer them the land for the expansion of Gene Autry Way above, in exchange for the easements needed for bridges crossing Gene Autry, Katella, Disney Way, and Harbor (in yellow below).  In the planned third park area, I would build two large parking garages, one on each side of the new Gene Autry Way, which could service at least as many cars as the current/planned western garages, if not many more.  This way, the traffic could be balanced between the two garage sets.  Further, distance from the two sets of garages would be roughly equal.  Plus, I could envision the garages being a potential draw for Anaheim (and Disney for D23) given their proximity to the Convention Center.

Proposed Expansion
This would require the purchase of the Anaheim GardenWalk and would allow the current Eastern Gateway spot to be re-purposed.  Both will be discussed in future plans below.

The Disneyland Resort houses three Disney hotels: the classic Disneyland Hotel, the majestic Grand Californian, and the re-purposed Paradise Pier hotel.  They are planning a fourth resort, still unnamed, on part of Downtown Disney property, replacing the AMC theaters with Earl of Sandwich and Starbucks on the corners, the Rainforest Cafe, and the ESPN zone.  I've included a rough image below indicating how the expansion will look.

New Disneyland Hotel plus my proposed additions
The new hotel (in green above) will be a AAA four diamond resort, incorporating various shops and dining into the bottom floor, essentially extending the Downtown Disney space back in this area.  Likely, Starbucks and Earl of Sandwich will both be added back in the shops in this area.  The new hotel will also continue down to connect with and "absorb" the Monorail platform, making it a perk of the hotel.

I am on board with this new hotel addition.  If possible, I think it could easily be considered just an expansion of the Disneyland Hotel, especially given the style they have shown in the concept art.  I would imagine this new hotel would continue that mid-century modern look, reflective of the 1955 opening of Disneyland.  If this is possible, I would call this addition the Garden Wing, to recall the original garden wing of the original Disneyland Hotel.  The only additions I would want to ensure happen are a DVC wing in the red square indicated above and a new Monorail Cafe down near the Monorail Platform.  Respecting the history of the resort, but making it modern.

For the Disneyland Hotel towers, I would add a fourth hotel tower, named the Tomorrow Tower.  They already have Fantasy, Adventure and Frontier.  They just need to complete the set.  For the Tomorrow Tower, I would populate this building with family suites, a growing need in the travel industry.  These rooms would be two room suites for families of four to five (potentially housing up to 8 depending on how they are configured.  This would add suites to inventory beyond the DVC units, which are usually booked well in advance.

The Grand Californian is complete and needs no additions.

For the Paradise Pier Hotel, I am envisioning a complete demolition and replacement.  The hotel serves the purpose of additional room inventory, but creates a large visual intrusion.  The hotel was not built buy Disney, but acquired and lightly re-themed when brought under Disney's banner.  This tower is highly visible in Disney California Adventure, particularly in Paradise Pier.  And in Paradise Pier, the post-modern tower clashes with the Victorian sea-side pier atmosphere they are going for.

Not the most exciting view.
For it's replacement, I would not go Victorian specifically, but would go with an inspiration that is more time-period appropriate.  I would model the new Paradise Pier Hotel after the Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica.
Collection of Casa del Mar.
This hotel would provide an interesting visual landmark in the background from Paradise Pier that is theme appropriate and would allow for potentially a better utilization of the hotel space than the current single tower.

Additional hotel space would come in the expansion pads.  And please note, there are many who call for a Disney "value" hotel in California.  There are many reasons why this will not happen.  There are several hotels within very close proximity to the current park gates that would be considered values.  Disney will continue to rely on these good neighbor hotels to provide the "value" option.  Accordingly, Disney can add highly detailed and themed resorts.

Future Plans:
As stated above, I do not envision a full-scale third theme park in Disneyland's future.  To me, there are greater uses for the space.  I would focus any additional theme park additions in the United States elsewhere.  With that in mind and with the third park area now used for parking garages and a through way to the Convention Center, that leaves a couple of pieces available for expansion and use.

Repeated for ease of access
First, I would buy the Anaheim GardenWalk to use for additional retail and dining space.  The GardenWalk is desirable if for no other reason than it is the connective tissue between the eastern properties (the current eastern gateway property and the planned third park location).  This space currently has several restaurants like P.F. Changs, the House of Blues, the Cheesecake Factory, and Bubba Gump Shrimp, as well as entertainment venues like the House of Blues and the AMC theaters.  This space would provide Disney a more standard collection of vendors, as opposed to the collection of unique shops and experiences they are cultivating in Downtown Disney.

From there, with parking in the strawberry fields, the GardenWalk as a new Downtown Disney-like space, that leaves the eastern gateway open for development.  While the space is not large enough for a full-scale theme park, it could house a water park.  For reference, both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach could fit in this space. The only problem with a water park is that it is not a year-round space, even in California.

I envision the space, though, containing a series of larger one-off attractions that would benefit the resort and restore a bit of things that have existed previously.  Disney attraction themed mini-golf.  A new Dancing Waters.  Full-scale Disney film restaurants that cannot be included in the parks like Tiana's, Harryhausen's, Tony's, The Snuggly Duckling, or a real Pizza Planet.  An Adventurer's Club bar.   A second World of Disney location.  An El Capitan-style Disney single screen movie theater for the latest Disney release and other special events, complete with organ - world premiers could be held here.  A Hollywood Bowl-like amphitheater space for rotating musical acts.   The focus here would be on things to do - entertainment, over the shopping and dining in Downtown Disney and the GardenWalk.

I would also include a Disney Hollywood Hotel, themed to the golden age of Hollywood with Art Nouveau and Hollywood Regency decor.  A great place to put a rooftop restaurant/bar for fireworks views.


That's all for Disneyland.  I think all of these additions and changes would put the resort on good footing for years to come.

After a short break in the series, I'll be picking back up with Walt Disney World.

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