Wednesday, June 13, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 12 - Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, EPSN Wide World of Sports, and Fort Wilderness

Welcome to the Vacation Kingdom of the World!


In this post, I will address the other attractions and offerings of the Walt Disney World resort.  Particularly, the water parks Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and Fort Wilderness.  These options represent the wide variety of activities and settings that had prompted Walt Disney World to tout itself as the vacation kingdom of the world.  It was more than theme parks and shopping.  It was more than the hotels.  It encompassed a wide variety of adventures and activities that would appeal to the widest demographic.  And it is this type of branding that I would love to return to.  To market to all ages and a variety of vacationing types.  To appeal to people who would never set foot in one of the theme parks, or perhaps only minimally.  After all, they are well-enough attended already.

As none of these locations within the resort require as extensive of an expansion as the parks, I'm going to address each location briefly, instead of fully walking around each water park and location.

Typhoon Lagoon:
Typhoon Lagoon was Disney's second water park, after the now closed River Country.  Added at the height of the Eisner era, it represents one of the best themed spaces in all of Walt Disney World.  Modeled after a Pacific beach location after it has been hit by a typhoon, the water park is littered with beautiful touches and sight gags.  While it does not have the most thrilling water slides that have been invented, it does have a great assortment of water rides including the very inventive Miss Adventure Falls and the Crush n Gusher water coaster.  While the park is very well fleshed out, I can envision two additions and would like to address one area where I feel it could use some improvement.

Typhoon Lagoon overview and noted expansion ideas
The Miss Adventure Falls ride replaced the Shark Reef snorkeling section.  While I might leave the sharks out of the new addition, I would like to see a new snorkeling reef added in the expansion land between Miss Adventure and Crush n Gusher.

Further, within the Miss Adventure Falls slides, I would love to add a flowriding surf attraction, a la Boogie Bahn for those that have been to Schlitterbahn.  Given the Pacific/surf theme, an actual surfing attraction, beyond the wave pool which does not allow boards, would be a great addition.

I would also like to add a little variety to the menu of the various eateries in the park.  The food generally has an American/theme park food flare to it.  Given the setting, I would change the menu a little to focus on Californian and Hawaiian food offerings.  There can still be recognizable options for those picky eaters, with a bit more of a location specific menu.

Blizzard Beach:
For Disney's third water park, they went for a really different park concept.  An Alpine Ski village where the snow is melting rapidly, lending to the conversion to a water park.  As such, Blizzard Beach is one of the most unique water parks in the world, and probably the only water park with a working ski lift in it.  The park is likewise well developed, but I would propose a similar improvement and one addition (potentially at the expense of a fan favorite area).

Blizzard Beach overview and Winter Summerland replacement
Like Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach could use a greater variety in it menu.  While the food options have traditionally been better here, there is still room to tighten the offerings.  Given the Alpine like setting, I would focus on BBQ like options (as one of the greatest meals we had in Switzerland was the hotel owners having a BBQ for us).  Definitely would bring back the ribs.

In terms of attractions, I would absorb the Winter Summerland miniature golf course into the park proper.  While I know the mini-golf course is enjoyed, the space can be greater utilized as park of the water park itself and there are better places within the resort for the courses.  My plans have already replaced the two existing courses that I have removed with locations at Disney Springs and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (discussed below), and I could envision additional courses throughout the property.

I would replace the golf course with a tornado funnel slide.   Disney's water parks have generally stayed away from enclosed tube slides, as they necessarily are difficult to theme to anything other than a water park.  I do feel the melting ice motif gives Blizzard Beach a little leeway to theme the tornado funnel into an ice bank/formation. If the material could be semi-transparent, it would be all the better.  If not, blueish-white would definitely work.  The Winter Summerland space would likely be large enough for additional expansion as well.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a well used, but little known part of the Walt Disney World Resort.  Anyone who has competed in a runDisney event, or been part of a Pop Warner, Cheerleading, Little League, or similar event has been here, but most guests probably have never set foot in this space.  According to Disney, "The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex can host more than 60 sports across ten world-class venues designed to give every athlete the best possible competition experience.  It's the pre-eminent mult-sport facility of its kind in the world."  The space can house baseball, basketball, cheer & dance, cross country, field hockey, football, gymnsastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, track & field, volleyball events, and many, many more.  The facility is also the home of the Atlanta Braves during Spring Training.

While the space is definitely utilized during events, I would focus on additions that could make it a year round draw.  Particularly positioning specific additions in a way to create a continuously open thoroughfare, leaving the specific fields and tracks open as needed.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex - Year Round Segment in Red
The new additions will be added on existing parking, requiring the expansion of parking options outside the traditional box the complex has been confined to.  As indicated above, there are several options that could be developed, all of which are still close to the facilities.

The goal would be to make the center spine and main entrance a segment of the complex that has continuously open options for merchandise, dining, event tickets, and sports recreation available for guests.

This section already houses the Box Office, ESPN Clubhouse Shop, Information Booth, Playstation Pavilion, ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill, Custom Tee Center by Champion, and Welcome Center.  It is also adjacent to the Champion Stadium (home of the Braves spring training and minor league Gulf Coast Braves regular season), HP Field House, and Visa Athletic Center, all of which will be most likely first used for events.

To these options, I would add a set up for batting cages near the Visa Center (identified in orange above) and a golf option (identified in green above).  The golf option would come with a specific entry and ticket kiosk and a separate pro shop.  Both batting cages and the miniature golf or driving range option would be the most likely used recreational sports venues.  For the golf option, I can see going one of two ways.  First, a miniature golf course designed to represent a series of eighteen putting greens.  Since this complex is designed for true sporting events., focusing on the true sport of golf would be the best method.  So no ramps or clown's mouth style holes, instead a collection of putting greens of various complexities.  The other option would be a driving range, and potentially a stacked driving range like Top Golf.  Given the size required for a driving range and the presence of Top Golf in Orlando already, I would imagine the putting course would be a much more desirable option.

I would further add a permanent runDisney store, providing sale of the branded shoes, attire, and other branded accessories.  runDisney is becoming such a large part of the Disney experience, a permanent store in an appropriate facility would a boon.  It would also be a great space to house permanent information and on site registration for the event.

Additionally, I would look to add an indoor facility for sport climbing.  Climbing gyms and recreational climbing are both increasing in popularity.  A facility for such activities would be another space that could be marketed and continuously operated.

Further down the road, I would like to see Disney include a new building for swimming and diving events (dedicated professional level pools) and to go forward with the professional bowling center previously filed for (though in a new location).  Both would open up new options for professional and amateur competitions furthering the use of this great complex.

An ultimate goal for this venue would be to expand the type of sporting events that are housed here.  If nothing else, the Summer X Games should have a permanent home at this facility.

Fort Wilderness:
Another area that most guests forget still exists.  An amazing place where you can still camp in the Walt Disney World resorts, whether your idea of camping is a tent, a trailer, or a cabin.  Fort Wilderness is also the place in the resort where you can unwind and enjoy a variety of recreational activities, from walks through nature, tennis, archery, playgrounds, bicycling, fishing, sand volleyball, basketball, tetherball, and arcades.  The space has two pools, and access to bay lake with boat rentals, watercraft, water skiing, wake boarding, parasailing, and specialty cruises.  The Tri-Circle-D Ranch is here, housing the horses of the resort. From here you can enjoy pony rides, carriage rides, watch a blacksmith affix horseshoes, or take a nightly wagon ride.  (During Halloween the stables also house a viewing of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with a nice encounter with the Headless Horseman).  Chip and Dale also host a nightly campfire program with a sing-along, marshmallow roast, and outdoor movie screening.  And there is always the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, a long running diner music theater show.

In many ways, a visit to Fort Wilderness is like a visit to a long past vacation.   A slower pace, an older selection of offerings.  It's amazing to look at how large of a portion of the Walt Disney Resort Fort Wilderness encompasses.

Fort Wilderness Overview
The image above shows how far I had to zoom out to get a complete picture.  You can see it butting up to parts of the Tranquilo Golf Course at the Fourt Seasons resort.

There really is not much I would add to Fort Wilderness.  I do not really want to disturb much of the natural beauty that makes it a wonderful place.  If anything, I would simply change a visual aesthetic, embracing its 1970s campground roots.  Disney has done this magnificently with the new version of the Chuck Wagon used at the campfire.  Instead of mimicking a real chuck wagon, the new food truck is a great looking 1970s camper.

In all its self-referential 1970s glory
This is a great addition and a great clue for how to approach the visual identity of the area.

I do know Disney is looking to build a new resort past Pioneer Hall and the Mickey's BBQ pavilion, with an addition that would span the old River Country property.  Hopefully they can build a resort that will fit in this king of theme, a bit of a rustic, campsite theme.  More refined than the timber log Wilderness Lodge, but less polished than the Arts and Crafts Grand Californian.  Probably somewhere close to the low country Hilton Head resort.  Hopefully no larger than five stories.  And since it is encompassing River Country, it would be nice to see nods to River Country in the pool and water features of the resort.

A rough approximation of the new resort location
This could be a great resort and a great additional to the overall property if done well.  One further addition I would fight for is to develop a narrow gauge railroad train that would connect the new resort with the Wilderness Lodge - the Wilderness Express.  Disney is known for its transportation methods - the monorail, the buses, the boats, the soon-to-be gondola.  Having the train used in very appropriate resorts would be a great benefit to both.

Wilderness Express
All in all, each of these properties makes the Walt Disney World resort a location like no other.  I want to see each of them reach their full potential and to be developed in the best possible ways.


Thank you for reading.  Next up, the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels.  Nearing the end of Walt Disney World.  Two to go.

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