Saturday, June 9, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 11 - Disney Springs

Disney Springs is a themed retail, dining and entertainment center inspired by Florida's charming waterfront towns, historic architecture and natural beauty.  The sprawling promenade features 4 distinct neighborhoods - The Landing, Marketplace, West Side and Town Center - built around bubbling springs.

Disney Springs refers to an area of the Walt Disney World Resort that has gone through a variety of identities.  It was the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, the Walt Disney World Village, the Village Marketplace, and Downtown Disney.  It opened in 1975 shortly after the opening of the resort, as a shopping and dining district; part of the Vacation Kingdom of the World approach that Disney presented in Florida.  There were additions, with Pleasure Island, a night club and entertainment district, and the West Side, an expansion of entertainment offerings.  

This area has recently gone through a thorough re-envisioning to transform into Disney Springs.  The area is still a shopping, dining, and entertainment village; the goal with the transformation was to bring the disparate sections together under one unifying identity: that of a classic Florida town centered around a bubbling natural springs.  The different sections (the Marketplace, Town Center, the Landing, and the West Side) all represent the growth of this community throughout the years.

Though it is not another theme park, Disney Springs serves its intended purpose very well.  It is a draw to Orlando natives and for many is a separate planned day of the vacation.  There is, though, room for purposeful expansion and adjustments.

Primary Goals:
  • Disney Springs needs more experiences to draw people to the area.  The shopping and dining are well rounded out, but the space could use things to do in between eating and shopping.  Well positioned activities or combinations (like bowling at Splitsville or the VOID VR experience) could encourage guests to make Disney Springs a cannot miss stop in their vacation plans.
  • Disney Springs needs to utilize the lake for night time entertainment.  It should not be as extravagant as a nighttime spectacular in the park, but something to appeal to the crowds at night would have a great benefit to the area (and beyond).
  • Disney Springs needs to take greater advantage of the connections to Saratoga Springs.  That is a built in audience as close as possible in Disney property.  Expansions and offerings that consider both properties would be wise.
There is no need to address each section of the Springs as has been done with the theme parks.  In large part, the renovation and remodeling into Disney Springs has taken care of a lot of preexisting issues.  It will be simpler to approach the Springs as a whole and talk about specific additions individually.

Disney Springs takes up the south side of Lake Buena Vista at the southeastern edge of Disney property.  While the Springs are expansive, there is room for expansion to the northwest, past the Cirque du Soleil theater in the West Side.   Most of my comments will focus on this expansion.

Disney Springs Overview
The expansion will require the construction of a new parking garage to account for the spaces that will be lost from the Strawberry Lot.  I would propose the new parking garage take on the Grapefruit lot name (with Strawberry and Watermelon going away).  That would make the garages Grapefruit, Orange, and Lime with the preferred lots as Mango and Lemon.  On the current flat Grapefruit lot, I would change that into a Minnie Van/Uber/Lyft pick-up and drop-off section.  (Perhaps the uses for the Mango and Grapefruit lots could be reversed).

(c) Disney
With the garage completed, the more exciting expansion can occur.  I would call this section The Grove, with the back story that this land used to be an orange grove near the Springs that was expanded into in the 1960s after the Exposition Center that became the West Side.   This section of the park would be focused on adding experiences.  While additional shopping and dining will naturally be a part, the focus will be on adding things for guests to do.  Specifically I would add:
  • Mini-golf - The Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland courses are in locations that would be much more valuable as expansions to the Swan and Dolphin and Blizzard Beach respectively.  Mini-golf would be a good family activity to add to the springs. I would theme it to the Magic Kingdom Mini-Golf, like the previous Disneyland Hotel Miniature Golf course, with landmarks of Disneyland park.
  • An arcade bar - An arcade bar is what it sounds like, a bar filled with various arcade games.  It's an interesting combination money maker.  This bar here could be a Barcade brand, as that is particularly a regional chain mainly in the northeast.  Of if Disney wanted to operate one, they could make Flynn's Arcade from Tron.  The latter would be my preference and recommendation.
  • Go-Karts - larger and faster than the ride in the Magic Kingdom, with no middle guiderail.  Though not a direct correlation, these would be to offset the loss of the race car driving experience from the track close to the Magic Kingdom.
  • Zip-line - could set up a zip line tower over a remaining portion of the citrus grove.  Or go all out Disney and send a zip line through a highly decorated segment.  Full on Fantasyland zip line?
  • A small amphitheater - Different from the one in Marketplace, this one would be a small amphitheater facing Lake Buena Vista, perfect for smaller entertainment acts.  Very similar to the one highlighted in the Hyperion Wharf concept art.  The amphitheater would also be useful for the night time show on the lake.
  • A second World of Disney Store - World of Disney in Marketplace is one of the most crowded businesses in Walt Disney World.  Given the distance between the two ends of Disney Springs, a mirrored store at the opposite end would seem to be a boon to the Springs as a whole.
  • Distinct playspace equipment for children - Not all additions need to be things that will be charged for.  This expansion should also have objects and play equipment that children can climb on, play on, and explore.  A place for kids to burn off their energy.
  • A second play fountain/splash pad/puddle park - again a space for kids to burn off energy, particularly on the sweltering summer days.
  • A Disney Music Emporium record store - themed to a classic record shop.  Records in crates, vintage offerings, exclusive pressings from the Disney library.  With vinyl having a resurgence, this could be a very fun store.
  • An observation tower - like the Florida Citrus Tower.  Disney Springs is far enough away from everything that an observation tower would not visually intrude into any space.  This would be a great opportunity to offer views of all of Disney World.  Particularly lucrative during fireworks viewing times.  If Top of the World had not been reinstated with Bay Lake Tower, this would be a perfect spot to use the name.
  • Some kind of Googie architecture roadside statue - to fill out the theme, there needs to be some sort of giant statue, roadside attraction type offering to flesh out what you would expect to have been built in Florida in the 1960s.  World's largest grapefruit, or some such.
The list above is just a sample.  The space should continue to be filled out with unique options for activities, as well as shopping and dining.  Shopping and dining choices should be scrutinized to ensure they are not simply options that could be found at any upscale mall or lifestyle center.  Ideally, the choices should be completely unique or at least specific regional options that cannot be located anywhere near Orlando, Florida.  A current example would be Uniqlo, a Japanese store with minimal locations across the United States.  To illustrate further, it is why for fast burger chains, In and Out would be preferable to Shake Shack.  In and Out locations have been limited to the west coast and a strip in Texas/Oklahoma.  A location in Florida would be very, very unique.

The expansion would require to specific infrastructure additions.  First, a fourth boat dock for the water taxis would be needed.  This way a fleet of water taxis could just circle through the various Disney Springs locations. 

Second, there should be a another bridge built to connect the new end of Disney Springs to the Saratoga Springs resort (identified in yellow in the overview image).  This would connect Disney Springs very closely to the main buildings of Saratoga Springs, furthering the connections between the resort and the district. There is an existing bridge a little past this end that can achieve this, but it involves accessing an in-use cart path for the Lake Buena Vista Golf course, which can be tricky.  This new bridge would be a dedicated foot path access only.

Nighttime entertainment:
While there are many options for unique night time entertainment at Disney Springs, from the adult, upscale Edison to the Cirque du Soleil show and the movies at the AMC, the night time entertainment I am referring to here is something closer to a nighttime spectacular in the parks.  When Pleasure Island existed, every night was New Year's Eve and there was a brief fireworks and confetti display at midnight each night.  While I know this is some what problematic (as the Saratoga Springs hotel did not exist for much of that previous time), some form of broadly visible night time entertainment could be a boon to both Disney Springs and the Saratoga Springs Resort.

Given Lake Buena Vista as a centerpiece between the two locations, I would move an upgraded Electric Water Pageant from the Seven Seas Lagoon to Lake Buena Vista.  The Electric Water Pageant is a Walt Disney World classic that would fit in perfectly with the classic Florida theme.  Further, the view of the pageant would be a great plus for the Saratoga Springs Resort, which is generally one of the least crowded resorts.  Viewing for the pageant could also be utilized for specific dining packages at Disney Springs.

The Electric Water Pageant is really the simplest offering that Disney could add to the lake that would still be a bit of a draw.  If Disney could go extravagant to make something that was a "can't miss" option, then something like Tokyo Disneysea's Fantasmic or BraviSEAmo!  These would be much more expensive options for what would essentially be a free show, but they would also be much more likely to be significant draws for guests, making Disney Springs a must at night.

Those are all my thoughts on Disney Springs.  As always, thank you for continuing to read through this series.  Next up in the series, the water parks and ESPN Wide World of Sports.

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