Saturday, May 13, 2023

If I Were Disney CEO - AstroDisney

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts.  I honestly thought I exorcised all of these ideas already.  I admit, I've wanted to touch up the old articles so I could submit myself for the role now that Iger has a two year limit (tongue firmly in cheek), but there hasn't been a lot I've felt I've needed to express in this area. 

Then, over the past couple of weeks, I've watched an AstroWorld documentary, highlighting the rise and fall of that park in Houston.  That lead me to the Wikipedia rabbit hole of articles on AstroWorld and the Astrodome.  That lead me to investigating the current use of the land in the former AstroDomain and learning how much is sitting unused or ill-used.  

Combine that with a healthy dose of nostalgia, and the news that Universal is getting into the regional parks business with a park in Frisco and a year-round haunt in Las Vegas, and the gears started rolling in my head.  I kept thinking through how best to use the current NRG Park-former AstroDomain area to its fullest.  And in that process, my brain kept coming back to one owner who could truly maximize the potential of that area.


I've written before on my thoughts for a Disney park in Texas, but that focused on starting from scratch.  Building an entire resort in a new location somewhere around Central Texas.  The thought was to give Texas a resort somewhere between Disneyland and Disney World.  What makes more sense to me now, is for Disney to look for an area in which they could quickly ramp up and entire the theme park business in Texas. 

Especially when Disney is reconsidering where to spend its $17 billion in park expenditures given its current fight in Florida.

What's better for that, than an area that has an empty theme park parcel of land, plenty of parking, the infrastructure needed to move people across a highway to the theme park, a light rail stop, and current venues that would generate revenue from day one?

With that in mind, I think it's time for Disney to buy the AstroDomain from Houston.

Welcome to AstroDisney.

What's great about this proposal is that Disney gets plenty of space to maximize to its fullest for the construction of a one park resort, with the infrastructure work already in place.  Because Disney is essentially re-establishing the AstroDomain as it had previously existed, the work can go a lot quicker.  Building a true resort area - theme park, hotels, shopping and dining area, and a parking garage, all while leaving the existing buildings.  And possibly adding a water park.

This is how I think it would work.

First, Disney leaves NRG Stadium, the AstroArena/NRG Arena, and the NRG Center as is.  There's no need to mess with what is working, and this can guarantee Disney income from the start to being recouping their investment.  I'd buy NRG out of their naming rights, so that Disney could start relabeling things with the Astro- label (AstroArena, AstroCenter, etc.), but otherwise this all works.

The first thing Disney builds is a parking garage.  In looking at Disney's work in California, Disney built the Mickey and Friends Parking Garage, which was at the time the biggest parking garage in America.  It can hold 10,500 cars.  And thankfully, there's plenty of space for Disney to build something similar here in the lot adjacent to the Astrodome and above the AstroArena, as indicated in the image below.  That will free up a lot of surface parking for expansion.

From there, I would suggest Disney remodeling the Astrodome into a luxury hotel/mixed use space.  It would be a great way to preserve the structure, but make it work in context with the other buildings around the AstroDomain and there have been proposals for similar conversions that have already been suggested to Houston.  Disney could create the rooms around the outer ring, converting the old field into the pool and slide area.  With the roof, they could do a pretty amazing projection fireworks show at night and make this a really special hotel to stay at.

I would then build a version of the Downtown Disney area from California from the AstroDome to the pedestrian bridge across to the theme park plot.  The area from California perfectly fits, including the Grand Californian.  If Disney so desired, it could build a second hotel - the Grand Texan resort, in which they could add their time share component, the Disney Vacation Club.  This adds hotel, dining, and retail space to the area, enhancing the athletic and convention space and leaving some surface parking in addition to a new garage.  Win, win, win.

Then across the street, in the empty space, Disney has a blank canvas.  They could build any park they desired, but for nostalgia, I would go with AstroDisney.  A Disney theme park themed to their space related properties.  The image below is crude, but it conveys the point of the massive space Disney has to work with.  Disney could add their entire Tomorrowland from Disneyland in California, Pandora from Animal Kingdom, Star Wars Galaxies Edge from Disneyland, a version of the Avengers Campus from California Adventure (including the expansion space), and Mission Space/Space 220 from Epcot.  All with room to spare.  The land is there and its open, though I did bring in a car lot that has entered that space.

Additionally, there's land available around the space for admin and offsite back of house.  They could likely even acquire land close to the park for a version of the Star Wars Starcruiser boutique hotel if they desired.

Again, land available, ready for prime investment. 

Now if I could just convince Disney to do it.  

It makes sense to my brain if nothing else.

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