Disney World is close to a deal with DeSantis that could lead to a big expansion

Rumors that Walt Disney World might build a fifth theme park in central Florida have persisted for years. Now there’s some good news for anyone hoping these rumors are true.

A potential new development deal between the Central Florida Tourism Authority and The Walt Disney Company could pave the way for the rumored expansion.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District will hold a public hearing on Disney’s development plan at a meeting next week before finally voting on June 15.

If approved, the deal would mark a major thaw in relations between Disney and the tourism board, which Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration effectively commandeered from Disney in 2023. DeSantis appointed five people to the board tourism, but two have since left office. .

As currently written, the deal would allow Disney to spend $17 billion to further develop Walt Disney World over the next 10 to 20 years, according to a press release from the tourism board.

“Through Walt Disney World’s substantial investments, we anticipate economic growth, job creation and support for local businesses, as well as environmental management and workforce housing initiatives, benefiting to the Central Florida community,” district administrator Stephanie Kopelousos said in a statement to Business Insider.

The tourism office said the agreement would require Disney to find local contractors for any construction and award at least 50% of all construction work to Florida-based companies. It also requires Disney to fund “feasible” housing projects.

Disney officials did not detail how the billions would be spent, but an industry insider told the Orlando Sentinel that a fifth theme park could join its roster of existing properties.

Magic Kingdom opened to the public in 1971, followed by Epcot in 1982, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1989, and Animal Kingdom in 1998.

Disney CEO Bob Iger evaded a question about a new theme park in Florida during an earnings conference call in February, according to Sentinel.

“We are already working hard to determine where and what we are going to place our new investments,” Iger said. “You can pretty much conclude that they will be completed everywhere, which means that each of our sites will benefit from increased investment.”

Representatives for The Walt Disney Co. and Walt Disney World did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

DeSantis vs. Disney

Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

The pending development deal between the tourism board and Disney follows a contentious legal battle – initiated by DeSantis – that began in April 2022.

The legal battle began when Disney publicly opposed DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis went after the entertainment conglomerate and tried to upend a long-standing agreement that allowed Disney to govern itself its Reedy Creek Improvement District.

DeSantis took control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District in February 2023. His administration renamed it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and DeSantis appointed its board of directors, removing Disney’s autonomy over development in the area.

Former Reedy Creek Improvement District board members tried to pass a development agreement before being ousted. But after a series of legal battles, Disney and the new tourism board finally reached an agreement in March.

This settlement voided a last-minute deal reached by former Reedy Creek board members. The settlement then suggested that Disney and the new board work together on a new development agreement.


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