Why Disney, Universal Disagreed With State’s Reopening Plan

in Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood

disneyland fireworks castle

Credit: Disney

We shared that California theme parks — including Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood — asked Governor Gavin Newsom and state of California to delay the reopening plans. It was reported that they had not come to an agreement on the reopening guidelines. Newsom agreed to postpone, but now we have a better idea of what those guidelines were.

Below are some samples of the guidelines, according to the OC Register. As it was previously reported, the guidelines were “too restrictive”:

The initial draft guidelines from the state for reopening California theme parks reportedly call for:

  • Individual theme parks to reopen once their county reaches the least-restrictive “minimal” risk level
  • Operate at 25% of attendance capacity
  • Limit visitors to residents living within a 120-mile radius of each theme park

The state’s draft guidelines present two key problems for theme parks:

  • Placing theme parks in the final tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy means the severity of the guidelines never change until the pandemic ends
  • Reaching the least-restrictive “minimal” tier could be difficult to nearly impossible for California’s most-populous counties

The draft guidelines likely would prevent California theme parks from reopening for weeks or months.

Universal Studios Hollywood Virtual Tour
Credit: Universal

So, why would the theme parks have to wait weeks — or even months — before reopening, if these guidelines were the ones presented and finalized by the governor? Well, just as the state said, under this new reopening plan, theme parks in California would be folded into the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Less than a couple weeks ago, Disney Parks, Experience and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro urged Newsom to treat theme parks like any other sector.

But what does that mean for Disneyland and Universal? In this case, treating theme parks like other sectors would mean implementing similar guidelines to those used in California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which would only allow them to reopen under certain conditions. The reopening of the parks could depend on the counties’ COVID-19 case and positivity rates.

The OC Register breaks down how theme parks could reopen based on the proposed guidelines.

At best, under the draft guideline proposal, California theme parks would not be able to reopen until late October or November. At worst, reopening dates could be pushed to December or next year. Which makes setting a reopening date for Disneyland, Universal or other California theme parks difficult if not impossible. Without a firm reopening date, the parks can’t set staffing, training, ride testing and visitor reservation plans.

Keep in mind, the parks took issue with the guidelines, so it’s back to the drawing board and nothing is finalized yet. So that means the above dates are not for certain — and we still don’t know when Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (located in Orange County) or Universal Studios Hollywood (located in Los Angeles County) will reopen.

Note that at this time, Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort and Universal CityWalk Hollywood are both open, with limited capacity as well as temperature check and face covering requirements.

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