Political Upset: Ron DeSantis Set To Oversee Disney World’s Future Expansion Plans

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis smiles on as the Magic Kingom castle sits in the background with clouds rolling through and Space Mountain in the background

Credit: Inside The Magic

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney World Resort have continued their new collaboration and unity through new plans announced for the House of Mouse to move forward with plans that will guarantee new expansions to the already-growing property.

Ron DeSantis waving with a smile, superimposed over an image of the colorful entrance to walt disney world, suggests a greeting or a celebratory moment at the renowned theme park.
Image Credit: Inside The Magic

Ron DeSantis and Disney World Unite for New Developmental Agreements

As part of a mutually beneficial settlement with Walt Disney World, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has agreed to nullify previous development agreements and a comprehensive plan it had implemented. The District will now collaborate with Walt Disney World to create new development agreements and a comprehensive plan that will fairly govern development rules for Disney World property over the next 30 years. The DeSantis Disney teamup is something no one saw coming. The Walt Disney Company was impressed and moved by Gov Ron DeSantis and his desire to mend the relationship between The Walt Disney Co. and the parks in Orlando.

According to a meeting notice from the District, the first steps toward this new development agreement will be taken in a May 22 meeting, where a new resolution will be introduced to establish new regulations regarding development agreements. Previously, the District was used to challenge Disney World as retaliation for Disney’s opposition to DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill. However, the District and Disney have turned a corner with new leadership and a court settlement.

While the Oversight District is not expected to operate exactly like the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, removing former Chairman Martin Garcia suggests that the District’s oversight may be less stringent. In April, Disney CEO Bob Iger commented on the settlement, noting that the agreement will allow Disney to pursue significant investments in its Florida parks. Fans were particularly excited about Disney’s announced $17 billion investment in Walt Disney World theme parks over the next decade, which had been jeopardized by DeSantis’ stance and the previously adversarial District.

Split image of Disney World entrance sign reading "the most magical place on earth," alongside a paper titled "crisis management plan" pinned on a wooden board.
Image Credit: Inside The Magic

What This Means for WDW and the Florida Governor

Now, with a more collaborative relationship, both Disney and the District are expected to move forward with a cooperative tone. While it is unclear if a new development agreement and comprehensive plan will be presented at the May 22nd meeting, both sides are anticipated to aim to finalize these documents as soon as possible. The current comprehensive plan is four years outdated, as the settlement required reverting from the 2032 plan to the 2020 plan.

Moving forward, the settlement between Walt Disney World and Governor Ron DeSantis’ Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has several significant implications for both Disney World and the Governor. The agreement gives Disney a more stable and predictable environment for planning and executing its long-term investments. This is crucial for Disney’s ambitious $17 billion investment plan over the next decade, which includes expanding and enhancing the theme parks.

Disney will now be involved in creating new development agreements and a comprehensive plan, ensuring that their interests and needs are considered. This collaborative approach can facilitate smoother and more efficient project approvals and implementations. With the Oversight District’s adversarial stance now mitigated, Disney can confidently move forward with significant investments and developments, leading to more attractions, hotels, and amenities, enhancing the overall guest experience, and potentially increasing revenue.

Mickey Mouse and Governor DeSantis stand in front of a castle under a spectacular fireworks display. Mickey is waving cheerfully while Governor DeSantis gestures as if presenting the event.
Credit: Inside The Magic

The shift to a more cooperative relationship with the Oversight District can improve Disney’s interactions with state authorities, reducing the risk of future conflicts and fostering a more favorable business climate. The settlement allows DeSantis to claim a victory in oversight and regulation while avoiding a prolonged and potentially damaging legal battle with one of Florida’s largest employers and economic drivers. It positions him as a leader willing to reach pragmatic solutions.

By facilitating Disney’s continued investment in Florida, the Governor can highlight the state’s job creation and economic growth. Disney’s $17 billion investment will likely generate significant employment opportunities and boost the local economy. The new agreements and comprehensive plans can be framed as balancing effective oversight and supporting business growth.

This narrative can appeal to both regulatory advocates and pro-business constituents. The experience of negotiating with Disney can set a precedent for future dealings with other major corporations, demonstrating the state’s ability to handle large-scale negotiations and create mutually beneficial outcomes. The settlement marks a turning point in the relationship between Disney World and the state government, moving from confrontation to collaboration.

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