DeSantis Approves Fifth Disney World Theme Park as Part of New $17 Billion Deal

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Ron DeSantis waves in front of an illuminated castle with a "Grand Opening" sign. The scene appears to be at night, with Ron DeSantis standing alongside a Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in front of the castle.

Credit: Inside The Magic

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently struck a deal with Walt Disney World Resort (WDW) and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) that will bring billions of dollars for expansion and growth to the parks. Could this mean a fifth park is going to House of Mouse in Orlando?

Ron DeSantis smiling in the foreground, with Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, a statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse's hand, and visitors enjoying the park visible in the background. The scene is bright and colorful, capturing a cheerful moment.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Ron DeSantis and his $17 Billion Deal with Disney World Could Mean a Fifth Park

Rumors of a fifth theme park at Walt Disney World in Central Florida have circulated for years. Now, there is promising news for those hoping these rumors will materialize. A potential development agreement between the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and The Walt Disney Company could pave the way for significant expansion.

With Governor DeSantis pulling out of the 2024 Presidential Race, he has fully supported former President Donald Trump. He has set his sights on improving Florida legislature, the Republican Party, and now, assisting in ensuring the DeSantis appointees on the CFTOD board are doing their job with WDW and Florida law.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District will hold a public hearing on Disney’s development plan next week, with a vote scheduled for June 15. This agreement would significantly improve relations between Disney and the tourism board, which Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration took control of last year.

DeSantis appointed five members to the board, though two have since resigned. According to a statement from the tourism board, the current agreement outlines a $17 billion investment by Disney over the next 10 to 20 years.

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

The agreement mandates that Disney utilize local contractors for construction and that at least 50% of all construction work is awarded to Florida businesses. Additionally, Disney is required to fund “attainable” housing projects.

Ron DeSantis giving a thumbs up in front of the Magic Kingdom entrance sign under a blue sky.
Credit: Inside the Magic

While Disney officials have not disclosed specific plans for the investment, an industry insider suggested to the Orlando Sentinel that a fifth theme park could be part of the expansion. Walt Disney World currently comprises four parks: Magic Kingdom (opened in 1971), EPCOT (1982), Disney’s Hollywood Studios (1989), and Animal Kingdom (1998).

According to the Sentinel, during an earnings call in February, Disney CEO Bob Iger avoided directly addressing the possibility of a new Florida theme park.

“We’re already hard at work at determining where we’re going to place our new investments and what they will be,” Iger said. “You can pretty much conclude that they’ll be all over, meaning every single one of our locations will be the beneficiary of increased investment.”

This pending development agreement follows a contentious legal battle in 2022 when Disney opposed DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In retaliation, DeSantis attempted to dissolve Disney’s self-governing status within the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

In February last year, he successfully gained control of the district, renaming it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and appointing new board supervisors, thereby removing Disney’s autonomy over local development. The former Reedy Creek board members tried to finalize a development deal before their ousting, leading to a series of legal battles.

However, in March, Disney and the new tourism board reached a settlement that nullified the last-minute agreement and suggested collaboration on a new development plan.

A construction site near a body of water is shown. An animated character, Mickey Mouse, stands on the left side, while a man resembling DeSantis in a suit and sunglasses is on the right. Both have a blurred effect, making them appear superimposed onto the background.
Credit: Inside The Magic

What This Means for All Parties Involved

The potential development agreement between the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and The Walt Disney Company, which is set for a public hearing and vote, could pave the way for significant expansion at Walt Disney World.

The agreement includes a massive $17 billion investment over the next 10 to 20 years, suggesting the possibility of a fifth Disney theme park in Central Florida. This would significantly add to the existing parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

For Disney, this expansion represents an opportunity to enhance its already world-renowned resort, attracting even more visitors and bolstering its economic impact on the region. It signals growth and innovation, potentially introducing new attractions, experiences, and job opportunities. The upcoming public hearing and potential agreement represent a pivotal moment for Disney and Central Florida’s future.

For Governor Ron DeSantis, this development is politically advantageous. It demonstrates his administration’s ability to facilitate major economic initiatives and improve relations with key industry players like Disney. The agreement could be seen as a win for economic development and job creation in Central Florida, aligning with his broader agenda of fostering business growth in the state.

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