Every day, I get up in the morning to come to work and turn on the computer only to be greeted by the latest headlines in the ongoing fracas between Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Disney CEO Bob Iger. The internet, after all, knows what I like. Let’s play the feud. DeSantis and the Walt Disney World Company are locked in a legal brouhaha that goes beyond government and politics and whether or not the Walt Disney World Resort is worthy of a special tax district. We went a little deeper into the issue in our story regarding Reedy Creek.
What’s the issue with Disney World and Florida?
Essentially, Florida Republicans led by DeSantis made a power move in the culture wars over sexual orientation and gender identity with its so-called Don’t Say Gay law. Then Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued an opposition statement after many Disney employees encouraged him to do so. DeSantis took extreme umbrage at Disney’s foray into Florida politics and started what quickly became a game of political and legal chicken/tug of war with the state’s economy that is still being waged as we speak. The whole thing has gone to court, and it seems like we’re getting updated filings a couple of times a week.
Do some people think Disney is going to move?
If you read the comment section under the articles – which I never recommend – someone will suggest that Disney uproot and move its operation like a traveling carnival and show Florida once and for all that Disney can succeed without it. And, some rumors have sparked that Disney World might be moving. So, let’s look at the options here.
Is Disney moving to Texas?
First of all, the land. There’s plenty of space where Disney could move. Also, there’s infrastructure. Several major cities have highways and airports that could – with some investment – accommodate a Disney-sized addition to the regional footprint.
It couldn’t be in Dallas or Fort Worth because of the weather. There is too much snow and ice in colder months. Houston or San Antonio could be the more likely Texas spots. Then, there’s the issue of transportation. Sure, Texas can accommodate the flight traffic. However, a lot of people along the Eastern seaboard, the South and the Midwest make the drive to Orlando and wouldn’t even consider trying to drive to Texas. I haven’t crunched the numbers of how many people live within a 10-hour driving radius of Orlando versus Houston or San Antonio, but I feel like it would be significant.
Finally, is the political climate in Texas significantly different than in Florida? Would you risk billions and billions of dollars on that difference? I wouldn’t.
Disney World isn’t moving to Texas. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t see a Disney location in Texas at some point. If Disney decided to build a third U.S. base of theme parks, Texas would make a lot of sense. Texas is far enough from Orlando and California that few of its people drive to either of those parks. It would be accessible to a large population in the middle of the country. Universal has recognized this and is building a theme park specifically designed for kids in Texas. Surely in some meeting room somewhere, Disney execs have kicked this idea around a time or two.
Is Disney World moving to New Orleans?
Disney loves New Orleans. They also like the look and the feel of Mardi Gras and the French Quarter and all that jazz – including the jazz.
First of all, the infrastructure investment alone would be massive. Also, the weather would be an issue. While both Orlando and New Orleans are affected by hurricane season, New Orleans exists somewhat famously below sea level. Finally, it wouldn’t be fit enough for families. Disney likes its version of New Orleans to be significantly more PG than the actual New Orleans. Disney, ultimately, is for kids. New Orleans is decidedly less so.
There’s just no way. New Orleans is already an impractical place to have a major city. It is significantly more impractical to have a major city and the world’s largest theme park complex together.
Is Walt Disney World moving its theme parks to Georgia?
To start, there’s not a lot of difference in terms of geography between South Georgia and Central to North Florida. Also, there wouldn’t be a major change for most of those who drive to Disney.
The airport is already among the busiest in the world. Certainly, it couldn’t handle the additional traffic without a massive expansion. Also, Orlando is like the Tomorrowland Expressway in comparison to driving in Atlanta. I’ve been driving to and through Atlanta for nearly 30 years now and I have to gird my loins every time I get south of the Windy Hill Exit on I-75. The bypass is not much better. Therefore, the additional Disney traffic would be a nightmare.
Again, the weather would be an issue. Atlanta is not in South Georgia and snow and ice are infrequent. But the temperature difference in the winter is notable. For example, the average low in Orlando in January is 51 degrees. The average high temperature in Atlanta in January is 53 degrees with an average low of 35.
Finally, I suppose you could build in Southeast Georgia with the hope of flying people into Jacksonville, but it’s 140 or so miles from Jacksonville to the Georgia state line. I don’t think Florida is going to do much to help build the necessary infrastructure – like a high-speed rail system – to get people to a Georgia Disney park from Jacksonville.
No way. Too many logistical issues to ever be a possibility. And again, the political climate in Georgia isn’t THAT much different from Florida.
Is Disney moving to South Carolina?
Honest to God, I can’t think of any. Sure, there’s the former GOP presidential candidate and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley who tweeted that her home state would welcome Disney.
“Hey @Disney, my home state will happily accept your 70,000+ jobs if you want to leave Florida. We’ve got great weather, great people, and it’s always a great day in South Carolina!”
There’s no airport remotely prepared for the kind of traffic we’re talking about. Also, keep in mind that even if Disney replicated all the resorts and hotels on its new property, many people stay in off-property hotels. It would be an unprecedented demand that would overrun even tourist-friendly areas like Charleston or Myrtle Beach.
Is Disney Parks moving its resorts to North Carolina?
Well, North Carolina State Senator Michael Garrett (D-District 27) wants it to happen. According to WXLV, he drafted the “Mickey’s Freedom Restoration Act,” a bill that would make a state-run Study Committee with the idea of attracting the Walt Disney Company from Florida to North Carolina. He reportedly welcomes Walt Disney and all other businesses “seeking refuge” from the culture wars. Sure, it’s a political stunt, but he is actively working on a plan to attract Disney.
And, like Atlanta, Charlotte has a big enough airport to consider expanding to accept Disney traffic but would still need a massive influx of dollars to handle it. And it would take decades to prepare.
The downside? The average low in Charlotte in January is 31 degrees. Also, I just don’t know where you could get 25,000 acres of land – the equivalent of San Francisco – in North Carolina.
There’s no way. Could North Carolina handle one Disney park? Yes. But all four parks and everything that went with them? Nah.
What did Iger tell Disney shareholders?
At a recent shareholder meeting, Iger didn’t say Disney could leave Florida. But he did refer to $17 billion in planned Florida investments in the past tense, clearly indicating Disney could halt expansion or take that business elsewhere. And he asked the question of whether the state wants Disney to invest more and employ more people, thus paying more taxes. Or not.
Is Disney World moving out of Florida?
No. Disney is not moving. Aside from the weather, the logistics and decades of infrastructure built to support the parks, there’s no location as good as the one Disney already has. Walt picked the right spot in Orlando, Florida. At least, he picked the spot and Disney worked to make it the right spot.
Look, reports indicate that Universal is spending more than $1 billion to build its single Epic Universe park. Assuming Disney would try to move all its operations to another state, we’re talking billions and billions just to recreate what they already have. Would those parks create increased profits? Maybe, but not enough to offset the billions spent that would have been profits if Disney hadn’t committed to such a stunning move.
While none of us have a crystal ball, I believe it’s unlikely that Disney will lose this legal battle outright. I think the worst Disney can do is a draw and I suspect an outright victory is more likely. Despite a certain amount of braying to the contrary, Disney has the money and the lawyers to outlast the DeSantis term and take its chances with his replacement. Will the next governor be quick to jump into the Disney Donnybrook? I doubt it.
Do you think Disney will move? What do you think would be the best location? Let us know in the comments!