Florida legislators’ passage of a bill to repeal Reedy Creek, the special district that governs Walt Disney World, has spawned satirical barbs on late-night talk shows and “Saturday Night Live.” And it has sparked debate among legal experts on whether the state can actually accomplish Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan.
DeSantis signed legislation in reaction to Disney’s opposition to the state’s recently enacted Parental Rights in Education bill. The potential dismantling, which, if it happens, would take effect June 1, 2023, also has people wondering if Mickey Mouse might simply give the state a gloved finger and open a new mouse house elsewhere.
Will Disney leave Florida in retaliation?
The short answer to whether Disney pulls up stakes and bolts the state: The company could.
But would it is considerably highly unlikely. There’s way too much invested in the Sunshine State.
Walt Disney World celebrated its 50th anniversary in Florida last October.
The attraction opened Oct. 1, 1971 — 16 years after the 1955 opening of Disneyland in California — and boosted Orlando’s international appeal as a tourist destination.
Over the years, its original lures like the Country Bear Jamboree, the Haunted Mansion, the Tomorrowland Speedway and Cinderella’s Castle have thrived alongside additions like Space Mountain, which opened in 1975, Splash Mountain and the more recent Seven Dwarfs Mine Train that opened in 2014, CNN Travel reported.
The resort, which also includes Epcot, employs over 77,000 people, dubbed “cast members,” most of whom live in the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Though admission prices have steadily risen, as is the case with everything in more than five decades, that hasn’t hurt park attendance.
The Magic Kingdom, alone, draws an average 57,000 guests a day with more than 21 million passing through the gates in 2021, according to park statistics.
That’s not counting the attendance at Disney’s other Florida parks like Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
Moving more than 27,000 acres — some 43 square miles of property — out of the state and all of those people and decades worth of branding itself as a Central Florida landmark would not be like Publix closing one supermarket in Miami and moving its contents and staffers to a Miami Beach location.
Offers to move
All of the logistical nightmares to move an operation of Walt Disney World’s size out of Florida has not stopped some other states from offering the company space to relocate.
On April 19, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis invited Disney to relocate to his state, Newsweek reported.
“Florida’s authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector are driving businesses away,” Polis tweeted. “In CO, we don’t meddle in affairs of companies like @Disney or @Twitter.”
Florida’s authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector are driving businesses away. In CO, we don’t meddle in affairs of companies like @Disney or @Twitter. Hey @Disney we’re ready for Mountain Disneyland and @twitter we’re ready for Twitter HQ2, whoever your owners are https://t.co/r7Vcvu20eb
— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) April 19, 2022
On April 21, a Texas judge in Fort Bend, K.P. George, also extended an invitation to Disney to open a new Walt Disney World in the Lonestar Star State in an open letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.
“From Timone & Pumba to Tinker Bell, Disney characters are as diverse as Fort Bend County families,” George said in his tweet that included a copy of his letter.
George’s letter criticized Florida Gov. DeSantis and said the Disney company, its employees and diverse fans, “face authoritarian, anti-business, and culture war attacks from extremists in Florida.”
From Timone & Pumba to Tinker Bell, Disney characters are as diverse as Fort Bend County families. I welcome @Disney to visit Fort Bend County as your next destination while you face attacks from the modern day political extremists like @RonDeSantisFL. pic.twitter.com/UMtvN4Cudj
— County Judge KP George (@JudgeKPGeorge) April 21, 2022
What Reedy Creek does
The Reedy Creek Improvement District gives Disney the power to act like its own local government. Like other cities in Florida, Reedy Creek maintains roads, levies taxes and has its own garbage pickup, fire-rescue and other emergency medical services.
It has two cities — Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, where Walt Disney World Resort is located — and contracts with Orange and Osceola counties for police.
If Reedy Creek does get dissolved, it would be on June 1, 2023. And while there are still a lot of questions on who will be tasked with taking over the services Reedy Creek provides, park-goers likely won’t notice any significant changes at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Disney’s other theme parks.
Disney will still be able to build new rides, hotels and theme parks though the process might not be as streamlined as before. Reedy Creek has its own building code, and can issue permits, which gave Disney the power to develop and build attractions faster than its competitors, according to the Washington Post.
If the Reedy Creek district dissolves, Disney would have to apply for permits through Orange or Osceola counties, depending on where the construction would be. That is a process followed at SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort, which plans to open its new theme park, Epic Universe, in summer 2025. Disneyland in California also has to get county approval for construction projects.
A provision in state law also says Florida can’t do what legislators signed for unless the district’s bond debt was paid off, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday. Reedy Creek told its investors it would go about business as usual.
Effect on admission prices
Would the end of Reedy Creek make your Disney vacation more expensive?
Who knows. It’s too soon to say, though Disney already raises its ticket prices occasionally anyway.