Walt Disney World at Large
(beyond the parks)
1971 – present
The main focus of Walt Disney World, from its conception, was that which would lie beyond the borders of the Magic Kingdom. The original five year plan did not include or even forecast for the distant future a second theme park, but it did call for a variety of resort hotels and recreational activities geared toward commanding up to a week of vacation time.
Starting with just two hotels (The Contemporary and Polynesian) and a campground (Fort Wilderness) for the October 1, 1971 opening, accommodation options remained sparse until the opening of the Golf Resort Hotel and the Motor Inn Plaza hotels at Lake Buena Vista in 1973. Additions came gradually and were placed in relative accordance with the master plan that had been in place before even the WDW Preview Center opened in 1970.
Likewise, activities ranging from boat rentals and horseback rides to golfing and tennis were introduced at the offset, and were further enhanced in measured paces with additions such as Treasure Island (later Discovery Island) in 1974, the Walt Disney World Village in 1975 and River Country in 1976.
No one closely involved in the original plans for WDW could have predicted the direction that the resort would take after the Eisner & Wells management team arrived in 1984. After a quick glance at the property’s usage up to that time, they set about to aggressively capitalize on opportunities for more profitable development. By 1987, planning and construction were underway for a dizzying mix of new hotels, entertainment complexes and water parks. Nineteen years later, the company has yet to stop and catch its breath. Compare a property road map from the early 1980s with a map printed since 1994 – the original planned scope of WDW appears an exercise in understatement.