The recent agreement between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis marks a significant milestone for the state’s economy. The deal allows Walt Disney World Resort to add a fifth major theme park, two minor parks, and a water park. Additionally, Disney will expand its hotel capacity by 14,000 rooms, increasing the total to 54,000. This expansion is part of a larger investment of up to $17 billion in Florida over the next 10 to 20 years.

Infrastructure and Housing Investments

As part of the agreement, Florida will receive 100 acres of Disney’s 24,000-acre property for infrastructure projects. Half of these projects will be contracted to Florida-based companies, ensuring local economic benefits. Moreover, Disney has committed to funding $10 million towards affordable housing in Central Florida, addressing a critical need in the region.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) approved the deal following two years of disputes between DeSantis and Disney. The conflict began after DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The law restricts discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Disney publicly opposed the legislation, leading to a series of legal and political battles. In response, DeSantis restructured the governance of the district overseeing Disney, appointing new board members who approved the current agreement.

The new development agreement sets the stage for extensive economic growth in Florida. Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, noted, “It’s a huge deal and that both sides have come to their senses and realize that this is the best path forward.” The agreement resolves a protracted legal dispute and establishes a framework for Disney’s significant investment in the state’s tourism infrastructure.

Future Developments and Industry Impact

Dennis Speigel, owner and founder of International Theme Park Services, emphasized the importance of the agreement for both parties, stating, “It’s a win-win situation getting back together. Orlando is the Mecca of the theme park industry, and for it to function, Disney and Florida have to function together.” Speigel noted that a significant portion of Disney’s investment would likely go towards a new theme park, maintaining its competitive edge as Universal prepares to open its new Epic Universe park in 2025.

Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’s Communications Director, highlighted the positive impact of the agreement, stating, “This agreement is a big win for Central Florida and will lead to numerous jobs and improved guest experiences.” Similarly, Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle expressed enthusiasm, saying, “This new development agreement paves the way for us to invest billions of dollars in Walt Disney World Resort, supporting the growth of this global destination, fueling the Florida economy, and allowing us to deliver even more memorable and extraordinary experiences for our guests.”