Happiest Place on Earth Could Expand With $2B Plan Over 10 Years

New attractions and hotels would mark Disneyland’s biggest expansion in 70 years


The Happiest Place on Earth will become even happier, if Anaheim allows it.

The Walt Disney Company wants to spend between $1.9 billion to $2.5 billion over the next decade redeveloping Disneyland Resort in Southern California with new attractions, hotels and shops within its current 100-acre footprint, according to media reports. Featuring new projects based on the films “Black Panther,” “Peter Pan,” “Toy Story,” “Tron” and “Frozen,” the plan, called DisneylandForward, could be one of the largest expansions at the theme park since it was built in 1954.

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The Anaheim City Council is expected to vote on the plan by this spring.

While it’s not specific about what would be built, DisneylandForward aims to make the resort more immersive with new areas that would combine or embed attractions alongside or within hotels, restaurants and stores, or vice versa.

The project would not expand Disney’s current footprint except for some surrounding city streets — including Magic Way, Hotel Way and part of Clementine Street — in exchange for $40 million to the city and about another $50 million spent on street improvements. (Two of the roads that would be privatized are already used as entryways into a Disney parking lot.)

Disney said the expansion would create thousands of jobs and lead to tens of millions of dollars more in taxes for the city to spend on affordable housing, public parks and other road improvements. Hotel tax revenue is already Anaheim’s largest source of funding: The city expects to collect $236.3 million from hotel taxes for the 12 months ending in June.

Part of the plan includes requesting the city ease zoning restrictions in areas designated for hotel use to also allow Disney to add park rides, attractions and retail stores.

The plan already has critics who say DisneylandForward will create more traffic and not enough tax revenue, as well as raise rents and the overall cost of living, the L.A. Times reported. An opposition group started a petition against “privatization” of Anaheim’s streets.

Disney has a lot more theme park competition in Southern California than in 1954. For example, Universal Studios Hollywood has expanded in recent years with “Harry Potter”- and “Star Wars”-themed attractions. In November, Six Flags and Cedar Fair merged to create a theme park powerhouse with 27 amusement parks and 15 water parks, including in Southern California.

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.