Plans filed with the state have generated speculation that Walt Disney World is planning a cable car system on its property.
Rumors have circulated about such a project for months.
Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Disney-controlled government agency, submitted plans to the South Florida Water Management District this week for work associated with various improvements. The plans are vague, but they do show buildings – including one with a V shape – with floors that are elevated 100 feet. The details are leading some to conclude the project could be paving the way for a gondola lift linking some of the theme parks and other areas.
Such systems have been built in other parts of the world. Experts say cable cars would shuttle tourists around in a cost-effective, fun way.
Disney would not confirm or deny whether it’s planning a gondola lift system.
“At any given time, we have numerous projects in various stages of development across our resort,” the company said in an emailed statement. “If a project moves forward, we will share details when it makes sense to do so for our business.”
According to the plans, work will take place in spots including south of Epcot and Disney’s BoardWalk and east of the Hollywood Studios theme park.
Both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are getting overhauls. A Star Wars land is set to open in 2019 at Hollywood Studios. Disney executives have said they plan big changes to Epcot, too, though they have not revealed what those will be.
Theme park fans on the WDWMagic.com website who saw the permits theorized the work could be for the rumored gondola lift.
Their idea makes sense to Dennis Speigel, a theme park consultant whose firm recently worked on a project that included cable cars.
“What we think it is is a gondola ride, a cable car,” Speigel said after inspecting the plans. “It makes sense.”
Speigel found the buildings’ locations and elevations particularly interesting. He also found the V shape of one building intriguing.
Buildings associated with other cable car projects have had similar features, Speigel said.
Also, he said, “they’re doing a fill-over the swamp area. That’s where we think they would be putting the free-span poles.”
Speigel’s company, International Theme Park Services, designed a project in Vietnam that includes a cable car ride across Ha Long Bay.
Speigel said gondola lifts are “the way things are going now.”
Also, he said, “it’s overhead, doesn’t take up land. You can still build around, underneath.” And, “a gondola’s a ride, an attraction. It’s conveyance, but it’s fun conveyance.”
Duncan Dickson, a former Disney executive, said a cable car system would be cheaper than expanding the monorail system. “Anything you can do to get people off the roads is probably pretty intelligent,” he said.
Patrick Radden, a construction project manager in Lexington, Ky., and a Disney fan, has analyzed the plans along with another frequent contributor to the WDWMagic site.
The two also looked at structures from other Reedy Creek permits and reached the conclusion Disney appears to be planning a cable car or gondola system.
“We started noticing these odd structures being on these permits,” Radden said.“When we overlaid them onto maps we started noticing they connect on straight lines.”
Radden said others on the site had talked about a gondola system, and “we took that and basically ran with it, put two and two together.”
Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe said the permit filed this week was a joint one between his agency and The Walt Disney Co.
Classe said he had no information on what the buildings depicted on the permit would be.
Disney has not spoken with him about any new transportation system, he said. “I only know when they submit applications to us,” he said.
An engineering company that works on a variety of projects including transportation-related ones, Atkins North America, worked with Disney on the plans. Locally, Atkins has done work for the Central Florida Expressway Authority.
Disney has also been working on a series of road transportation projects to prepare for more traffic from its expansion.