Saturday, June 11, 2016

Disneyland Resort Phased Expansion Plan Part 1 - Expansion Phases

And the long awaited plan for the Disneyland resort begins!

First, apologies for being away for so long, even after saying I would try to not do that. Finishing a thesis project, finding a job, graduating, and moving back home significantly slowed my production. Then last week, just as I was getting finished with the plans for this first post, my computer had major issues, so I was without that for a week. But now, the beginning stages of the project are done and ready to post.

This time, we are going to start by talking about my thoughts on the long term expansion strategies and needs for the overall Disneyland Resort. I see it as very important to the success of the growing resort to have a realistic plan for both the growth of the parks and the growth of the infrastructure around the parks.

Therefore, I have decided to structure this project as a multi phase expansion of the resort that is as realistic as possible. Specifically, I have set my designs up as a 4 phase expansion, each of variable time difference, leading up to my view of a fully built out 3 park resort.

The first phase is targeted to be completed by 2020, and is composed primarily of my versions of projects that have already been announced or rumored. This timeline was selected as it is a likely opening year for Star Wars at Disneyland, the centerpiece of this phase. It also includes some original projects to add capacity to both the parks and the infrastructure in preparation for the crowds of Star Wars.

The next phase is for 2025, and features major additions to California Adventure to balance the resort after Star Wars. Also, major infrastructure moves begin to prepare for the ultimate realization of the resort with a 3rd park.

The third phase is for 2030 and is the main feature of the expansion, the opening of the third gate, opening for the 75th anniversary of Disneyland. This would open as a fully realized and unique park, but one with plenty of expansion possibilities for the future.

And finally, the fourth phase is one last round of expansions to flesh out the resort now that it features three parks. This would include additions to all three parks, but most heavily at California Adventure, where some more place making work is done to better align to the thematic goal of the park.

Over the next many posts, I will be detailing this plan. I do not really have a timeline, as I am designing on the go and only have the exterior resort completed now. Still in progress is the multi phase expansions of the two parks and the 3rd gate for the resort. I need to warn you now that I do not know how long this will take or how soon I will have a 3rd gate done, but I will be doing my best to keep to a schedule and keep you updated.

So today, I will be presenting the start of the plan for the resort outside the park.

My design for the resort outside the park focuses of strengthening the infrastructure of the resort, which includes hotels, retail, transportation, and most importantly parking.

For anyone who has been to Disneyland, especially a regular, you know how complex the parks and transportation system, and with park growth, this is only going to get worse. So that was an important consideration. The resort needs drastically more parking spots.

Next, transportation to the resort, besides by car, is something that needs to happen. There is constant talk and debate about some kind of light rail of streetcar reaching the resort. There appear to be multiple plans in the works that connect from the new ARCTIC transportation hub and the Orange County airport.

Also, I wanted to add at least one hotel. Coincidentally, just a few days ago, weeks after starting this plan, Disney announced a new hotel for the resort. So I'm glad I was on the right track.

Last, I know an expansion to Downtown Disney has been rumored and I think it has to happen after the success of Disney Springs.

I approached the existing site with these clear goals in mind.

So first thing to do is look at what is existing in the resort.

The above diagram is just a basic graphic of the land owned by Disney and the existing elements of the resort in case you are not familiar. Noted are the two theme parks, the three hotels, and the Downtown Disney district. Also shown is the main Mickey and Friends parking deck, the primary parking location for the resort, and the three other main lots for theme park parking. Not shown is extremely large Toy Story parking lot down to the south, which will be the location of the third gate.

It is obvious when looking at this aerial view that the resort is tightly packed in to a relatively small site, but there is still a good amount of open space if the parking lots to the west are to be utilized.

It is also clear how a hotel and retail district is in development on the west side of the esplanade, which can be easily added to. Opposite, on the east side, there is potential for a transportation system hub in conjunction with new construction on the lot across Harbor Blvd. This is something that, according to many rumors, is happening very soon. The recently purchased Carousel Inn is a perfect connector between this lot and the main resort.

I also did some personal estimation for the current number of parking spots and the future number required at the various phases. I did the same with hotel rooms. I did this to understand the immediate and long terms needs that would guide my changes.

The current resort parking breakdown, based on officially released numbers and my own counting, is approximately 22,000 spots, broken down as 10,250 at Mickey and Friends, 1000 at Pinocchio, 1400 at Pumbaa, 3200 at Simba, and 6000 at Toy Story. That seems like alot, but at the busiest times of the year, it apparently fills up.

So my plan needed to immediately add a new large parking facility to relieve this pressure and then to slowly add new structures to add capacity as the parks grow. Also, I needed to replace the spots lost when the 3rd gate starts construction.

Similarly, the hotel numbers at the resort are relatively low compared to the daily capacity. The total number of rooms between the three hotels is 2576, specifically 995 at the Disneyland Hotel, 518 at Paradise Pier, and 1063 at The Grand Californian.

So I similarly wanted to immediately add some new capacity and then add rooms slowly.

So from this existing site, I was able to identify a variety of clear expansion plots.

There are 7 main lots, which obviously can and will be subdivided into different programs. Each have different pros and cons based on their location and relationships with other pieces of program.

Lot 1: the current Pinocchio surface parking lot is used as overflow and bus parking from Mickey and Friends.

This lot is best suited for parking, because it can be accessed through the parking deck, can share parking facilities, and is located right next to the tram line that takes guests to the esplanade. Also, it is the most removed from the hotel and retail district, which makes it unlikely for expansion in either type.

Lot 2: the current self parking for the Disneyland Hotel.

This lot serves its purpose well and is needed as parking for this large hotel and is a little too far removed from the core of the hotel to be used as any kind of expansion, so it also may be best as parking.

Lot 3: this is currently parking for Downtown Disney and the Downtown Disney Valet parking.

This is starting to be more conveniently located to the hotel and retail area, specifically to Lot 4, which is targeted as the location of the actually happening hotel and likely retail expansion.

Lot 4: currently this is the primary Downtown Disney parking lot and the Valet drop off.

The north half of this lot is the location targeted for the newest hotel, and logically, the rest of this lot is the prime location for Downtown Disney expansion, as it is the only open parking lot directly adjacent to the public walk way. It is also the largest of the lots in this area, so it has good potential.

Lot 5: the current parking for the Grand Californian Hotel.

This lot is right in the middle between the three existing hotels, and is relatively small. It is also isolated from Downtown Disney by the movie theater. It may do best to continue serving as parking for the hotels.

Lot 6: the Simba parking lot, currently used as overflow parking for the parks and Downtown Disney.

This is the largest continuous piece of property located in the main resort area, so it has value. The north half is adjacent to the hotel core and can access the back of house facilities behind the Disneyland Hotel. The south half has parking entrance infrastructure and could potentially be connected to the esplanade by a new tram route, utilizing the road behind DCA.

Lot 7: currently land owned by Disney but not in use at this time, as well as the Carousel Inn.

This lot is already targeted to be the location of a new parking deck and transportation hub for the resort. The Carousel Inn is an easy location for some kind of connection to the main resort. Also, it is directly north of the Toy Story parking lot, so it could include some kind of connection there as well.

So after this analysis, I began to assign program elements to the different lots and set the 4 phases of expansion. The theme of this process basically is the invasion of the parking decks.

Phase 1 includes things that are actually in progress.

The two big projects of the phase are the Transportation Hub on Lot 7, and the expansion of the hotel and retail core onto Lots 3 and 4. The transportation hub can be a deck of approximately the same size as Mickey and Friends and can include an enclosed walkway that cuts through the Carousel Inn property, across Harbor Blvd, and terminating in the east plaza of the esplanade. The walkway would be double level for the sake of crowd control (one way on each level, or variable with both in the same direction during rush hours) and features moving walkways along the long stretches.

The Transportation Hub also includes a large bus depot on the ground floor, additional taxi stands, and, eventually, connection to public transit. With the new bus depot, all non Disney buses will now drop off here, not in the drop off loops to the east of the esplanade, which will hopefully control traffic better.

The west additions include the Disney announced hotel (though obviously my interpretation of the project) and a large expansion to Downtown Disney. A new parking deck would then be built on Lot 3 to serve both the hotel and retail areas. It would also include a replacement for the valet drop off and parking, and taxi stands.

The other improvement in this phase is the construction of a tram route from the Simba parking lot to the east side drop off, utilizing the existing back road behind DCA. This will be most important in later phases when decks are built here.

Phase 2 includes more parking and hotel additions to account for the assumed higher crowds at the parks and prepare for the 3rd gate.
This phase brings additions to the south west area of the resort with a new luxury hotel in Lot 6, a new small parking deck in Lot 5 that serves as overflow for the surrounding hotels, and a new large parking deck in Lot 6, adjacent to the tram route, to add parking capacity for park visitors and replace the lost spots at the Toy Story lot, which is now under construction.

The hotel would include an underground parking deck under the pool level and a walking bridge over to the new parking deck, so guests can use the tram to the parks.

The new large deck fills half of the lot with the tram loop splitting the halves. Once this deck is opened, the Toy Story lot is closed to start construction.

Phase 3 brings additions for the 3rd gate that opens in this phase.
Biggest in this phase is a new deck located at the 3rd gate, which is not drawn in this diagram is a parking facility at the 3rd gate location. This will be designed and detailed when I get to designing the 3rd gate.

A second deck is built on Lot 6 to continue adding capacity lost at the Toy Story Lot and a bus stop loop is built by the Mickey and Friends deck for direct transportation to the 3rd park. This route (Mickey and Friends to 3rd Gate) would hopefully be minimal traffic, as guests would be primarily directed to both the 3rd gate and the Transportation Hub, but this bus is here for convenience.

Also, two transportation systems are added on to the deck on Lot 7: a light rail station that connects to a city built system, and a peoplemover station conveys guests from the deck to the 3rd gate.

Last, Phase 4 adds one final parking location in Lot 1 to fully build out the main resort infrastructure.
A final new deck is built on Lot 1, the last large lot without a parking deck. This is connected to the existing tram route and the previously added bus stop to transport guests to the 3 parks.

I think that is enough text for one post, so this is going to be break between sections. But the good news is that more will be coming very soon. I developed each of these 4 phases with fully detailed site plans, with similar quality to the park plans.

So next week, I will be back with those site plans and more detailed information about the themes and contents of the hotels and retail expansions!

Thanks for reading, and leave a comment if you have any thoughts or ideas!


  1. Very Interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing your take on the expansion.

    1. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the work!

  2. Cool, I'm guessing the Third Gate will be where you have the Genie parking deck. By the way, I sent you a reply to the email conversation from two/three weeks ago, in case you didn't see it.

    1. Oh the third gate goes on the current Toy Story Lot, which is a block or two to the south of these diagrams. I'll get to showing that location in more detail when I get to the 3rd gate.

      The new transportation hub, which I labeled as the Genie Deck, is desperately needed parking for the current resort and absolutely needed in addition to the final gate.

    2. Hmm...will the Third Gate also be constructed over the Anaheim Convention Center? I'm curious how you will allow guests to move between each of the parks.

    3. No it would be in the large lot directly across from the Convention Center. Here it is on a map:,-117.9111554,584m/data=!3m1!1e3

      The plan includes a large onsite parking deck (8000 spaces), a peoplemover from the transportation hub, and various buses.

      There is no perfect solution, but this is absolutely the location that a future 3rd gate will go. All the rumor's and insiders point to this as the only inevitable location.

    4. I suppose you could make the Anaheim Convention Center lot a Downtown Disney esc area...

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  4. Wonderful post! I quite like that you're focusing on infrastructure first, as it's probably the most prominent issue at the DLR.