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Here’s a glimpse at Florida theme park reopening plans

Theme parks have yet to submit plans to governor’s office

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida theme park executives revealed hints of their reopening plans Wednesday in a roundtable discussion with Vice President Mike Pence.

Industry leaders touted their experiences with Florida’s phase one reopening guidelines and the ability to abide by the new restrictions, most saying they have stepped up cleaning measures and safety protocols to protect customers and guests from the coronavirus.

As part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ full phase one plan, he’s asked theme parks to submit formal requests to reopen which are to include target date and protocols on how theme park officials will enforce state and CDC guidelines. Their requests have not been made public, executives with various Central Florida theme parks did offer pieces of their plans.

Here’s what we know so far.

Walt Disney World

Disney's Magic Kingdom remains closed April 2020
Disney's Magic Kingdom remains closed April 2020 (WKMG TV)

During Wednesday’s roundtable, Disney executive George Kalogridis said the company is considering reopening parks with 20% to 30% capacity.

Kalogridis is the President of Segment Development and Enrichment for Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products. He said this guideline is in large respect due to Disneyland Shanghai’s success.

He told the vice president the company’s Shanghai park sold out of tickets for the first day of reopening at 20% capacity, saying guests will want to head to the parks even under restrictions.

The Shanghai park opened last week, with Disney executives planning to increase capacity restrictions based on guests and public health guidelines. Kalogridis said the park typically operates at 30% capacity since it reopened its gates.

Guests are required to follow social distancing markers and wear a face mask when visiting Disneyland Shanghai.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has said in previous interviews that U.S. parks will likely require much of the same from both cast members and guests. Chapek has said ultimately, it’s up to how comfortable people are and how they react to the parks reopening their gates.

Disney Springs reopened its complex to visitors Wednesday. The retail district is also limiting guest capacity. Visitors have to also undergo temperature checks and cover their faces as part of the dining complex’s phased reopening plans.

“A lot of it has to do with guest behavior as much as it has to do with Disney operations," he said. “Everyone knows COVID-19 is a serious manner. Therefore, we’re all playing a part in this ecosystem of safety. We’re going to do our part and we need our guests to do their part too.”


Universal Orlando Parks & Resorts

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A theme park executive with Universal Orlando Resorts and Parks said he expects rides to have lower capacity when parks reopen.

The theme park company hasn’t revealed too many details regarding reopening plans, providing a glimpse of what life at Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios could look like, beyond the temperature checks and decals encouraging social distancing already enforced at CityWalk.

The company’s retail district reopened last week, warning guests restaurants may be operating on limited menus and only select stores and dining options would be welcome customers with capacity restrictions.

Executive Vice President and Chief Administration Officer of Universal Parks and Resorts John Sprouls said Wednesday the reopening has gone well, calling the operation a success.

Sprouls said guests seemed to be following the rules. He added that the dining complex chose to also bring back management from venues that have not reopened yet to help enforce the attraction’s guidelines. Sprouls says the extra support to facilitate temperature checks and ask people to wear their face coverings is part of the reason their operations seem to work.

Universal Studios is expected to present reopening plans to the Orange County Economic Recovery Full Task Force Thursday, according to county officials.


SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld earnings, attendance plunge as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on tourism industry
SeaWorld earnings, attendance plunge as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on tourism industry

SeaWorld’s interim CEO provided the most details in his remarks to the vice president, saying he’s hoping to reopen the aquatic theme park sometime next month.

Swanson said he had submitted his plans to reopen, per the governor’s requests to theme parks. The SeaWorld executive said upon approval, park officials will need two to four weeks to “ramp things up” and would be ready to open in June.

Swanson pointed to the park’s largely open and outdoor space, calling it an advantage when having to enforce the increased safety protocols. The company executive told the vice president mid-June would be a more feasible reopen time.


News 6 confirmed Universal Orlando Resort will be presenting its reopening plans to Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force Thursday in hopes of receiving mayoral approval to send their request to the governor’s office. SeaWorld and Disney are expected to present at a future meeting.


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