Thoughts on the New EPCOT Entrance and Ongoing Construction
With the Cast Member previews underway at EPCOT, we got our first glimpse at the new entrance construction at the main entrance to the park since the shutdown back in March.
In case you've missed it, here are the changes:
Ticket booths have been painted in the same colours as the new attraction icons for the park.
Fences are down everywhere except around the fountain at the front of the park, still requiring guests to pick a side to travel in Future World or to access the World Showcase.
The fences past Spaceship Earth in what will be the new "spine" are still up with shades and their supporting poles removed.
The other walls around Cosmic Rewind, Play Pavilion, and Space 220 Restaurant are still up.
It's safe to say that given the fact that work was almost finished or well underway in this area and no work was planned during the shutdown, it is as we expected it to be at re-opening.
So, with the aggressive "re-imagining" being "re-imagined" based on new financial constraints, it's worth looking ahead at what to expect in the near future as the park gears up for whatever revised anniversary parties occur. If I had to guess, it would likely see the following happen:
EPCOT Entrance Fountain Opening
The first opening we will likely see will be the new fountain at the entrance of EPCOT which pays tribute the original one in the same location. Let's face it, the entrance has looked terrible for a while now and that's something Disney doesn't like; the entrance has to be a grand portal into discovering each theme park and the fountain will complete this piece of the puzzle.
France Expansion Opening (including Remy's)
The next attraction that will likely open will be the France expansion, including the creperie and Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. With the crowding in World Showcase, this will add more capacity to the park overall and eat up crowds for the new attraction. Crews are working hard to get this area ready and this is going to be ready in the short-term to guests.
MouseGear / Biergarten Exterior Completion / Spine Project
The area past Spaceship Earth has to be a major area of focus in the coming weeks. There are a few reasons this needs to happen.
First, and most importantly, the openings in building where MouseGear stood need to be closed in. If a hurricane hits, that could cause major damage and require even more work to re-open.
Second, these walls block guest traffic to Test Track and Mission Space, and will cause further congestion once Cosmic Rewind and Play Pavilion open. Opening this area up will help with crowd flow and attract more guests back into that area of the park to help with crowds.
Third, exterior work completion makes it look more pleasing to the eyes of guests and will allow work on the inside to progress so that they can re-open. Anyone who has been in that area of the park (especially those who have memories of EPCOT which form the bulk of their current guests) will tell you it's depressing and hard to navigate through. With the spine literally fenced off, it's hard for guests to get from the front of the park to the back and vice versa, forces large numbers of guests when the park closes through small passageways (making social distancing harder), and will make it harder to increase capacity. Similarly, fencing and scrim around parts of the park that were going to be re-developed and have now been shelved, paused, or whatever you want to call it, makes it better to just pave over and open up.
The opening of Space220 is likely going to be delayed indefinitely, due to a few factors. These include the challenges with social distancing and cleaning needed to facilitate the elevator (launch into space) to the dining area, reduced crowds and the need to limit tables make it hard to justify the ongoing operational costs of the screens and atmosphere, and then the additional issues around opening that has plagued the restaurant make it more likely this will keep it's doors closed until it's possible to re-open as it was originally intended.
Moana Journey of Water, Festival Center, and Walt Statue
Expect these to be delayed as part of the capital expenditure reductions in the short-term.
The reason why we can expect these to be "paused" is due to a few important factors. First, reduced crowds, no fireworks, and the status of festivals beyond 'Taste of EPCOT" in limbo, the festival center makes no economic or park capacity sense.
Getting the old MouseGear location back up and running provides the additional retail space for festival merchandise (either there or keeping the temporary MouseGear location exclusively for festival merchandise). No fireworks means and reduced capacity also means there is no need for additional dessert party space.
Moana Journey of Water will not necessarily work as it is planned currently with its interactive elements and finishing that and the Play Pavilion makes no economic sense. Since the Play Pavilion is much further along and it can be left closed once finished until it is safe to open, it's more likely this project will be scaled back but continue on, than the Journey of Water attraction. Building out Journey of Water and possibly not being able to open elements (if at all) and little work done thus far make it an ideal candidate to pause until later.
Finally the Walt Statue and Dreamer's Point will likely be paused until Spaceship Earth eventually goes under refurbishment. Dreamer's Point only makes sense to continue with once Spaceship Earth starts its work. If the exit area for the attraction is being reconfigured, building out the pieces for Dreamer's Point as a standalone project likely won't happen on its own.
So, there you have it. In what is one of the lengthiest blog posts, is a best guess as to what will happen as we see what's finishing up and what's still under scrim as part of the EPCOT overhaul. The big question yet to be answered is whether the EPCOT Experience Center will re-open tomorrow and if it does, what will it tell us about the future of Future World?