|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, United States|
|Opening date||March 22, 1975|
|Management||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company|
|Public transit access|| 50 & 300-306 
|Walt Disney World|
Disney Springs is an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. The complex opened on March 22, 1975 as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village and has been expanded and renamed at other times over the years. It was first renamed Walt Disney World Village in 1977; then to Disney Village Marketplace in 1989; and afterward to Downtown Disney in 1997. In 2013, plans were announced for a three-year renovation of the complex, and on September 29, 2015, the name officially changed from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs.
The complex includes four distinct areas: West Side, the Landing, the Marketplace, and Town Center. Disney Springs is open year-round and requires no admission or parking fees. Buses and water taxis operated by Disney Transport provide free transportation to and from Disney Springs to Walt Disney World resort guests.
Early expansion; multiple rebrandings
The Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, which opened on March 22, 1975, was originally envisioned as an area shopping mall. Two years after its opening, the complex was renamed Walt Disney World Village. With the advent of new management under Michael Eisner in 1984, Disney began looking for ways to keep vacationers on Walt Disney World property longer, and prevent them from leaving for entertainment beyond Disney's borders.
To compete with the popular Church Street Station clubs in downtown Orlando, Disney announced the addition of Pleasure Island, featuring nightclubs showcasing Disney's quality and creativity, to Walt Disney World Village on July 21, 1986. Construction began the following August and Pleasure Island was opened on May 1, 1989, the same day as the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. Later that year, the complex was renamed Disney Village Marketplace.
In the mid-1990s, the growth of Walt Disney World created the potential for further expansion, leading to a $1 billion investment in projects across the resort. On June 20, 1995, major enhancements and expansions were announced for the area, with the Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island being combined into a newly branded district named Downtown Disney. The re-branding was introduced on September 7, 1997. On September 15, Downtown Disney West Side, a 66 acres (27 ha) expansion, opened as a third shopping, dining, and entertainment area featuring venues such as La Nouba (a permanent show which is part of Cirque du Soleil), DisneyQuest, and Virgin Megastore. Major changes to the complex also included the conversion of Mickey's Character Shop into the World of Disney, becoming the world's largest Disney store, in addition to the expansion and upgrade of the AMC Pleasure Island Theatres, as well as the opening of Rainforest Cafe and Planet Hollywood. Pleasure Island's quality started to degrade after it became free to the public in 2004. On September 27, 2008, the Pleasure Island nightclubs closed.
The Downtown Disney complex gained a sister district in California on January 12, 2001, with the addition of Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort. Similar complexes also exist at other Disney resorts, such as Disney Village, which opened on April 12, 1992 at Disneyland Resort Paris, and Ikspiari, which opened on July 7, 2000, at the Tokyo Disney Resort. A fifth version is expected to open at Hong Kong Disneyland, while Shanghai Disney Resort will feature Disneytown when it opens in June 2016.
Renovation and renaming to Disney Springs
On March 14, 2013, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs announced that Downtown Disney would be redesigned as Disney Springs. The expansion project will include 150 new tenants and the construction of two parking structures. Disney Springs features the following districts:
- The Marketplace
- The Landing (formerly Pleasure Island)
- Town Center
- West Side
In order to facilitate the construction of the area and the increase in capacity, two large parking structures were constructed in previous parking lot areas, with major construction completed in Spring 2016. New features include new bridges connecting the area to Disney's Saratoga Springs resort, with further bridges connecting The Landing to the Marketplace, The Springs, Town Center and West Side. High Line structures were built across the West Side in order to provide both theme and shade. In addition, a new bus terminal, with dedicated bus lanes on Buena Vista Drive, was built; Buena Vista Drive was widened, and a new exit ramp built from Interstate 4 directly to Disney Springs, as part of the traffic upgrade. The complex was renamed Disney Springs on September 29, 2015. Town Center opened on May 15, 2016, completing the major construction on the project.
Disney Springs is divided into four areas: Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side. The complex is bordered by Lake Buena Vista to the north and the parking garages and surface lots to the south. Walt Disney Imagineering took inspiration for Disney Springs from real coastal towns found throughout Florida, such as St. Augustine and Coral Gables.
Creative director Dave Hoffman said about the area, "Each neighborhood reflects its function and [the fictional] time period when it was developed." According to the town's fictional history, Disney Springs was settled in the mid-1800s by a cattle rancher who discovered the town's namesake springs and the town subsequently expanded from the springs outwards.
The Marketplace houses many shops and restaurants reminiscent of the American Craftsman-style of the 1930s. The first restaurant in the Earl of Sandwich chain is located here. T-Rex Cafe is a dinosaur-themed restaurant operated by Landry's Restaurants, which features animatronic dinosaurs. It opened on October 14, 2008. Landry's Restaurants also operates Rainforest Cafe at this location. A walkway spanning the Village Lake and connecting Rainforest Cafe with the Lego Store—The Marketplace Causeway—was constructed and opened in 2015.
The Landing is the town's transportation hub and marina. The Landing features nautical-themed restaurants and shops, including Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar—an aviation-themed dive bar based on the character from the Indiana Jones films—and The Boathouse, which serves as the port for the amphibious automobiles that offer cruises of Lake Buena Vista.
The Landing was formerly the site of Pleasure Island, a nighttime entertainment district with two comedy clubs and four dance clubs. These areas closed permanently on September 27, 2008. On November 18, 2010, Disney announced a project named Hyperion Wharf, which was planned to replace the Pleasure Island complex. Pleasure Island would have undergone extensive renovations and re-theming to transform into the early twentieth century wharf-themed entertainment area. New shopping and dining locations would have also been added. In July 2011, it was announced that these plans were delayed. These plans were later canceled, and the former Pleasure Island became the Landing in 2015.
The Empress Lilly
The structure originally known as the The Empress Lilly is a static full-size replica of a paddle steamer riverboat on Village Lake. It is 220 feet long and 62 feet wide. Though it resembles a boat, it is actually a boat-shaped building on a submerged concrete foundation.
It opened on May 1, 1976, when it was christened by Walt Disney's widow, Lillian Disney, for whom it was named. It originally housed four separate entertainment and dining areas. The Baton Rouge Lounge, located forward on the main deck. Here patrons could relax at the bar and enjoy the music and comedy of the Riverboat Rascals. In the mid-1990s, the Empress Lilly came under new management, and Levy Restaurants signed a contract to operate the "ship" for 20 years. On April 22, 1995, the Empress Lilly served her last meals. All interiors were ripped out and the old smokestacks and paddlewheel were removed because they had rusted and rotted; these were not replaced. The restaurant opened as Fulton's Crab House on March 10, 1996. Fulton's Crab House closed for major renovations in 2016 to be remodeled into a new restaurant, Paddlefish.
The area debuted in 2016, having been built on former surface parking lots, and features many well known retailers. The area will open in multiple phases, with the first phase having opened on May 15, 2016. Retailers to have opened in the first phase of Town Center include Anthropologie, Sephora, L'Occitane en Provence, Pandora, UGG, ZARA and Kate Spade among many others.
Expansion of the existing AMC Theatres Pleasure Island 24 venue opened with Downtown Disney West Side in 1997. In late 2010, renovations began which created theaters offering food service. The complex was renamed AMC Downtown Disney 24. In 1997, there were plans to open a Planet Movies by AMC entertainment complex at this location by combining the Planet Hollywood restaurant with a re-branded AMC megaplex. These plans were abandoned due to Planet Hollywood's continued financial problems. The complex has now been renamed AMC Disney Springs 24.
- On April 22, 2010, a 61-year-old woman from Celebration, Florida, suffered a collapsed lung, fractured ribs, and back pain due to a boating accident near the Treehouse Villas. The rented Sea Raycer that her husband was driving collided with a Disney ferryboat. The Orange County Sheriff's report states that the Sea Raycer crossed into the ferry's right-of-way.
- On December 25, 2015, a fight broke out at Bongo's Cuban Cafe between a 70-year-old man and restaurant staff. The man was escorted out of the restaurant after he grabbed a worker's bicep, which left a mark. The man was arrested a short time later outside Starbucks. At some point during the fight, someone falsely reported hearing gunshots at the restaurant. This rumor spread quickly, leading to mass panic. The suspect was found without a weapon and was charged with battery.
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