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Disney Drops Plans to Build New Florida Campus

Disney is abandoning plans to build a new campus in Lake Nona, Florida.

In a memo sent to employees Thursday, Josh D’Amaro, chairperson of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said Disney would not be moving forward with construction of the campus due to “considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions.” The project was announced under the leadership of then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek in 2021.

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This decision comes as part of a larger legal battle between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which began in March of last year with the entertainment company’s opposition to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Tensions escalated in April, when Disney sued DeSantis alleging that the governor’s oversight board illegally voided an agreement that transferred certain powers of the company’s dissolved Reedy Creek special district back to Disney.

Disney had already delayed the relocation of about 2,000 workers in its parks, experiences and products division — including many “Imagineers,” the people responsible for designing the company’s theme parks and rides — to the Lake Nona campus until 2026 amid the fight over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as well as the desire to provide those employees more “flexibility,” the company said at the time.

Now, Disney is no longer asking employees to relocate there, though D’Amaro notes that some of the 2,000 had already moved.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one. As a result, we will no longer be asking our employees to relocate,” D’Amaro wrote in the memo.

Iger hinted at a withdrawal from Florida on Disney’s May 10 earnings call, when he said was “closely evaluating where it makes sense to direct future investments” in Disney’s theme park business. He appeared to directly taunt DeSantis, saying, “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?”

D’Amaro’s full memo is below:

Team, 

I wanted to let you know that we’ve just begun communication regarding our updated plans for the Lake Nona campus. 

As many of you know, the company had decided to build a new Disney campus in Lake Nona and many Cast Members, Imagineers, and Employees were asked to commit to making a move to Florida. While some were excited about the new campus, I know that this decision and the circumstances surrounding it have been difficult for others. 

Given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward with construction of the campus. This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one. As a result, we will no longer be asking our employees to relocate. For those who have already moved, we will talk to you individually about your situation, including the possibility of moving you back. 

It is clear to me that the power of this brand comes from our incredible people, and we are committed to handling this change with care and compassion. I remain optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business. We have plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next ten years. I hope we’re able to do so. 

We are committed to our teams who call Central Florida home and to all of our Cast Members around the world, and I want to thank you for your continued dedication to Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and for delivering world-class entertainment for our Guests.

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