Making Room for Disneyland Resort's 3rd Gate??
podcast version of this article will be up shortly
So one of my favorite Youtube sources on Disney Parks news goes by the name OrangeGrove 55. Side note: For those of you who might be puzzled by the origins of this name, it comes from the birth year of Disneyland (1955) and the fact that the park was built on what was previously orange groves, back when Anaheim was mostly a farming town.
Any-who, OrangeGrove 55 did a recent short video on the problem that is Harbor Boulevard, the busy avenue that borders the eastern side of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The past two years saw some local drama play out with Disney's proposed Eastern Gateway Project. This new parking structure, transportation center, and security check point would have patrons totally bypassing local business on Harbor Boulevard via a pedestrian bridge.
These establishments, with growing support from the City Board of Supervisors, successfully challenged this vision as it would have drastically cut down on foot traffic that presently frequents their stores and restaurants. So Disney execs pulled the ace out of their sleeve and cancelled the project, choosing to instead expand the massive Mickey and Friends parking structure on the west side of the resort. But that now brings up an interesting question: What is Disney to do with all that land they own just east of the resort proper?
the illusive 3rd gate and my crazy idea
So I will admit up front that the idea I want to share is probably in the realm of fantasy. But hey, Fantasyland is real and with the proper amount of imagination and, you know, money, anything is possible! And last I checked, the Disney Co. seems to have quite a bit of the green stuff.
Ever since the announcement of California Adventure, there have been rumors and rumors of rumors about the possibility of the Disneyland Resort adding a third theme park or what most refer to as a 'third gate'. But unlike Disney World with it's abundance of space to expand, the Disneyland Resort sits in a highly developed community. The only piece of real estate owned by the Mouse House that is large enough for such a venture is the current Toy Story parking lot. But I have always thought that its location southeast of the current resort would have made for an awkward place for a third gate. Unlike the ease by which park goers can walk back and forth between the two existing parks, how would they access the third gate without breaking a bit of the magic that is felt once guests are on Disney property?
So that's when it dawned on me, a solution that would benefit Disney, local Good Neighbor Hotels and businesses, and the City of Anaheim. What if Disney used a combination of land swapping and cash to relocate every non-Disney entity out of the area bordered by Interstate 5 to the north, Harbor Boulevard to the west, Clementine St to the east, and Disney Way to the south. And while we are at it, let's include a smaller piece of land behind Cars Land and Katella and Harbor that is currently home to a group of hotels and a small convenience store. This would secure invaluable space for expanding the soon to arrive Marvel-themed land. These hotels, restaurants, stores, and one university would be relocated to the current Toy Story lot (perhaps the university could move to the employee lot at Harbor and Ball).
the new 'good neighbor district'
There would be several benefits to the City of Anaheim and to all of the businesses that make this trek into what I am calling a new Good Neighbor District.
For the hotels and businesses that relocate here, they would be in immediate proximity to a new Disney resort security check point and transportation center. (This security and transportation center would be much along the lines of what was envisioned for the Eastern Gateway and that already exists for day visitors parking at Mickey and Friends.) Along with the benefit of these hotels having brand new facilities, Disney could also offer them slightly more space as the land they would be deeding to the hotels is larger than the space the hotels are giving up. More guests staying in new facilities with immediate access to the parks? Sounds like a win to me! Likewise, restaurants such as Mimi's and McDonald's and other stores would be right in the middle of this highly active area for not only Disney guests, but also for Convention attendees who are now much closer.
It would also allow Anaheim to fulfill its development dream and extend the East Gene Autry Way all the way to the Convention Center, making for a direct line of access between the Center and Disneyland Resort west of Interstate 5 and Angel Stadium, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Center, and nearby Honda Center on the east side of the 5.
A small number of low-income homes would be relocated and expanded further north on Hester Street, thereby providing more affordable housing for those who are struggling to make it in Anaheim.
the benefits to the disneyland resort
The wins for Disneyland are obvious. First of all, they would be able to accomplish what they had hoped for in the failed Eastern Gateway project in terms of more closely managing guest traffic flow and site security. After going through this new district's off-site Disneyland Resort Eastern Security Check Point, guests would take a shuttle or tram system that would drop them off in the current Transportation Center, located next to the esplanade between the two parks. Other Good Neighbor hotels outside of this district that have shuttle service to the current Transportation Center would need to be rerouted to drop off at this new Security and Transportation Center.
More important than this would be the ample space now available for a true third gate that is integrated into a continuous Disney property. Out-of-town guests, who generate the most revenue for the resort, would have ample reason to extend their trip to the great pleasure of the Burbank bean-counters.
After the big move is complete, Disney then has to decide what exactly to do with their solid block of land directly adjacent to it's two existing parks! It's possible that along with a 3rd gate, they could include another Disney hotel or maybe some limited parking for cast members. With regard to the movement of guests, perhaps the monorail can be redirected from a redesigned Tomorrowland station to stop in the new park before making its way to an additional station in a re-imagined Hollywood Backlot in DCA. The monorail would now service all three parks plus the Disneyland Hotel district and Downtown Disney.
As far as another park, what might be the theme? I would have thought that Marvel or Star Wars would have made a great fit, but Galaxy's Edge is on the home stretch and the ball is already rolling with DCA's Super Hero Land. Should it highlight another franchise, perhaps the newly acquired from Fox world of Pandora that already has a footprint in Florida's Animal Kingdom?
Like I said at the top, it's a crazy idea and likely to never happen. But sharing crazy, unlikely ideas is what we are all about here at Armchair Imagineering. So please make sure to share what you think of my proposal along with some of your crazy ideas on a third gate in the comments below.