Walt Disney World is currently home to four theme parks, two water parks, a large shopping district, and more than 20 resorts. As Disney talks about expansion and new lands at its parks, is a fifth theme park at Walt Disney World a possibility?
The answer to that question is complicated.
Walt Disney World could eventually build a fifth theme park, but don’t expect to visit it in the near future. Most educated guesses suggest a fifth theme park is in Walt Disney World’s 15-to-20 year plan, at the earliest, after they’ve addressed their current four theme parks.
That timeline is estimated due to the current expansion areas still available at the existing theme parks and the enormous costs associated with constructing a brand new theme park.
Let’s talk more about the existing theme parks. Each one has, more or less, room to expand its current capacity.
EPCOT has several locations available for new countries in World Showcase. Disney’s Animal Kingdom could expand near Pandora, could build out a new land in the existing Rafiki’s Planet Watch area, and more. Magic Kingdom has a couple locations for new projects, including the former Magic Kingdom Theater project, and the area behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Disney’s Hollywood Studios could grow in a couple directions and may already have plans to expand Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Summarized, all of the four theme parks can expand their capacity through future developments both large and small.
Over on the financial side, it’s much more affordable to expand parks that already have an infrastructure (electric, plumbing, parking, etc) than it is to build something brand new. The costs to create a brand new park from scratch are enormous, especially if it’s going to match the immersive level of detail that Disney is known for. A fifth theme park might be viewed as a last-resort plan when all of the existing theme parks have been fully utilized within their constraints.
Some guests will point to Disney’s heavy investment in new hotels at Walt Disney World and suggest that a fifth park is necessary to handle all the guests. There’s no question Disney has added more resort rooms over the years, particularly with Disney Vacation Club (DVC) expansions. However, Disney’s new resorts aren’t being added just attract new guests who weren’t planning on visiting Walt Disney World. Instead, they’re trying to attract more people who may have chosen to visit while staying off Disney property.
Disney is trying to entice guests who may have chosen the Four Seasons or a different off-property resort with attractive new hotel options. In theory, that wouldn’t have as sharp of an impact on attendance at the theme parks as you might believe.
Let’s pretend Walt Disney World continues to be profitable and continues to draw large crowds. Let’s also assume Universal’s Epic Universe, which is set to open in 2025, successfully becomes a threat. Disney might be forced to punch back in a big way, but they will only do so if the money supports it. Modern Disney is going to be very cautious with splashing out on new projects after the costly failure of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. They won’t splash out on something big if they’re losing money on the existing parks.
Outside factors may be the deciding factor when it comes to a fifth gate. The current economy and Disney’s tumbling stock price in 2023 make such a sizable investment feel like a pipe dream. Disney has promised $60 billion in spending across its parks division over the next 10 years, but that plan will focus on expansions rather than a new gate.
Realistically, a fifth theme park should happen at some point at Walt Disney World. It may take years (or decades) and it may not be what Disney fans expect (a smaller boutique park seems more possible), but additional expansions should be in the long-term plans.