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ANAHEIM'S MAKEOVER BEGINS

Hotel Operators Applaud New Theme Park as Boon to the Economy

Tourism: They will share in business generated by expected influx of 7 million annual visitors who will provide a $1.4-billion boost to city, county and state.

July 18, 1996|PETER M. WARREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Disney's plan to dramatically expand and improve its original amusement park here drew unrestrained praise Wednesday from managers at hotels big and small, who stand to gain from the $700 million in economic activity Disney estimates the project will bring to the city.

Several hoteliers lauded the entertainment giant's project, saying it would be a boon to the economy and tourism in the city, the county and even the state. Many regard the upgrading of Disneyland--along with the city's plans to rewire, replumb and repave the area around the theme park as well as rebuild the Anaheim Convention Center--to be long overdue.

Disney predicts the project will boost the economy of the state by $1.4 billion annually and in its first year draw 7 million additional tourists to the park, which currently entertains more than 14 million people annually.

"We are excited. It is long-awaited," Jolly Roger hotel general manager Maura Brondi said of the Disney expansion. "We look forward to it in the hotel community. It is necessary for the revitalization of Anaheim and to bring an influx of new people and business."

Others reacted to Disney's ambitious California Adventure by making clear that they see this $1.4-billion construction plan as more realistic than the $3-billion expansion Disney put forth in 1993. That project, called Westcot because it incorporated elements of the company's Epcot Center in Florida, was deemed too expensive and abandoned.

"When you talk about $3 billion or $4 billion [as with Westcot], this [current] project is really a goal that can be obtained," said Ramada Main Gate Inn general manager Joe DeDio. "Wrapping it in with beautifying the whole area is really, really important."

The words of praise were mixed with wistful references to Westcot as well as to the fizzling of Disney plans to develop a theme park in Long Beach, which for a time in the early 1990s was an alternative site for Disney's West Coast expansion.

Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Floyd Farano, an attorney, said he had counseled clients--both hoteliers and restaurateurs--not to go ahead with expensive expansion plans or development projects based on hopes for Westcot. "That plan was uncertain," he said. "The timing was downstream.

"We hope this whole project gets on the way as soon as possible and it doesn't get pushed back any further than the target date of 2001," he said. "The tourist business in Anaheim, in Orange County and in the state of California needs the business it will bring."

Farano, who attended the morning Disney announcement at the "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" theater in Disneyland, called the plans and models "spectacular. . . . Disney always does these things at a very high level. They have an overwhelming team that does a lot of soul-searching and the final product is always good."

Disney is planning its own hotel within the new park, a 750-room deluxe resort complex to be called the Grand Californian. That would bring to 2,300 rooms the number owned by Disney at three hotels in the 140-acre area that encompasses Disneyland and the new theme park. None of the hoteliers expressed any concern about the competition from the new hotel.

Bill O'Connell, general manager for Best Western hotels in Anaheim and chairman of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau, said his colleagues "are just elated" about the Disney expansion.

"It is fantastic news," he said. "We think it is a terrific concept. We like the idea and that it is only going to take five years to build. For something of this magnitude that is a short period of time.

O'Connell echoed the words of others calling the project "a real thing, not a perspective thing." He also praised plans for a retail shopping and dining area to upgrade the tourism experience for visitors. "The No. 1 complaint of tourists has been that the area had limited night-life attractions," he said, "and Disney has solved that problem too."

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