The man who wrote the book on Disney’s relationship with Florida is warning that removing Disney’s special district status could come at an economic cost, not only for the surrounding municipalities that would have to absorb the Reedy Creek Improvement District but for the state as a whole.
Rick Foglesong authored “Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando,” which chronicles Florida’s love affair with Disney.
The book specifically looks into the Reedy Creek Improvement District, an area where Disney can govern itself.
“I came to call it a Vatican with mouse ears,” said Foglesong.
The district was an essential part of the deal to get Disney to build its theme park in Orlando.
“They persuaded the state legislature in 1967 to allow them to create an autonomous political unit,” said Foglesong.
But now, more than 50 years later, lawmakers have passed legislation that would revoke the park’s special district status.
Foglesong said dissolving Reedy Creek would mean all the services the district provides would have to be paid for by either nearby local governments or by the state.
“If the state of Flordia is going to do that, well that’s gonna come out of the revenue generated by contributors to the sales tax in Jacksonville and everywhere else in the state,” said Foglesong.
And losing the special district status could also slow new growth in Disney World, or even encourage the company to consider investing elsewhere.
Colorado’s governor has already offered for the company to relocate to their state.
“They can’t move Walt Disney World, but they could move any further expansion to some other state,” said Foglesong.
And Foglesong said that shift could be a drag on the state’s entire tourism economy.
“Some of those people who may have come from Ohio to go to Disney World in Orlando are gonna stop at some other places along the way in other parts of the state,” said Foglesong.
Under the bill, Reedy Creek would not be dissolved until June 1 of next year, giving lawmakers more than a year to look at the issue and determine whether reclaiming the Cinderella’s Castle is worth the potential economic cost.
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