Disney's planned indoor park in St. Louis

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Rumpelstiltskin
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Disney's planned indoor park in St. Louis

Post by Rumpelstiltskin »

The park was supposed to exist under a giant dome:

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/ ... story.html
By the early 1960s, Walt Disney was looking to expand with another park easily accessible beyond the West Coast. St. Louis seemed a good choice, and not just because of its geographically central location or because Disney grew up in Missouri.

St. Louis was booming in the Camelot years. The Gateway Arch was under construction, opening in 1965. And Busch Stadium was being built a few blocks away, bringing both football and baseball downtown in 1966.

Plans called for "Walt Disney's Riverfront Square" to cover two blocks in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from the Arch grounds and the Mississippi River.

St. Louis isn't blessed with California-like weather, so Disney's plan called for a five-story indoor park. Some of the rides planned for St. Louis eventually became fixtures at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, including the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Disney was willing to pay for the rides and attractions, but wanted St. Louis' redevelopment corporation to pay for the building. The corporation declined to do so.

The Arch, the Cardinals and other attractions make St. Louis a popular tourist attraction today, with an estimated 21 million yearly visitors. Walt Disney World draws about 52 million annual visitors.

Disney officially backed out in 1965.
And this:
https://www.stltoday.com/business/colum ... d084b.html
Leaders of Civic Center Redevelopment Corp., which controlled the land, agreed to pay for the building that would house Riverfront Square, but balked when they found out the cost of the building Disney wanted. Disney was only willing to pay for things like rides and movies, not for any part of the structure. A memo said that on one of the floors, Civic Center would have spent $9 million to build walls, floor pits, and so on, while Disney's installation costs would have been just $4 million.

Disney may have had another reason for not wanting to commit a lot of money to St. Louis: Even as he was courting civic leaders here, he was acquiring land in Florida for what would become Walt Disney World.
Walt's plan was always to build Disney World (and EPCOT) in Florida, no matter if St. Louis was built or not. Had the leaders there been willing to take a greater risk, we would now have had a indoor park in St. Louis too. Maybe over time it would have expanded over its two original city blocks, but would of course never have been as huge as Disney World. Then again, Disney World was probably never meant to be as big as it ended up as. From Business Insider:
We found the nearly half hour video Disney produced for Florida Legislators to get permission and rights for his project. In it, Disney laid out his big ideas for his massive Florida project.

Called "Project X," Walt's Florida expansion was meant to be much more than Disney World. Forget the theme park. Florida wasn't about Disney World, though it was a small part of the picture.

The theme park and all the other tourist facilities—hotels, motels and recreational activities—were meant to fill one small part of Disney's Florida project. This part alone is five times the size of California's Disneyland.
Included was an industrial park covering 1000 acres. With the majority of Walt's plans skipped, the company suddenly had a lot of land available to do with as they pleased.
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Re: Disney's planned indoor park in St. Louis

Post by blackcauldron85 »

If the Missouri government would have paid, and the park was built, I wonder if it would have been as successful as the other Disney Parks. Definitely a neat piece of Disney history!!
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Re: Disney's planned indoor park in St. Louis

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I think it would have been successful. The place only has about 40% of the amount of visitors that Disney World does, but it would also have been much smaller so it wouldn't need the same number of visitors to make a profit. And the 21 millions are without a Disney Park. Had they built Walt Disney's Riverfront Square, there would probably have been even more people visiting the place. Being an indoor park, it would have been different from the others.
Today we have concepts like indoor surfing, climbing and skiing, so Walt was ahead of his time.
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scarletunicorn
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Re: Disney's planned indoor park in St. Louis

Post by scarletunicorn »

Middle America is not given the respect it deserves. Walt Disney was a true visionary and his family friendly conservative values appealed to all Americans. This park would have been a national icon. :(
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Re: Disney's planned indoor park in St. Louis

Post by Rumpelstiltskin »

Walt did want to give visitors a feeling of small town America based on his own experience in Marceline in Missouri in the old days more than 100 years ago, so his choice for the park was probably no coincidence. It could very well have become an icon.
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Re: Disney's planned indoor park in St. Louis

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I've always seen both sides of the coin in this project. In one hand we sort of saw this come to life and fail through Disney Quest in Chicago, on the other hand this would've been different because it would've had Walt's touch and be overall a "better" park to begin with.

I think ultimately it would have failed for a few reasons. I think it would've very quickly not been able to meet the demand it would've cultivated from fans. Capacity would have always been an issue and although it could have expanded, in a city setting that would have been near impossible. See how hard it is for Disneyland to expand in Anaheim. Overall, outdoor parks can hold a lot more than an indoor park. Space ultimately becomes a huge issue and I think that's why we haven't seen a lot of successful indoor theme parks at all.

Infrastructure (and the cities in general) in Anaheim and Orlando sort of built around the fact that the Disney Parks were there. St. Louis was already an established major city. I'm not convinced that the city would've been able to adapt to such a major attraction, and then would've caused a mess trying to accommodate the customer fast enough to help it. Overall the city would look and feel very different today if it was there.

Overall, I don't think indoor parks are ever able to match the magic and majesty of a full outdoor park. Although I have no doubt Walt would have made something unique and charming, it would have never lived up to either of his parks. This would have felt like a lesser-than version of his full outdoor parks. I think that would've ultimately been its downfall.
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