Work continues at closed Disney parks during coronavirus pandemic
Construction projects, animal care, groundskeeping, hospitality updates and more at 'The Most Magical Place On Earth'
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Although Disney theme parks and resorts have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company is still working on several projects and upkeeping its sprawling properties in the U.S. and abroad.
Despite having to furlough more than 74,000 employees, Disney still has essential workers that keep business operations big and small moving, including phone agents who handle transactions and reservations, wedding and event planners who putting together future celebrations and a security team who is guarding the premises while making sure the American flag is raised and lowered each day.
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Construction at Walt Disney World and Disneyland has been halted in accordance with local mandates, but construction projects are taking place at Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland, according to reports from WDW News Today.
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On the resort side, The Walt Disney Company purchased 26.3 acres of land under its subsidiary Celebration Co. in early April, according to the Orlando Business Journal. The land is located on the southeastern shore of Reedy and is west of the Magic Kingdom theme park. It reportedly cost $1.05 million and is an addition to the 235 acres Disney purchased in December.
A separate report from the Orlando Business Journal in mid-April says Disney has filed permits for its 900-room nature resort Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge and construction is being continued by a local third-party company – Balfour Beatty Construction LLC.
"Balfour Beatty is taking all necessary measures to ensure workers, clients, partner and the public are safe," the company said in a statement. "As an essential business, we have a responsibility to keep our projects operating while we modify the way we deliver work to allow for the new and necessary health and safety measures that are now required as a result of this pandemic."
Other construction projects that are reportedly in-progress include Marriott's "The Cove" hotel, which is a companion property at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Work is also being done at Disney's Flamingo Crossings hotels as well as the housing for the Disney College Program and one of Disneyland's Vacation Club Towers.
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Additionally, the animals and plant life that are present on Disney's properties are being cared for.
The 2,000 animals that live at the company's Animal Kingdom properties and 4,000 sea creatures at EPCOT'S Sea Base are being tended to by Disney Animal Care, a team of wildlife experts who are equipped to work with the 360-plus species there.
Most notably during the pandemic, a Hartmann's mountain zebra foal named Asha was born at the Animal Kingdom on March 21 – five days after Disney theme parks closed. The zebra and its mother are currently set free in the savanna of the Kilimanjaro Safaris area, according to the Disney Parks Blog.
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The flowers, trees, hedges, bushes and gardens that decorate Disney's properties around the world are being maintained by the company's horticulture team. Josh D'Amaro, the president of Walt Disney World Resort provided his followers a sneak peek on April 18 of how plants are still cared for even when guests aren't there.
"Like many of you, I spend most days at home, but every so often I come in to thank the small group of Cast maintaining the magic at WDW," he shared. "On a visit to #EPCOT this week, I was struck by the beauty and inspiration of our Flower & Garden Festival topiaries, which are still here. They are a testament to how amazing our horticulture team is."
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Executives at Disney are working on coronavirus-related hospitality initiatives that are meant to help the company whenever the eventual reopening date is set. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, who was supposed to make his exit after his successor Bob Chapek settled into his role, is reportedly reasserting control to navigate The Walt Disney Company through the pandemic. He told Barron's earlier this month that temperature checks may be implemented at its parks for guests after the COVID-19 crisis.
More recently, Disney has updated its My Disney Experience app to make online check-in a requirement at its resorts, according to one Twitter user who has a reservation set for July. Guests who complete the check-in process digitally will be allowed to go straight to their room upon arrival without having to stop at the front desk. Prior to the coronavirus, checking in through the app was an option and not a requirement.
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In California, a Victorian-style lamp reportedly glows as a symbol inside Walt Disney's second-floor apartment, which is visible from the ground level of Disneyland's Town Square.
"It glows as a source of inspiration to our cast and our guests as a remembrance of the man who once looked out that window to the sights of happy families making memories below," wrote Rebecca Campbell, the president of Disneyland Resort, in an Instagram post. "Today, even in a world filled with so much uncertainty, that light still shines, bright as ever. I'm looking forward to the day when families can make memories once again."