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March 3, 2014
Easing Magic Kingdom's Crowds
Disney had to do something. The Magic Kingdom is hands-down the most visited theme park on Earth. According to the Themed Entertainment Association, in 2012 an estimated 17.5 million people descended on the Magic Kingdom, and by all accounts that number has only gone up since New Fantasyland (mostly) opened. That is 1.5 MILLION people more than the number 2 park: Disneyland in California (just shy of 16 million). To further put MK's crowds in perspective: Epcot -- which is almost twice as large a park - hosted just over 11 million in 2012. That means Magic Kingdom hosted 6.5 million more people than Epcot. 6.5 million is less than Universal Studios Florida or SeaWorld drew in 2012, according to TEA.
Price hikes aren't turning guests away, and imagineers and ops people tell me that New Fantasyland wasn't really done to increase attendance as much as spread out crowds. You know what a good chunk of those crowds like to do? Watch fireworks and parades from in front of the castle.
That means the Hub (as the circular plaza is called) is swamped with far more crowds than it was designed to handle.
It's called the hub because all paths lead to and from it. That design was aimed at helping guests not feel lost as they look for Tomorrowland or Liberty Square.
That means most people need to make their way through the hub several times a day. Word of a hub redesign has been in the works for a while now. Well. last week Disney made it official.
Those are still grabs of a video Disney released showing what the new hub will look like when it is finished sometime next year. The video is below. What's different? Basically they are building a second ring of the hub: adding pathways and bridges while shrinking the castle moat. There will be fewer trees and a lot more flowers, plus a couple of extra fountains. Disney calls it a homage to the manicured gardens found outside many European castles. The design should let more people watch from the inner hub, while crowds can keep moving on the outer ring. There's also a FastPass+ artificial lawn for watching the fireworks. It also means trimming back the rose garden and eliminating the dock from the Plaza Swan Boats (which closed back in 1983)
But that's not Disney's only trick to better manage crowds. One goal of MyMagic+/FastPass+ is to encourage the masses to spread out to less-crowded parts of the park -- and even head to other parks. Disney is also adding a second ferry dock outside the Magic Kingdom.
And a second ferry dock at the Transportation & Ticket Center to allow two ferries to load and unload at the same time: speeding up your trip to and from the Magic Kingdom.
That's especially helpful considering Disney has been performing much-needed maintenance on its iconic monorails. Most weekdays, the Magic Kingdom loops are shut down in the middle of the day. Crews are working on the trains, and getting the beams ready for upgrades that are coming soon to make the fleet safer.
The final way Disney is helping the crowds: adding another attraction.
Yes, after more than two & a half years of work, testing is finally underway on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Sky 6 showed us Friday the dwarfs' cottage is shaping up nicely.
Rockwork appears done on the main drop.
A waterfall is running and trees both real and fake dot the top of the hill.
I've heard of a few frustrations during construction, but nothing unexpected on a first-of-its-kind ride system (the coaster cars swing back and forth).
It should be a nice addition to the MK lineup: a coaster more intense than Barnstormer, but less than Thunder Mountain. All but the littlest ones will be able to travel through the mine where a million diamonds shine.
While Disney has not yet announced an opening date, expect soft-openings in the next few weeks if work keeps going as planned.
More from Theme World all week including a look at what's new with Universal's popular Mardi Gras and big changes coming to one of Disney's most iconic resorts.
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