The Year 1996


The Year 1996


Disney Vacation Club resort renamed to Old Key West

January 15, 1996

Disney's Old Key West Resort Logo
Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Hilton Head Island opens and becomes the 3rd DVC resort

March 1, 1996

The 123-unit DVC resort opened on March 1, 1996. Adjacent to Shelter Cove Harbour along the intracoastal waterway, it was designed as a 1940s Carolina Lowcountry vacation lodge. Separate from the lodge itself but part of the resort is Disney’s Beach House in Palmetto Dunes, featuring private access to a 12-mile beach.


Disney files declaration of condominium for Boardwalk Villas

BoardWalk Villas opens and becomes the 4th DVC resort

Disney’s Boardwalk A Blend Of 1900’s And 1990’s

June 10, 1996 | Sentinel Staff

Renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern envisioned the resort as a ”village across the water,” a place where frazzled tourists could take a day off from the theme parks or spend a romantic evening. For Walt Disney World, it’s the finishing touch to the Epcot resort area, and yet another opportunity to keep visitors on Disney property when they come to Orlando.

Disney’s BoardWalk resort complex opens for business July 1, adding another dimension to the company’s rapidly growing collection of hotels, restaurants and entertainment and shopping areas. In a first for Disney, the Stern-designed complex combines all of those elements in a single location.

Disney's New Boardwalk 1996
Disney’s New Boardwalk 1996

”It is a unique, one-of-a-kind resort on our property,” said Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney World. It includes a high-end hotel called the BoardWalk Inn and the BoardWalk Villas, part of the Disney Vacation Club’s time-share holdings. It has a 20,000-square-foot conference center, shops and the usual mix of pools, tennis courts and other amenities.

The complex also has a lakefront entertainment district with restaurants, nightclubs and a ”brewpub” serving beer made on site – all located on a wooden boardwalk. In addition to the people staying at BoardWalk, the entertainment strip is expected to draw heavily from four other hotels around the lake – the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, which do a large convention business, and the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts.

BoardWalk opens at a time when Disney’s hotels and theme parks are busier than they have been in years. There has been so much demand for hotel rooms this year that the company has had to refer business to other hotels during peak periods, Disney executives say.

Though Disney won’t provide numbers, Alan Gould, an entertainment analyst with the New York investment banking firm Oppenheimer & Co., estimates Disney’s hotel occupancy at close to 90 percent, ”way above the national average.” ”What makes it even more impressive is the fact that they keep adding so many hotel rooms,” he said.

Disney has added about 4,500 rooms in the past two years, with the opening of the Wilderness Lodge and the budget-priced All-Star Sports and Music resorts. Counting the BoardWalk Inn, Disney has 14,715 hotel rooms. In comparison, the entire International Drive tourist area, has about 20,600 rooms.

Company officials won’t discuss where BoardWalk’s bookings stand, except to say they are very strong. Some compare the resort’s outlook to that of Wilderness Lodge. When that hotel opened in May 1994, ”it took off like a rocket,” said Lee Cockerell, senior vice president of operations at Disney World. ”It was packed. ”With the theming today being so strong, people just want to get in and see these new places,” he said.

The theme of Disney’s newest resort will be familiar to anyone who grew up with summer vacations in Mid-Atlantic and New England beach towns. Stern – who also designed the Yacht and Beach Clubs and is known for his books on architecture and his role as host of the 1986 PBS series Pride of Place: Building the American Dream – modeled BoardWalk after seaside towns from the early 1900s. Architectural touches are reminiscent of Cape May, N.J., with a Coney Island feel to the boardwalk.

Disney officials say the resort has been an easy sell, especially with New Yorkers and others from that region. ”Anybody from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia – you’d be amazed,” said Charlie Hardiman, BoardWalk’s general manager. ”The Northeast is kind of enamored with it.” As Hardiman walks the dusty corridors of the BoardWalk Inn, where workers are racing the clock to finish the interior in time for its opening, he describes its place in Disney’s hotel empire.


He opens a door to a large room that’s nearly ready, with an eclectic mix of furnishings that give it the look of a fancy bed and breakfast. ”It’s not supposed to have that brand new feel,” he explained. He pointed to an ornate brass mirror on the wall. ”This is like something you would have taken from your grandmother’s house.” The hotel, with just 378 rooms, will be the smallest and one of the more expensive on Disney property, comparable in price to the nearby Yacht and Beach Clubs. Room rates start at $225, off-season. Those that don’t have a view of the water look out on the gardens of enclosed courtyards.

The hotel is connected to 532 time-share units by a large lobby. In the evening, guests will be able to sit in the lounge and listen to 1930s radio programs such as Burns and Allen or The Untouchables on an old radio. By day, they can walk around the lake to the back entrance of Epcot, or take a boat ride to Disney-MGM Studios.

The main distinction of these accommodations, however, is outside their doors. Disney’s BoardWalk entertainment district is nothing like Pleasure Island, a gated, nighttime area in the Disney Village complex that tends to draw a younger crowd. BoardWalk doesn’t charge admission, which should make it more popular with local residents.


The Year 1996