Disney Plans to Expand California Theme Parks for Post-Covid Era

After the pandemic shut down its California theme parks for more than a year, Walt Disney Co. is now looking to shift into growth mode.

The company announced plans Thursday to expand its properties in Anaheim, California, by adding attractions across the street from the existing parks. The multiyear project, which hasn’t been assigned a price tag or a target date, is called DisneylandForward.

Disney is looking to bounce back from a pandemic that’s been especially tough on its California resorts. The parks have been closed since March of last year, but the company plans to reopen on April 30 -- subject to capacity limitations and other virus-related precautions.

With the pace of vaccinations accelerating, some analysts have grown more bullish about Disney. S&P Global Ratings raised its outlook on the Burbank, California-based company to stable from negative on Thursday.

The DisneylandForward project could allow the Disneyland and California Adventure parks to expand into spaces across Disneyland Drive and adjacent to two existing hotels, the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.

The plans include a possible immersive theme park and a “new kind of entertainment destination,” which could involve a theme park, hotel, dining and other entertainment.

The company said it would begin discussing the effort with local officials, but not seek any public financing. In the past, Disney has asked for tax relief and other incentives when it pursued construction projects.

The company said it’s facing zoning rules that limit what can be built on its property, restrictions it hopes to change through negotiations with the city.

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