The Walt Disney Co. has won approval to begin selling time shares in a 15-story tower the
company is erecting next to its famed Contemporary Resort, a $110
million addition that Disney has named "The Kingdom Tower."
Disney has for months refused to divulge its plans for the
hard-to-miss, half-built tower that is rising just outside the gates of
the Magic Kingdom -- despite rampant speculation among Disney fans that
it is destined for time shares.
A spokeswoman for the company's time-share division, Disney Vacation Club, would not discuss the project in detail again Monday.
But in new filings with the Florida Department of Business and
Professional Regulation, Disney formally states that the Disney
Vacation Club will "add a ninth component site to be known as Kingdom
Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort."
Disney says in the documents that it will sell the time shares in
phases, beginning with an initial 75 units. The Kingdom Tower, which
will connect to the existing Contemporary via a fifth-floor pedestrian
bridge, will ultimately contain 281 units, according to the filings.
A spokesman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation,
which awarded a time-share license to the Kingdom Tower project earlier
this month, said Disney has now been cleared to start selling units at
"They can begin," department spokesman Sam Farkas said.
Disney appears in no rush. The company says in the documents it doesn't
expect to finish the Kingdom Tower until the fall of 2009.
Analysts say the company can afford to be patient. The Kingdom Tower,
they say, is likely to prove a huge seller, given that it will be the
closest time shares Disney has built to the Magic Kingdom -- the
busiest theme park in the world -- and the first built directly
alongside Disney's monorail.
"I'd have to imagine that's going to be an extremely popular product," said Jeremy Glaser, a lodging-industry analyst with Morningstar.
Some analysts think Disney is withholding a formal Contemporary
announcement because it does not want to undermine time-share sales at
Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas or Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort
& Spa, both of which are still selling units. The company's four
other time-share resorts at Walt Disney World -- as well as one each in Vero Beach and Hilton Head, S.C. -- are sold out.
Glaser, however, said Disney's silence "could just be some trademark Disney secrecy."
Disney's filings with the state also offer more detail about the Kingdom Tower's amenities.
A new swimming pool, for instance, will be large enough for 180 people;
go as deep as 4 feet, 11 inches; and feature two hot tubs and a
104-foot-long water slide. There will be two tennis courts, two
shuffleboard courts and two boccie ball courts. A barbecue pavilion
will have about 490 square feet of covered area and a pair of picnic
Glaser predicted that Disney will choose to market the Contemporary
time shares "as more of an upscale product." An early point-chart
submitted by Disney to the state -- Disney Vacation Club owners buy
points from the company, which they then redeem for rooms, though they
must buy through a "home resort" -- shows guests will have to spend
more points to rent one- and two-bedroom units at the Kingdom Tower
than any of Disney's other existing time shares.
In a further step toward cementing the new tower's status as a
time-share resort, Disney has created a new condominium association
that would manage the resort once units are sold off to individual
owners. State records show that the "Kingdom Tower at Disney's
Contemporary Resort Condominium Association" was formally incorporated
The Kingdom Tower continues a wave of construction for Disney's
fast-growing Vacation Club. The company is in the midst of building its
first time shares at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and has announced
plans to build an 800-room resort in Hawaii in which at least half of
the units will be time shares.
Disney also recently obtained approval to rebuild its little-known
Treehouse Villas, a 60-unit community in a heavily forested area of
The move has prompted speculation that those units, too, could be converted to time shares.
The widespread building boom comes even as the U.S. economy teeters on the brink of a possible recession.
But Tammie Kaufman, a professor at the University of Central Florida who teaches courses on time shares, said time shares could remain
popular even during an economic slump because consumers will want to
stretch their vacation money further.
"People are looking for a bargain," Kaufman said.