We spend a lot of time floating around in the metaphorical “black hole” that is Disney permits and patents. Disney is a HUGE company, and that means that we’re constantly seeing building permits, invention patents, environmental resource permits, and MORE popping up with the Disney name on them.
Well occasionally, a permit will catch our eye — and we spotted one recently that gave us some serious pause. On January 21st, a permit was filed for 2060 Avenue of the Stars. What’s that address, you ask? Well, it’s usually associated with the building housing Spaceship Earth.
Of course, we’re expecting a closure of the ride at some point during the Epcot transformation to make some significant changes to the attraction. The catch is we don’t know WHEN this closure is coming, but it’s possible that this permit is a clue.
Read on for why.
The Notice of Commencement was filed by Walt Disney Imagineering in late January.
The 2060 Avenue of the Stars address typically refers to the area around Spaceship Earth (more on that soon!), and the purpose of the permit lists “Facility Modifications” from a large contractor: Whiting-Turner. Now, “Facility Modifications” is a pretty broad term, but there are some hints in the permit that tell us this could be larger-scale work and not just a wall here or there.
Let’s clear up exactly what a “Notice of Commencement” is and why the filing of one is significant. A company has to file a Notice of Commencement when any construction project is about to start. Usually, these notices are filed a few days before the start of a project.
In this case, that means that we know there will be facility modifications over at 2060 Avenue of the Stars at some point in the near future (and by the looks of things, they’ve started already).
Now, the physical address for Spaceship Earth is not one you’ll find easily. So we had to do some digging to find out what, exactly, this address means. Interestingly enough, according to phone and tax records, the space that is registered to the address is the former Siemens VIP Facility.
This VIP Facility is a meeting facility and lounge located in the building that houses Spaceship Earth.
Now, it’s important to note that just because the permit goes to a building that houses the “Epcot ball” doesn’t mean that we can guarantee that the attraction is what will be receiving the modifications. It’s perfectly possible that modifications could be going to the VIP space (since Siemens pulled out of the space a few years ago), or to Project Tomorrow, or the exterior of the structure. And it could have something to do with the upcoming Dreamers Point instead.
After all, a huge portion of the area behind Spaceship Earth was just placed behind walls this past weekend, so that could be the beginning of the story for this permit.
BUT…hang with us for just a second…we’ve got a few more interesting clues to share.
There’s another aspect of the permit that makes us think this is a little larger scale than some changes to a meeting space or minor tech upgrades. One of those aspects is the contractor. For this particular project, Imagineering has enlisted Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., a national contractor.
We look at a LOT of permits, and Disney tends to use smaller local companies for smaller projects. A large national company is a rare find when it comes to the contractors listed on these notices. So, we looked into what other work Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. has done for Disney.
What we found was pretty interesting. Whiting-Turner seems to be one of the contractors Disney calls when they need a BIG project done. We found over 20 notices filed with Whiting-Turner for a significant piece of land in Hollywood Studios back in 2017. What do you think that piece of land held? You guessed it. Whiting-Turner was a major player in the construction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Other projects that Whiting-Turner worked on included work on Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs, and the overhaul of Epcot’s Maelstrom to Frozen Ever After. So they’ve got experience with ride overhauls for Disney. Could it be that Disney has hired the company for another big ride update?
The Expiration Date
Another aspect of the permit that makes us think that this Notice means big work is the expiration date. Notices of Commencement seem to get an expiration date of one year in most cases, meaning that the work has to be completed by then or the notice will require refiling.
In our Disney permit research, we’ve noticed that Disney tends to specify an expiration date, even though it isn’t required and the expiration they choose for smaller projects tends to be less than the one-year deadline. Now, THIS permit has an expiration listed of December 31st, 2022. That’s almost THREE WHOLE YEARS from the beginning of the permit filing.
We’re thinking that amount of time would be plenty to get scene changes, voiceover changes, refurbishment, additions, and more done at Spaceship Earth. With the speed that Disney does projects, this one is likely larger size due to that expiration date. They’ve given themselves plenty of time to accomplish whatever this project requires.
Plus, it’s a possibility that Disney wants Epcot completed in time for Disney World’s 5oth Anniversary in 2021; or, more realistically knowing the scope of work, for Epcot’s 40th Anniversary in 2022. If our guess is right, then they need to get workin’.
Does this mean Spaceship Earth could close soon?
So now that you know what we know, we’re sure you’re wondering: is Spaceship Earth going to close for refurb soon? Well, this permit could very well mean that work is beginning on the attraction; but it just as easily could be a permit for something else in or around the building. With all the walls recently erected in Epcot, there’s certainly a lot already going on.
Plus, Test Track is currently down for refurbishment in Epcot. We wouldn’t really expect both of these much-loved attractions to go down at the same time.
And, even if the permit IS for the first stages of the Spaceship Earth overhaul, work could begin without requiring a ride closure immediately. So, we could have a good amount of time to experience the current iteration of the attraction.
All in all, we know Spaceship Earth is closing, and it’s possible that keeping an eye on permits and construction will give us clues as to when. But as always, nothing is certain until we hear from Disney themselves. Here’s hoping they give us a long lead time before the beloved ride closes so that we’ll be able to ride one of our favorite Epcot attractions a few final times before it’s re-imagined!
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What do you think about this Notice of Commencement? Do you think work is starting or do you have doubts? Share your thoughts in the comments!