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More Bad News for Infamous Disney World River Country Site

This famous location has been the subject of many plans and rumors.

Usually when Walt Disney (DIS) - Get The Walt Disney Company Report closes anything at or around its Disney World theme park, it's so something else can be put in its place. Because while space at the company's Florida resort is not as precious as it is in Disneyland in California, it's still valuable and any location that once housed a ride, hotel, restaurant, or attraction is probably a valuable spot.

That has not been the case for the old River Country Water Park. Once Disney World's sole water park, River Country was meant to feel like a an "old-time watering hole" which people jumped into from tire swings and other similar things. The problem with the much-loved water park is that it was built at a time when Disney World had many fewer visitors.

It was not meant to serve the high numbers of visitors that modern water parks can pack in. So, Disney built Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon -- two much more modern water parks -- and River Country was left to rot (quite literally). Disney drained the pools and slides, and then only did whatever it had to do to stop the site from being dangerous.

Disney slowly let the land reclaim its former water park and despite rumors of its return as a more-exclusive water park tied to a hotel, nothing happened to the site which became the subject of numerous social media memes. People shared pictures of the deteriorating eyesore and openly opined for different ideas for the property.

That changed just before the covid pandemic when Disney finally released a plan for the property.

Disney Had a Major Plan (It Wasn't a Water Park)  

Back in 2018, Disney finally confirmed plans for the property and began to clean up the remains of River Country. It cleared the land and shared that it planned to build a new hotel on the site, which sits on Bay Lake, that would be called "Reflections - A Disney Lakeside Lodge."

Disney even shared artist renderings for the property.

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"Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge resort was announced as a deluxe-level property that was to be themed around Walt Disney's love of the natural world. When completed, this new hotel would include more than 900 rooms as well as Disney Vacation Club villas spread across a variety of unique accommodation types," Theme Park Tourist reported.

The pandemic put a halt to those plans. That was not a sign of alarm, but now it seems like work remains halted and the Disney may have cancelled (or greatly delayed) the project.

Disney Is Spending Carefully

Disney has not made any comment on Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge since covid hit. The company has been investing in its park completing planned rides like Magic Kingdom's "Tron: Lightcycle Run" and Epcot's "Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind," but it has been quiet about what it's doing after it finishes a slate of planned new rides and attractions.

The Reflections hotel site has been cleared, but it does not appear that the project is currently moving forward.

This does not confirm the project will never happen, but it makes it clear it's not being worked on actively. Disney faces a challenge in that building hotels takes months, and sometimes as much as a year. That means it has to build based on where it expects demand to be in the future not where it is now.

That's especially challenging in the current economic conditions. Disney has not really seen a slowdown in visits to its theme parks, but one could happen or more demand can develop for lower-end, rather than upscale, resorts.

This project will likely be brought back at some point, but now it remains an empty site that once housed River Country.