History of DVC The Saratoga Springs Trade

Saratoga Springs DVC Resort at Disney World

At the turn of the 21st century, the Disney Vacation Club planned its largest timeshare resort presence ever, one right beside a golf course. You’re almost assuredly not thinking of the correct DVC property, though. I’ll explain in the latest discussion of the history and evolution of the Disney Vacation Club.

DVC Proposes the Disney’s Eagle Pines Project

The Disney Vacation Club started 2001 with a bold plan to expand the program. This strategy centered on the area surrounding Disney’s Eagle Pines Golf Course, which seemed ideal for the DVC lifestyle.

Boulder Ridge Disney Vacation Club Sign

Disney planned 600 units across 61 acres of land near the popular golf course. You’re probably confused right now because Eagle Pines no longer exists. The explanation unfolds in two parts, both of which impact DVC. Two different Disney projects had to die for another to live.

When executives suggested Eagles Pine, everyone understood that the expansive land didn’t offer much in terms of location. It was mainly a hub for the golf community. You could fairly describe the setting as a compromise choice.

Disney had eyed other spots in the northeastern part of Walt Disney World, but nothing else matched the appeal of a golf course setting. DVC pot-committed to Eagle Pines mere months before a better option appeared.

DVC Notices Better Land Available

For reasons we’ll discuss in a bit, 2001 proved terrible for tourism. Not coincidentally, Disney’s then-CEO, Michael Eisner, accepted that one of his passion projects, the Disney Institute, hadn’t worked. This decision signaled the end of the Eagle Pines plan. Here’s why.

During the 1990s, Eisner had believed that many guests sought a new kind of vacation. For whatever reason, Eisner felt strongly that guests would enjoy blending a typical Disney vacation with an educational opportunity. This assumption proved one of his worst as Disney’s leader.

In 1996, the Disney Institute opened to the public. This combination training school and resort offered hands-on learning in the company’s style of customer service. Guests would also spend the night at this location, which offered moderately priced lodging.

To an extent, Eisner was correct in that the people who attended the Disney Institute raved about the educational opportunities of learning under Imagineers and other Disney leaders. Sadly, there just weren’t a lot of them.

The project failed due to a general lack of interest in the blended vacation idea. You can learn more about the Disney Institute here:

From a DVC perspective, what’s important here is that Disney quickly realized that it was building in the wrong place. The parcel of land near what we now know as Disney Springs provided more value as vacation housing.

When management confirmed the closure of the Disney Institute, the Eagle Pines project effectively died. A better opportunity existed elsewhere, and it was easier to build there since Disney had already developed the land.

DVC decided (but never announced) that the Eagle Pines project shouldn’t move forward. Ultimately, Disney carved that land into two different ventures. One became the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and the other is the Golden Oak neighborhood.

Disney Welcomes Saratoga Springs to the DVC Program

To be fair, Disney wasn’t completely wrong with its evaluation of its Eagle Pines plans. One unforeseeable factor harmed Orlando tourism.

The 9/11 attacks in 2001 occurred at a time before DVC had progressed with the Eagle Pines project. Tourism collapsed seemingly overnight due to new airport regulations and an economic downturn. The Disney Institute’s fate probably wouldn’t have changed if not for 9/11, but we’ll never know for sure.

Instead, Disney faced new challenges. Business dropped dramatically, reducing the company’s desire for expansion. Those new hotel rooms likely wouldn’t have sold anyway, at least not in the short term.

Saratoga Springs Resort

So, DVC chose to modify the existing “resort” at the Disney Institute into a DVC property. That’s how Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa became a reality.

In the initial announcement, Disney shared no specific plans about this development or its theme. All those executives knew was that they wanted and needed more DVC inventory.

At the former Disney Institute, they had viable architecture in place for a quick re-theme. So, they pivoted from a combination learning facility/hotel to a new DVC resort.

Amusingly, the theme at Saratoga Springs is legitimately among Disney’s best. The throwback look with its tribute to horse racing and hot springs is probably the resort’s greatest strength. All of that happened on the fly because 9/11 triggered a recession that hit the tourism industry hard. Desperate to build quickly, DVC almost accidentally struck gold with its re-theme.

Saratoga Springs would open to the public in May 2004, barely three years after Disney had confirmed the Eagle Pines project instead. Given the state of the hospitality industry at the time, it was definitely an either/or with these projects. Thankfully, Disney chose correctly.

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