History of DVC the Theme Park Era
In the previous History of the Disney Vacation Club article, I discussed the unlikely series of events that led to the creation of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. This time, I’ll talk about DVC’s biggest year ever, 2007. Four of the resorts you love connect back to 2007. Here’s how.
A Brief History of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas
As Disney management evaluated the first 15 years of the DVC program, one objective truth resonated. Guests preferred staying close to Disney theme parks.
While we all adore the occasional vacation alternative, most of us buy into the program in anticipation of spending lots of time at Disney parks. So, DVC modernized its business tactics in 2007 to satisfy this consumer demand.
We can trace the pivot to a relatively new Walt Disney World resort. Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day in 1998. Three years later, a companion resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, debuted.
I don’t need to sell you on its amenities, but let’s not gloss over their revolutionary nature at the time. Before 1998, nobody believed a business could marry theme park attractions with a de facto zoo.
In barely three years, Disney achieved that feat. Then, it doubled down on the premise by building a zoo at an official Disney hotel, too.
While Animal Kingdom as a theme park struggled during its early years, the adjacent resort immediately garnered acclaim for its architectural, thematic, and zookeeping triumphs.
Five years later, DVC revealed that it would add villas to Animal Kingdom Lodge. That brings us to the essential year of 2007. In July, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas opened, thereby becoming the eighth DVC resort.
The property combined beauty and world-class amenities with convenience. Guests could take a bus from the villas and enter Animal Kingdom in a matter of minutes. Remarkably, DVC would introduce even better logistics with its other 2007 announcements.
A Brief History of The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
In September 2007 and again that November, Disney doubled and tripled down on theme park logistics. Specifically, DVC chose one of Disney’s newer hotels for villa conversion.
This time, Disney finally looked west for a California locale. Remember the previously discussed but failed attempt at a Newport Bay DVC property? Disney wasn’t about to risk that again.
Instead, Disney converted an existing Disneyland Resort hotel into a DVC property. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa wouldn’t open for another two years, time Disney spent prepping other DVC projects.
However, when the DVC villas at the Grand Californian debuted, they offered one of the best amenities ever. Guests could exit the hotel lobby and enter Disney California Adventure in one minute. The private hotel entrance resides beside this lobby.
Once again, Disney provided DVC members with what we wanted. Since the program’s inception, we’d asked for a Disneyland option. Also, we desire properties near the parks. The Grand Californian expansion gave us both in one fell swoop.
A Brief History of Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
The November 2007 DVC project would actually arrive first, even though Disney didn’t announce it until much later in September 2008. By this point, everyone knew what was happening, though.
After all, you cannot keep a secret like a new tower construction on the campus of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Disney reclaimed some of this space for the unnamed Kingdom Tower project.
The Orlando Sentinel cheekily described the build as “the hard-to-miss, half-built tower that is rising just outside the gates of the Magic Kingdom.” Therein lies its appeal as well.
Who wouldn’t want to say that they live right by Magic Kingdom, the Most Magical Place on Earth? In August 2009, we got our wish when Bay Lake Tower, formerly known on the paperwork as Kingdom Tower, opened beside the Contemporary.
In the process, it claimed its sibling’s title as the closest DVC property to Magic Kingdom’s front gate. When you avoid that annoying “Don’t Walk” light on the sidewalk, it’s a five-minute trek from the hotel lobby to the park entrance.
In a matter of months in 2007, DVC added or at least planned three different properties close to theme parks. Not coincidentally, the DVC program has exploded in popularity during the 21st century. Of course, Disney still remembers its roots…
A Brief History of Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas
Please remember that during the planning phase of the DVC program, Disney intended to build properties at popular tourist destinations. Many of them weren’t at Disney theme parks. You can tell from today’s history lesson how much those plans evolved over time.
Disney never abandoned the initial premise, though. Several DVC properties reside far from the parks. DVC announced one of them in October 2007. It really was a busy year for the program…
Disney confirmed that the property in question would open on the island of Oahu in the popular tourist area of Ko Olina. This place bills itself as “the Island of Oahu’s Place of Joy.”
Ko Olina covers 642 acres of developed land. Disney purchased 21 acres of that space for its DVC property, which we now know as Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas.
This resort wouldn’t open until August 2011, as it was a ground-up construction project. However, when it debuted, DVC members could fulfill one of society’s most popular vacation dreams, a trip to Hawaii. In this manner, DVC maintained the program’s original vision while modernizing to account for theme park demand.
To a larger point, let’s recap what happened with the DVC program in 2007. Animal Kingdom Villas hosted its first guests in July. Then, DVC started work on the Grand Californian in September, Aulani in October, and Bay Lake Tower in November. Aren’t you amazed by how much the fundamental nature of DVC changed in a matter of months?