July 21, 2024

New DVC Lounge Confirmed for Magic Kingdom

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After a few months of rumors, Walt Disney World has revealed that the newest private lounge for Disney Vacation Club members is coming to Frontierland in Magic Kingdom. This post shares details of the controversial




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After a few months of rumors, Walt Disney World has revealed that the newest private lounge for Disney Vacation Club members is coming to Frontierland in Magic Kingdom. This post shares details of the controversial confirmation, along with basic background info and our commentary about the good and bad of this decision.

For starters, exclusive DVC Member spaces have long been part of what Disney Vacation Club calls “Membership Magic.” From the Top of the World Lounge, which reopened with villainous new offerings atop Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, to the colorful Member Lounge in the iconic glass pyramid of the Imagination! pavilion at EPCOT, these exclusive enclaves are among Disney Vacation Club Members’ favorite places at Walt Disney World.

Last year, Disney Vacation Club opened its first Member Lounge at Disneyland Resort in California. Called Star View Station, the new lounge is located in the heart of Tomorrowland at Disneyland in the space on the second floor of the Star Wars: Launch Bay (formerly Innoventions) building. The sleekly designed “space” is home to a dedicated Disney Vacation Club Member Services team, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (yes, outdoor–everyone seems to miss the big views from the balcony!), free Wi-Fi, device-charging stations, and self-service beverage station.

At the start of this year, Walt Disney World teased that construction on a brand-new Disney Vacation Club Member Lounge would begin later in 2024 at Walt Disney World. No location was shared or anything else, leading to a lot of speculation about where it would be. Our hope and top prediction was Magic Kingdom–largely by virtue of demand, lack of spaces elsewhere, and an abundance of them at Magic Kingdom.

Well, today DVC has made that official, confirming to journalist Scott Gustin via Twitter that a members-only lounge will replace the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade in Magic Kingdom. Construction is set to begin later in 2024 with no opening time-frame revealed. Disney Vacation Club or Walt Disney World will release additional details at a later date.

Disney indicates that the new Frontierland DVC lounge will be a “pioneer-inspired space” designed in the spirit of the “the bygone era of exploration and adventure.” According to aerials, the space they’re working with is around 2,500 sq. ft., but there’s no guarantee that they’ll use all of that. The upstairs Imagination lounge at EPCOT only uses a portion of the former ImageWorks area.

Given the scope and scale of the work needed to be done to reimagine the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade into a lounge and the pace of projects, we don’t anticipate this new DVC lounge in Magic Kingdom opening until 2025. Even if construction started today–and there’s no indication it will despite a permit already being filed–I don’t think they could have it done this year. So I guess sometime in 2025 at the earliest, depending upon when work gets started.

Turning to commentary, I knew this was coming but didn’t want to believe it. After expressing (let’s say) mild skepticism about this in a recent post, I received some (let’s say) concrete reassurement that, actually, that is the plan. Nevertheless, I was still skeptical.

It feels like a lot is in flux at Magic Kingdom on this side of the park and the dining/lounge scene (more on that tomorrow), and there are so many other spaces that could’ve been used for this instead. Several of these other spaces, I might add, are vacant, closed, or used for storage and are not currently available to all guests.

Seriously, if I shared a full list of everywhere that’s currently closed in Magic Kingdom, it would blow some minds. (Including mine, probably, since I always forget just how many spots are unutilized…and this is not just a COVID thing! Many of them have been closed for years before that.)

Personally, I’ll be sad to see Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade go. I have childhood nostalgia for it and have done it more than ever in the last few years since it went to free play. It’s an easy little diversion that allows kids (or adults in my case) to have a bit of fun without waiting in line. Spots like this are needed counterprogramming and reprieves from the crowds. Plus, I enjoy showing off my sharp shooting skills to Sarah. She pretends not to be impressed, but I know she is (secretly).

Honestly, I’m less sad to see this go on a personal level than I am a “discourse” one. The responses to this news among Walt Disney World fans are going to be quite predictable, and continue a narrative that I really hoped the company was making a concerted effort to break.

Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade has been on borrowed time for a while. I don’t think that’s really a provocative or contestable statement. Walt Disney World removed almost all ‘authentically-presenting’ guns from the parks back in December 2015. This included everything from the gun used by the Jungle Cruise skippers to toy guns being sold in the gift shops.

I remember back at the time, there was widespread speculation that the shooting galleries in Florida, California, Paris, and Tokyo would also close. That didn’t happen, perhaps because they’re all opening day attractions at their respective parks, and there would’ve been backlash as a result that wouldn’t occur to the same intensity as getting rid of toy guns and other smaller-scale tweaks.

Nevertheless, that point almost a decade ago is when we started viewing these attractions as on life support. If they weren’t replaced outright, they’d probably get the boardwalk games treatment, rethemed to Woody’s Roundup or something, and made inauthentic. The blaster and boardwalk style games have all been deemed acceptable, so that made sense. Probably would’ve been the smart thing to do, in hindsight!

Instead, what’s happening is a double-shot of (arguably) negative news. First, Walt Disney World is converting an opening day attraction that anyone can play (and for free now!) to one that’s exclusive and reserved for guests who spend big-money on timeshares.

This is not quite on par with Club 33 or other private areas in terms of the “things only for the wealthy” narrative. (Most DVC members we know are not rich, but upper middle class does seem appropriate.) It’ll still be similar sentiment, though.

Second, they’re doing so at a time when Disney is already being accused of being hyper-sensitive about everything, not understanding what makes the parks special, an active participant in the culture wars, etc.

I’ve already heard a number of these remarks, and they’re fairly wide-ranging in nature. If you’ve read the comments sections in response to other controversial changes, you probably get the idea without further explanation.

None of this is any secret or would’ve been difficult for Disney to anticipate. The fan response to this news will not be the least bit surprising. Even Bob Iger knows this has been an issue, and has said that he’d “quiet the noise” and step back from hot topics and culture wars and refocus on respecting the audience. He’s made comments like these on multiple occasions now, dating back about a year.

To some extent, that has started to happen in the parks. Portraits of Courage by President George W. Bush in the American Adventure and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure honoring military service were savvy moves from this perspective. Little things, but that send the right signal. (At least, in my view.)

I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole as I don’t see it ending well, but the problem is probably that decisions like this DVC lounge conversion are well below Bob Iger’s pay grade. There are still plenty of people at the company making lower-level decisions that are at odds with Iger’s mandate (or whatever you want to call it). This isn’t to absolve him from blame–changes in direction like this are top-down and could/should be clearly communicated. Plus, the buck stops with Bob (and Josh).

Of course, this is only one side of the story. The other side is that Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade has low guest satisfaction scores. It’s not popular, even after going free. (Part of that is probably due to many longtime fans not knowing it’s free and actively avoiding it because they don’t want their kids to spend a bunch of money playing there.)

As mentioned above, I’ve made a point of the opposite–doing the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade much more since it’s gone free. In my anecdotal experience, the ‘core’ demographic of Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade at this point is South American tour groups. I’m not even kidding. These groups seem to flock to it, and in my experience, the only time it’s even remotely busy is when they’re around. (I can’t explain this…but I also can’t explain why they’re also big fans of walkaround Big Al. Again, not kidding!) Regardless, something tells me these groups are not going to be at the vanguard of complaints about Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade closing.

I’d be much more receptive to the perspective that Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade is being converted due to lack of popularity and not much else but for the fact that so many alternatives that aren’t used at all are available. Sure, Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade isn’t putting up gangbuster numbers…but closed venues aren’t putting up numbers at all. 

With that said, if Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade is the only version of the attraction to close–and the ones at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris stay open (Tokyo is irrelevant because OLC marches to the beat of their own drum)–then that would seemingly confirm this is only happening due to a lack of popularity and not against the backdrop of anything else. So I guess we shall see about that.

Selfishly, even though I’ll miss Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, I will also use a DVC lounge in Magic Kingdom much more. Having a spot to stop for a quick break and free Coke Freestyle or coffee is huge. I would hazard a guess that our #1 “attraction” at both EPCOT and Disneyland last year was the respective DVC lounges. But I also understand that I’m one of the lucky few who will have access, and what’s good for me–personally–isn’t always the same as what’s good for the park-going public as a whole.

For anyone wondering about the motivation for this, the company also has good reason for creating more Disney Vacation Club lounges. The EPCOT lounge is incredibly popular, and often utilizes a waitlist during busier times of year. More than that, the rationale for another lounge is to increase sales.

Now, you might think that surely a lounge in Magic Kingdom isn’t going to move the needle on a $20,000+ purchase. That would be very irrational, to put it mildly. And you’re probably correct about that, thankfully and for the most part. Where it does move the needle is on the resale vs. direct dilemma. We’ve heard from many potential purchasers who are willing to pay a bit more because of FOMO associated with missing out on current and potential future Membership Extras.

I would also hazard a guess that the totality of the Disney Vacation Club perks–the Moonlight Magic parties, lounges, discounts, etc–actually does move the needle on selling memberships. Disney Vacation Club is the closest thing that Walt Disney World and Disneyland have to loyalty programs that make fans actually feel valued (at least in some ways–and sometimes), and a lot of people really appreciate that. I know we do.

If you’re thinking about joining DVC, be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge. If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” with the recommendations in How to Save BIG on Deluxe Disney Accommodations Renting DVC Points.

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think about the new DVC member lounge replacing Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade at Magic Kingdom? Disappointed about the location given all of the unused spaces in the park, or do you not really care? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? If you’re an existing Member, what do you think? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!




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