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Disney asks federal court to dismiss lawsuit against DeSantis

Disney has asked a federal appellate court to dismiss its lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, after agreeing to a significant investment plan for the development of the famous theme park

Gobernador de Florida, el republicano Ron DeSantis
Gobernador de Florida, el republicano Ron DeSantis | EFE/CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH

June 17, 2024 2:08am

Updated: June 17, 2024 9:56am

Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have reached an agreement that promises to transform the future of Walt Disney World.

According to June 17 report published from The Associated Press, Disney has asked a federal appellate court to dismiss its lawsuit against the Florida governor, after agreeing to a significant investment plan for the development of the famous theme park.

The agreement, recently approved, commits Disney to investing $17 billion over the next 15 years.

The investment includes the construction of a fifth large-scale theme park, two smaller parks (possibly water parks) and a considerable increase in the number of hotel rooms, from almost 40,000 to more than 53,000. Additionally, an expansion of commercial and restaurant space by more than 20% is planned, according to Telemundo 51.

Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, expressed his enthusiasm for the agreement, noting that it will allow Disney to make significant investments, boost Florida's economy and offer even more memorable experiences to guests.

“This new development agreement paves the way for us to invest billions of dollars in Walt Disney World Resort, supporting the growth of this global destination, fueling the Florida economy, and allowing us to deliver even more memorable and extraordinary experiences for our guests,” said Vahle.

In reciprocity, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, now under the control of officials appointed by DeSantis, has committed to making infrastructure improvements to the theme park property.

According to WRAL News, these services include firefighting, urban planning and mosquito control, tasks previously handled by Disney supporters.

Bryan Griffin, communications director for the governor's office, highlighted the economic and job benefits of the agreement, calling it a major victory for Central Florida.

“This agreement will create numerous jobs and improve guest experiences,” he said.

The agreement also calls for Disney to donate up to 40 hectares of its 9,700 hectares of land for infrastructure projects managed by the district. Additionally, Disney has committed to awarding at least half of its construction projects to Florida-based companies and spending at least $10 million on affordable housing for the state's central region, WRAL reported.

The dispute between Disney and DeSantis dates back nearly two years, when Disney opposed a law backed by the governor that bans lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early school grades. In response, DeSantis took control of the district where Disney World is located and appointed a new board of supervisors.

Disney sued the governor and his appointees, alleging violations of his free speech rights. Although the lawsuits were dismissed in January by a U.S. District federal court, Disney filed an appeal.

In 2023, Disney supporters on the board signed agreements transferring control of the design and construction of Disney World to the company, which DeSantis' new appointees viewed as "last-minute" moves aimed at neutralizing his authority.

As part of the settlement, all state lawsuits were ultimately dismissed. Both parties have agreed to put legal disputes behind them and focus on the development and growth of Walt Disney World.