Today In Disney History ~ July 23rd
Pleasure Island was an area of the Disney Springs shopping, dining and entertainment district at Walt Disney World Resort. It officially opened on May 1, 1989. In September 2008, all of its clubs were closed, but its retail stores and restaurants remained open. The area is now called The Landing as is the middle part of Disney Springs.
Pleasure Island opened emulating Church Street Station in Downtown Orlando, Florida. At that time, this was a highly successful gated attraction which offered admission to multiple clubs for one price.
The legend the Disney Company created is that Pleasure Island was based on the fictitious owner, Merriweather Adam Pleasure, and was carried on into one of its clubs, The Adventurers Club.
Every night at midnight, “New Year’s Eve” was celebrated at Pleasure Island with a fireworks show. This tradition lasted from 1990 through New Year’s Eve 2005.
On June 27, 2008, Walt Disney World Resort announced that over the next two years, Pleasure Island’s night clubs would be replaced with new stores and restaurants. Disney denied rumors that these changes were due to a decrease in attendance there, stating instead that the company is responding to guest feedback asking for more family friendly experiences. The entertainment venues, including night clubs and comedy clubs, ceased operations on September 27, 2008.
On November 18, 2010, Disney announced that it would be renamed and rethemed to “Hyperion Wharf.” This revitalization project was expected to be completed by spring 2013.
During 2014, Disney closed access to the Pleasure Island portion of Downtown Disney, as additional retailers and theme restaurants were brought into the mix. Disney ultimately decided against using the name “Hyperion Wharf.”. Instead, in April 2015, Disney reopened Pleasure Island as the middle link of the Downtown Disney shopping area. This section of the complex is now called “The Landing.” The former dance clubs, jazz club and Adventurer’s Club are no longer part of the concept. Instead, the area focuses on retail and restaurants.
Major renovations to Pleasure Island were made in March 2006 in an attempt to reverse declining attendance. These changes included the closing and dismantling of the West End Stage and the Hub Stage. Since there was no longer an entry fee, the free entertainment provided by these stages was attracting large groups of local teens which was considered undesirable. The area formerly occupied by the West End Stage is the location of the new pedestrian bridge to Downtown Disney West Side and provides visitors a greater line-of-sight view from Pleasure Island to the West Side. The removal of the Hub Stage opened a small area to a view of the lagoon located behind Pleasure Island, including a dock. In late June 2006, a life-size Jessica Rabbit sign above the facility of “Pleasure Island Tonight!” was removed.
The construction of new docks allow boat transportation links between West Side, Pleasure Island, Marketplace, and Disney resorts across the lagoon and up the Sassagoula River.
In late June 2008, Disney announced that the six remaining night clubs at Pleasure Island would close by September 28, 2008, to make room for additional family-oriented entertainment. Disney officials stated that the Pleasure Island nightclub closures are in response to customers who desire more broad-based dining and retail opportunities. In February 2009, amid rumors of a partial reopening of Pleasure Island, Disney announced that three former clubs would become available for private party rentals. Motion, Soundstage Club, and Adventurers Club were available for rental through the end of March 2010.
In 2009, a building that previously housed stores and a fast food restaurant was completely renovated by E-Brands, the operator of the Samba Room restaurant in Orlando, into Paradiso 37, a Central/South American-themed restaurant.
September 27, 2008 was Pleasure Island’s last night. Among the capacity crowd were many of its past actors and cast members, some of whom started to line up at 9am to ensure entrance to what would be a very emotional and busy night. Highlights included Frankie and the West End Boys playing on the waterfront stage. At midnight, “New Year’s Eve” was celebrated one last time. A fireworks show was complemented by popular songs heard on the island over the years. The final song played in Mannequins was “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Rozalla. With that, Pleasure Island was officially shut down. By the next day, many of the clubs’ signs and logos were being removed or painted over.
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