The other idea still being toyed with is Disney buying
up Anaheim GardenWalk entirely, instead of just entering into an ownership deal
for two of the attached hotels that we've already told you about. GardenWalk has
really struggled to get off the ground, after being delayed by so many years
that it missed the last recession in '01, was delayed continually through the
boom years of '04 to '07, and finally opened just as the local retail industry
cratered in '08. The strip of restaurants on Katella are doing a bit better
lately, but the mall itself is still a ghost town even on weekends and too much
of the retail space remains vacant.
Disney has been playing hardball with both
the hotel developers and the mall developers as it looks at possibly taking over
the entire project. Originally Disney was planning on announcing the GardenWalk
hotel deal later this month, but strategy for the entire mall itself may push
that announcement back again. If Disney does eventually buy up GardenWalk, don't
look for this to be branded as a Disney property outright. Rather, the plan
would have Disney owning and operating the mall, but keeping it distinctly
separate from Downtown Disney in branding and feel. This wouldn't become
"Disney's GardenWalk," "Downtown Disney East" or "Downtown Disney Too."
If Disney were to own GardenWalk, it would be a setup much like the Flamingo Crossings shopping center
being built on the edge of Walt Disney World property out in Florida. It would
belong to the Mouse, but publicly the Mouse wouldn't really claim it. Still, it
would make a nice property addition for Disney next to the huge new multi-level
parking structure now being planned for the Pumbaa overflow parking lot across
Disney Way from the mall. The recent financial panic hasn't helped this deal,
obviously, and there is no guarantee it will piece together. But it's an
interesting way for Disney to grab some valuable land that would better link their
growing resort together, don't you think?
While all of these plans and construction takes place
around Anaheim, a change has been occurring inside the park with the hourly Cast
Members. The runaway turnover rates that Disneyland has dealt with for the past
five years have suddenly begun to decline. Predictably, all of the TDA managers
who had been working on trying to lower the turnover rate without actually
spending any money on the problem have suddenly begun declaring that their
specific plan or their department was the one to make the big difference and
turn the tide this summer.
What no one admits to however is that the treatment
of Cast Members and their work environments haven't changed one bit. What
has changed quite suddenly is the local economy, and the Orange County
unemployment rate has suddenly began to creep up every month since last spring.
Entry level jobs are getting scarce and the kids looking for them know it, so
they are hanging on to their nine dollar an hour Disneyland jobs longer than they
Meanwhile, TDA keeps up the incessant drumbeat about
things no one really cares about like the "Disney Difference" and the latest
corporate propaganda campaign via the overly slick Disneyland Line employee
newspaper or the vapid infomercials on the in-house "Cast TV" cable channel.
Since the big plasma screens showing Cast TV in all the cafeterias always have
their sound muted by Cast Members trying to spend their lunch break away from
work instead of being bombarded by it, it takes quite a lot of guts to actually
claim that all of this slick propaganda has suddenly made people want to stay in
their current jobs.
You'll be happy to learn however that those cafeterias
have returned to the old caste system they had during the Cynthia Harriss days.
That is, the fancy Eat Ticket cafeteria next to the TDA administration building
has received constant attention with La Brea Bakery now offering fresh made
gourmet sandwiches, an army of chefs in starched whites serving up freshly made
full meals served on real plates with real silverware and flowers on the tables
in a sparklingly clean dining room.
Meanwhile, the two cafeterias for
Disneyland's hourly Cast Members no longer have plates or silverware (Styrofoam
and plastic are the rule, environment be damned), the food is typical
starchy junior high cafeteria fare cooked in advance and shipped over in steam
trays with the popular stuff selling out in minutes and the gross stuff sitting
for hours, and the dingy and dirty dining room has people fighting for tables at
the lunch rush. For the hourly Cast Members there's no gourmet anything,
pretty girls are openly harassed by leering fry cooks, and there hasn't been a
flower on the table in years. But at least the clever hourly Cast Members found
the mute button on Cast TV.
Honestly, the big chiefs in TDA couldn't be more
clueless about keeping the hourly troops happy if their life depended on it.
With the weakening local economy they now have a slowing turnover rate and
better candidates looking for jobs, and the people in Human Resources are
seriously trying to use macro-economic trends as reasons to pad their upcoming
performance reviews and prove they did something right for a change.
weren't so sickening it would be funny.
And yes, resort president Ed Grier is still nowhere to be
seen. Notice how he never even comes up in our updates anymore? The man is
simply MIA. Nevertheless even with a ghost such as Grier in place, there's still so much promise ahead for Anaheim;
despite the economy (so far) and work yet
to be done on the basics and front lines.