My DVC Points
My DVC Points
060 The History of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

Season 2 of the My DVC Points Podcast was made possible through financial support from DVC Resale Market, Vacation Club Loans and by community members in My DVC Points VIP Producer Club.

Part of the Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort series!

In Episode 060, Brian Reed from Imagination Radio Network returns to discuss the history of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Previously Brian joined us on episode 038 to discuss the history of the Polynesian resort. We discuss the history of both Disney Springs and the grounds known as Saratoga Springs Resort.

In the Beginning, There Were Swamps, a Dream and the Creation of Lake Buena Vista

  • In the late 1960s, Disney created two Improvement Districts through legislation efforts with the State of Florida.
  • Reedy Creek and Lake Buena Vista Improvement Districts allowed Disney to retain complete control of zoning, permitting, and construction on their property.
  • Lake Buena Vista was initially intended to be a residential zone
    • Divided into four themes – golf, tennis, boating, and Western
    • Community aimed at retirees (55+)
  • By May 1974, several townhomes had been built, and the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village had broken ground
    • LBV Shopping Village is now the Marketplace section of Disney Springs
    • LBV Developer envisioned single-family homes, condominiums, and apartment complexes 
  • The issue with having a residential zone in LBV is that Disney would have to give voting rights to residents! To prevent their total control over the development of the land, Disney converted the LBV residential units into vacation villas. 
  • March 1975 – Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opens.

More Changes Come to Lake Buena Vista

  • October 1975 – 60 Treehouse vacation villas open for rental to guests
  • The early 1980s – Former residential homes are transformed into a hotel resort, and construction on the original Walt Disney World Conference Center begins
  • 1995 – Resort opens as The Disney Village Resort; LBV Shopping Village is renamed “Walt Disney World Village” and becomes geared towards vacationers

The Villas at Disney Village Resort

  • Vacation Villas – One- and two-bedroom units
  • Fairway Villas – Townhomes overlooking Lake Buena Vista Golf Course (operated from 1978-2002)
  • Treehouse Villas – Standalone, three-bedroom structures; designed to showcase energy-efficient building techniques
  • Club Lake Villas – Villas for convention attendees
  • Grand Vista Suites – single-family homes available for rent; formerly the four model homes of the LBV residential district 

The Disney Institute

  • In 1996, the vacation villas at The Disney Village Resort were repurposed into classrooms and workspaces for the newly-announced Disney Institute.
  • The Disney Institute was a facility for families to learn skills from Disney Cast Members, with the goal of self-improvement while on vacation.
    • Eisner wanted the facility to offer workshops that appealed to multiple generations and encourage people to learn new skills.
    • For a fee of $3,700, families or business professionals could come to the Institute and interact with Cast Members, whose role was to “teach and preach Disney’s best practices and standards.”
    • Workshops included…
      • Golf lessons
      • Cooking
      • Gardening
      • Arts & crafts
      • Animation
      • Photography
      • …and many more (80 workshops were offered!)
    • Facilities included…
      • Program studios
      • Performance spaces
      • 1,100-seat outdoor amphitheater
      • 400-seat cinema
      • Closed-circuit TV network
      • The radio station (WALT)
      • Sports and fitness center
      • Full-service spa
      • Seasons – a restaurant, featuring a menu that rotated nightly
  • Sadly, the Disney Institute proved unpopular among guests, and attendance dwindled
    • In 2003, the resort was closed, and most of the vacation villas were demolished
    • The Treehouse Villas were closed to the public in 2002 and were repurposed to house Cast Members in the International College Program (November 2005 – January 2008)
    • The fitness center, spa, and central building were renovated into The Carriage House of Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
    • To Disney Institute enthusiasts, Saratoga Springs represented “the end of something wonderful.”
  • The Disney Institute Today
    • In 2000, the focus of the program shifted from family-oriented workshops to professional development for business professionals 
    • Offers 40 workshops in three-day or week-long packages ($429-$1,300)
    • Participants can take courses on-site at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, or have Cast Members lead workshops at their businesses

Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – A Disney Vacation Club Resort

  • In January 2002, Disney announced plans to open a DVC resort on the former grounds of the Disney Institute. No resort name or theme was initially announced.
  • Resort Theming
    • The resort pays homage to the famous racetrack of Saratoga Springs in Update New York. In Victorian times, the “who’s who” of New York society would flock to the town to enjoy the racetrack and natural springs.
    • Theming includes…
      • Bronze horse and jockey statue at The Carriage House
      • Playing of horn every hour over resort speakers
      • Portraits of Disney horses in the children’s area of the lobby
      • Framed jockey uniforms by The Turf Club
      • Horseshoe and jockey featured on lamps in non-renovated rooms
    • At Artist’s Palette, guests can enjoy the Saratoga Chips, a nod to the rumored invention of the potato chip. (YouTube clip here)
  • Treehouse Villas
    • Not added into the resort’s inventory until SSR was basically sold out
    • With this new inventory, DVC was able to sell at least one million more points at SSR
    • Some members were angered at this addition, as it increased the resort’s maintenance costs and added a lot of points to the inventory. Unfortunately, DVC members do not have voting rights, so nothing could be done to reverse the addition of the Treehouses.
    • The Treehouses are among the first accommodation types to sell out at SSR, due to their uniqueness and the fact that they sleep nine.
You may want to check out this informative story that describes the history of the potato chip!

Brain's Research Included Information from the following:

Wikipedia on Disney_Institute
Wikipedia on Disney's Saratoga Springs_Resort & Spa Saratoga Springs Page
DVC's Official Site on Saratoga Springs
DVC Resale Market's Guide to SSR
Disney Tourist's Blog – SSR Construction Update

Today's episode was produced, edited and engineered by Chad Pennycuff. Show notes by Samantha Kurtz-Seif. Facebook admins and moderators of the My DVC Points Community Group: Andrew Darden, Valerie Fairnington, Donna Bickert, and Jeremy Murray.

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