I’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed at every Disney World resort. But I have to admit, when I win the lotto I’m going to be booking the suites at the Grand Floridian and Contemporary on a regular basis. Or maybe I’ll buy a gazillion DVC points at Bay Lake Tower. I clearly enjoy the finer things in life. But until that wonderful day comes, I’m perfectly fine with a stay at the All Star Resorts. These value properties have a lot to offer and don’t skimp on Disney details.
So how did these value properties come to be?
In October 1973, OPEC declared an oil embargo against the U.S. in response to the United States’ decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. This hit tourism hard as it made automobile and air travel expensive. Existing hotels and motels along International Drive, Highway 192, and Hotel Plaza Boulevard saw their occupancy rates plummet and new construction came to a standstill. However, the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts felt almost no effects from the downturn as people were still willing to spend a little extra to stay “at” Disney World.
Disney’s Golf Resort opened two months after the oil embargo began but it never achieved the success enjoyed by the Poly or the Contemporary, baffling executives. In addition, the faltering resorts along Hotel Plaza Boulevard all leased their land from Disney and paid hefty rents. Donn Tatum and Card Walker, the CEO and President of Disney, felt some obligation to these companies and believed if they built more Disney hotels, it would hurt their tenants. So they adopted a “go slow” philosophy when it came to the construction of new resorts on Disney World property. Unfortunately, Tatum and Walker never built ANY new resorts, even after the energy crises lessened. In the meantime, new non-Disney hotels and motels began springing up right and left. This “go slow” decision was one of many that weakened the Disney Company and prompted hostile takeover attempts. Eventually Walker, who had become CEO, and Ron Miller, now president, were forced to resign because of their bad decisions.
When Michael Eisner was hired by shareholders Sid Bass and Roy E. Disney in 1984, he was given the directive to develop the Disney World property – in other words, build more resorts. Shortly after taking the reins, Eisner started construction on the Grand Floridian and the Caribbean Beach Resorts. These were followed by the Swan & Dolphin, the Yacht & Beach, Port Orleans & Dixie Landings, Old Key West and finally Wilderness Lodge.
All of these new resorts did well, but it soon became apparent that Disney had neglected a huge portion of the vacationers who visited Orlando – those who needed to think twice before spending their hard-earned money. To cater to this demographic, the Imagineers designed and built the All Star Resorts. These were deemed “value” resorts that offered basic accommodations with a Disney touch. The rooms would be the smallest on property at 260 square feet (as compared to 314 square feet at most of the moderate resorts) and only counter-service meals would be available. Other amenities and services would also be scaled back in order to cut down on costs. In the end, three resorts would make up this complex, All Star Sports, All Star Music, and All Star Movies.
Here’s a little bit a trivia for you. The All Star Resorts are located in Osceola County. Sales tax here is 7% as compared to 6.5% in Orange County where the other Disney resorts are located. Thus, souvenirs cost more at the All Star Resorts than at other shops on property. So if you’re like me and buy enough mementos, this .05% can add up. LOL.
Groundbreaking for the All Stars began in November 1992. All Star Sports was the first to open when the “Surf’s Up!” buildings began welcoming guests on April 29, 1994. All Star Music began operation on October 22, 1994 (officially opening on November 1, 1994). And All Star Movies began operations almost five years later on January 15, 1999.
Although each of the three resorts is laid out a little differently from the others, the basic design is the same. A central building houses the check-in facilities, shop, arcade, and restaurant. Five themed areas, each consisting of two facing buildings, are situated along meandering pathways. And larger-than-life icons anchor these buildings and set the tone for fun.
Before I describe the resorts in detail, let me share with you what it is that makes the All Stars “value” resorts.
The rooms are small, measuring 260 square feet.
Rooms have double beds, not queen.
The table and chairs are small.
The vanity area only has one sink.
Fluffy is NOT a word I would use to describe the towels. They are adequate at best.
The bathroom is provided with soap and shampoo, but conditioner and body lotion are omitted.
The toilet paper is single-ply.
Luggage service is offered, but not on an individual room basis. A multiple room drop-off system is employed. In addition, this service is not offered 24 hours and times vary from day to day.
Towels are not provided at the pool. Guests need to bring their room towels with them.
No table-service restaurant is available at the resort, only counter service.
The resort is massive. This allows Disney to maximize their staff and facilities to cater to large amounts of people in an efficient manner.
Okay, now let’s take a look at the resorts and see what IS offered.
Since all three resorts offer the same services and amenities, I will not be repeating information when covering each property. Instead, I’ll interject general information throughout this article. So note, when I mention “bus service” at the All Star Music, this information is applicable to All Star Sports and All Star Movies as well.
Let’s start with the All Star Sports Resort. This property highlights surfing, football, basketball, tennis, and baseball. The large star out front is 55 feet tall and weighs more than 55,000 pounds. There are 727 stars on the exterior and interior of the building.
Guests begin their stay at Stadium Hall. There is nothing subtle about this venue. Vivid colors and in-your-face embellishments greet visitors upon arrival. The check-in counter is huge so it can accommodate the 1,920 guestrooms. Drawings of both Disney and non-Disney athletes line the walls. Be sure to check out the “lockers” underneath the counter.
Don’t forget, you can check-in on-line and receive FastPass-type expediency when securing your room.
“Stadium” seating and a television are available to keep little ones entertained while mom and dad check in.
A variety of souvenirs are available at “Sport Goofy Gifts and Sundries.” While browsing here, be sure to check out the runner that transitions from 2D to 3D. Pay phones, restrooms, and an ATM are located near this shop.
A Hall-of-Fame wall features photographs of top athletic contenders.
End Zone Food Court serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from four stations and a grab-and-go section. The 550 seat dining room includes paintings and Lucite depictions of various competitions. Hours of operation are generally from 6am until midnight.
While staying at the All Stars, I dined at the various food courts several times during my visit. In all cases, I was pleased with my meals. Is the food comparable to Citricos or California Grill? Of course not. But the food was tasty, hot, and pleasantly presented.
This first picture is of the individual Pepperoni Pizza. I was pleased. I also liked the carrot cake, even though it is obviously mass produced.
This next picture is of the Ham and Salami on Ciabatta. Of all the meals I sampled here, this was by far the best!
Here we have the Chicken Penne Alfredo with Breadstick. I felt the chicken was a little dry, but this could easily be remedied with extra Alfredo Sauce. The breadsticks are identical to the ones served in the Animal Kingdom at the Pizzafari Restaurant.
Next we have the Pasta with Meatballs and Breadstick. The sauce was zesty but not overpowering. However, the small side salad had too much dressing as it was pooling at the bottom of the cup – but it tasted good.
I’m not a big breakfast eater so on most mornings I ate a bagel and cream cheese. But one morning I went all out an ordered a breakfast platter. This included scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, biscuit, and “dipping” French toast. Everything was more than adequate but I’d have to say, the sausage was outstanding!
Game Point Arcade is open from 8am to 11pm and offers a wide variety of challenging options.
Each of the five themed areas has 384 rooms situated in two, T-shaped buildings. The various sections opened on the following dates:
Surf's Up! - April 29, 1994
Hoops Hotel - May 13, 1994
Touchdown - June 26, 1994
Home Run Hotel - July 22, 1994
Center Court - August 11, 1994
Surf’s Up! cradles a large pool within its courtyard. Here, giant lifeguard towers house stairwells and 38 feet high shark fins mark the buildings’ main entrances. Fins of this size would belong to a 300 foot long Great White Shark. The brightly colored surfboards are also 38 feet tall. Approximately 950 Red Snapper and Dolphin Fish line the balconies.
The Surfboard Bay Pool holds 242,471 gallons of water and a children’s splash pool is available for the kids. A laundry facility is located nearby in the “Surf’s Up! Bath House.”
Beyond the Surf’s Up! section is Mount Mickey. This memorial pays homage to the winning spirit of sports and to our favorite mouse.
To the right of Mount Mickey is Hoops Hotel. Here, 45 foot tall megaphones house the stairwells and giant whistles mark the buildings’ entrances. The whistles measure 60 feet long and 20 feet high. The pea inside the whistle is approximately 9 feet in diameter. Pennants from college teams and over 70 giant basketballs line the railings. The palm trees were arranged to look like a basketball team at tip-off.
To the left of Mount Mickey is Center Court. The section of the resort pays homage to tennis and unfolds on a giant playing field. The stairwells are contained in oversized tennis ball cans large enough to hold 9,474,609 regulation size tennis balls. The buildings’ main entrances are marked by giant referee chairs. The tennis racquets that line the railing are approximately 51 feet tall and the tennis balls are almost 5 feet in diameter.
Out on the court we find an infuriated Donald Duck who is trying to play tennis while his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, enjoy a game of baseball.
Closer to Stadium Hall we find the Touchdown! section of the resort. Giant footballs at the end of each wing house the staircases and large helmets mark the buildings’ entrances. A football player would have to stand at more than 200 feet tall to be able to wear one of these giant football helmets. On the gridiron are “X’s” and “O’s” marking the players on the field.
The last themed area is Home Run Hotel. This baseball inspired section is marked by massive Coca-Cola cups. It would take more than 20 million 12-ounce cans of Coke to fill just one of these containers. To put this in perspective, in 1992, guests at Walt Disney World consumed approximately 1,600,000 gallons of Coca-Cola which would only fill 85% of just one of these giant Coca-Cola cups.
A 40-foot tall White Ash tree would be needed to make a baseball bat the size of the ones located on the railings of the Home Run Hotel.
Grandslam Pool is designed in the shape of a baseball infield. Goofy can be found on the pitcher’s mound with a water cannon. Underneath the nearby bleachers is the resort’s second laundry facility.
In an effort to maximize theming, Disney will frequently promote the All Star Sports Resort to youth sports-oriented organizations. It is not uncommon to see Little League, Pop Warner Football, and similar groups staying here. For the most part, these groups are well behaved and cause absolutely no problems. But kids have youthful energy and can be noisier than one might like. In addition, these groups will descend on the food court en mass, each paying separately. If you think this will be a problem for you, I might suggest the All Star Movies and the Pop Century Resorts if you’re looking for a value property. The picture below shows a group of cheerleaders stretching before their day begins.
The rooms at the All Stars Sports have all been recently renovated. Gone are the dark furnishings and tube TVs to be replaced with clean colors and wide-screen televisions.
The rooms can accommodate a maximum of 4 people, or 4 people with one child under three who sleeps in a crib. Some rooms feature one king bed but these are designated as handicapped rooms. Refrigerators can be rented for $10 per day, subject to availability. The vanity area is separated by a curtain and contains one sink. The toilet and shower are located in a separate room. With the exception of the wallpaper boarder and a picture hanging on the wall, the rooms are indistinguishable from one section to the next.
I’m happy to report, the new rooms have been equipped with light fixtures that can accommodate the new, energy efficient fluorescent bulbs. They look great and no one would ever suspect they’ve been switched out.
This first video is of the entire resort and room and runs a little over 8 minutes. The second video is of the room only and is about a minute and a half in length.
That’s it for Part 1. Check back tomorrow for Part 2.
The previous post in this blog was Animation Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The next post in this blog is All Star Resorts - Part 2.