The future lobby of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort will be flooded with light, filled with funky furnishings and offer a view of the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney World, officials said Thursday.
Renovation of the resort's Great Ceremonial Hall — that's Disney-speak for lobby — is part of an overhaul of the Polynesian that also includes a renovation of its pool area, changes in its food-and-drink offerings and dramatic new signs at the entrance.
The new look will set the tone for visitors to the Polynesian, which opened with Walt Disney World in 1971.
"You'll feel you have arrived in a relaxing South Seas kind of experience," said Tom Wolber, senior vice president for resort operations.
For decades, the centerpiece of the Great Ceremonial Hall has been a large waterfall. It is going to be removed. More space is needed because of the amount of foot traffic at the Polynesian, Disney officials have said. Even more people will be there after the Disney Vacation Club opens waterfront villas at the Polynesian next year.
"I think this will provide a lot of relief and open space and give everybody enough room," said Debbie Petersen, creative development executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. The waterfall removal also will enable guests to see the lagoon from the lobby.
But losing that structure upsets some Disney traditionalists. Keith Mahne, who lives in New Orleans and visits Disney World annually, started a petition on the activist website change.org. It has more than 1,800 virtual signatures.
"It's the first thing you see as you enter the lobby, and it brings with it a wonderful sense of nostalgia and past trips, particularly of childhood," Mahne said. "To me, it's an important piece of heritage not only to the resort but to Walt Disney World as a whole."
Anxiety sometimes climbs during the planning stages, Wolber said.
"I think for the vast majority of our guests, they will absolutely love what we're going to do with this resort," he said.
Changes will be apparent from the roadway, Petersen said.
"The marquee will have lava rock, it will have flowing water, it will have tiki torches and hibiscus flowers," she said. "It is the thing that says you have arrived at this fantasy, destiny, tropical island that is so, so Disney."
Lava rock will dominate the resort's remodeled pool area, which will include a view of the lagoon and a 12-person spa. The pool's deck size will increase by more than 30 percent, Wolber said. He expects the area to be "more energetic and guest-friendly."
Inside, Captain Cook's restaurant already is closed for renovation. Additions to the Polynesian will be Trader Sam's, a themed lounge that's popular at Disneyland, and Pineapple Lanai, a dedicated spot to sell Dole Whip, a treat originally sold exclusively at Magic Kingdom.
The Polynesian renovation began last year with the kids area, which has just reopened as Club Disney. The entire project will be complete in 2015, Wolber said.
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