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Features - October 2004

Disney's Saratoga Springs

Latest Timeshare Resort is Disney's Largest Vacation Club to Date

By Debra Wood

With the first phase of the Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa open and nearly sold out, general contractor Hardin Construction Co. of Orlando continues working on phase two of the Walt Disney World interval-ownership property. But Disney is not stopping with the originally planned 552 units.

"The guest response to Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa has been so overwhelming we have decided to add a third phase," said Jim Lewis, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Club.

Saratoga Springs is Disney's seventh interval-ownership resort and will be its largest upon completion of all announced phases. Phase one has 184 units. Lewis expects it will sell out this year. Phase two will have 368 units, and phase three will add 276 units. More than 82,000 families own Disney vacation units, triple the number of owners from five years ago.

The theme

For this project, Walt Disney Imagineers crafted a theme for Saratoga Springs that includes a focus on health, history and horses.

"We looked all across the country, knowing we already had a Key West, Beach Club and Wilderness Lodge," said Bill Hanus, senior development manager for Walt Disney Imagineering. "We thought about an upstate New York theme, because it's romantic, and people from the Northeast relate to it."

The Imagineers picked Saratoga Springs because of its architecture, history, horse racing and health roots. A team traveled to New York and took about 1,000 photographs to use as inspiration boards.

"We created the same Victorian feel as you see up there," Hanus said. "We do that in terms of materials, colors and facades."

The architecture of the 48-unit buildings is inspired by the sprawling New York country retreats popular in the 1800s. Each building has a central tower as a focal point. Horse motifs decorate the common areas, light fixtures and leisure facilities.

The mineral springs at the resort's New York namesake are internationally famous for their restorative properties. To remind Florida resort guests about that aspect of Saratoga Springs, the Imagineers created four bodies of water that resemble the natural bodies of water.

"We have fountains that we pipe in with water and have the sound of water flowing. We didn't dig any springs," Hanus said. "These are just for appearance."

At the pool, a rock formation allows water from a man-made spring to spill into the swimming area. Together, the resort's aquatic features contain more than 300,000 gallons of water.


Saratoga Springs resort is located at the former site of the Disney Institute, across a lake from Downtown Disney. Before construction could begin on the new slab-on-grade structures, contractors tore down the old living quarters, which were not as efficient to operate as the new buildings. The institute's spa, restaurant and classroom space received a facelift and were incorporated into the Saratoga Springs resort.

"Our primary challenge has been the attain the level of quality and attention to detail with an aggressive construction schedule," said Pat Dean, construction manager for Hardin. "We have been able to achieve that with a lot of pre-planning and coordination with WDI."

Crews also relocated 30-year-old oak trees. They were kept alive, fertilized and nurtured. As construction wrapped up, the trees were replanted around the resort. Some of the oaks have a 24-in.-diameter trunk.

David R. Smith, senior construction manager for Disney Imagineering, said the tree-saving program was successful, and not one tree was lost.

Phase one included four buildings and broke ground in March 2003. The eight buildings in phase two are in various stages of construction from foundation work to millwork and finishing. Crews also will add a second, smaller leisure pool.

The three- and four-story buildings have spread footings and post-tensioned flat slabs. The roofs are engineered metal trusses. The exterior framing is engineered metal-studs, with light-gage metal framing on the interior. Concrete board or textured stucco covers the exterior facade.

"We picked those products because they have a good life-cycle cost for maintenance," Smith said. "The concrete siding lasts for many decades. The only maintenance is cleaning and painting."

The exteriors have various color schemes - blues, greens and corals - and architectural features that give the impression that various segments of the structures were built at different times. Buildings may have scallop shingles, lap siding or simulated cedar-shake shingles. The central towers also vary. Some have brick accents, while others have copper weather veins or carved stone details.

Buildings facing the lake received special double-pane soundproofing windows, so fireworks, which are set off at midnight, would not disturb the occupants. All units have energy-saving thermostats and recirculating water-heating systems.

Phase two is scheduled for completion in September 2005. About 800 people are working onsite.

"It's a production job," Smith said. "The guys who do the foundations jump from building to building to building."

Hardin is using a table-form system for the floors. It has a five- or six-day cycle between setting the forms and stripping and moving to the next pour. The truss and metal stud crews follow immediately.

"They take the building from slab-on-grade to top out in approximately six weeks," Smith said. "It's very aggressive."

Smith said obtaining enough concrete and steel has been challenging. Consequently, Hardin schedules pours in advance, so the local batch plants can allocate material to the project.

"We've been happy with the project to date," Dean added. "We're on schedule."

Useful Sources:

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

Project Team:

Owner: Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Owner's Agent: Walt Disney Imagineering Contract Services, Celebration, Fla.
Construction Manager: Hardin Construction Co., Orlando
Architect: Graham Gund Architects, Cambridge, Mass.
Architect: Glover Smith Bode Inc. Architects & Planners, Oklahoma City
Civil Engineer: Dyer Riddle Mills & Precourt, Orlando
Structural Engineer: Haynes Whaley Associates, Houston

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