Change is inevitable – A look at theme park area demolition

The theme parks are always changing, and last year was an interesting one for the demolition of retired attractions. Seen here is the demolition of the original Hard Rock Cafe Orlando, on the night of Oct. 26, 2011.

The original location of the Hard Rock Cafe was adjacent to the Universal Studios park, and guests could enter the Cafe directly from within the park. The building when seen from above had the shape of a guitar. This photo was taken April 29, 2011. The yellow arrow here points to how the bridge of the guitar used to cross two roads at Universal to the Cafe’s parking lot. The restaurant itself was in the tall building on the body of the guitar. Part of what is now the Hard Rock Hotel is seen here – until 1998, this area was only a parking lot.

In late 1998, the original Cafe was closed. This view is from Dec. 12 that year, from within the theme park. Work began quickly, expanding the children’s area of the park.

This is the same day, Dec. 12, 1998. This was the theme park entrance of the new location of the Hard Rock Orlando, and the area was still under construction. Today this area is well outside the Studios park boundary, and adjacent to the CityWalk entrance for the Sharp Aquos Theater and the Blue Man Group.

The yellow arrow points to the old Cafe. Construction in the foreground is for the Hard Rock Hotel.

The old Cafe as seen from the Hard Rock Hotel on Dec. 12, 2002. This view did not change for many years.

Another look as the last of the old Cafe building was removed in October 2011.

A similar view on Dec. 17, 2011. Construction site trailers were being installed. We don’t know what the trailers are for, but it seems logical that these are the construction project trailers for the replacement of the Jaws ride. There’s no room in team parking next to Jaws, and this location is a quick moment away by golf cart on a service road.

Last year at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the long-retired Fantasyland Skyway building was demolished. This photo is from April 2, 2011.

The Skyway was a cable car ride across the park to another station in Tomorrowland. The cables were removed many years ago, and the stations remained vacant. The Tomorrowland station was demolished a couple of years ago, and replaced with a circular plaza at the foot of Space Mountain.

June 2, 2011.

June 8, 2011.

The structure was removed by mid-June last year. This photo is from Nov. 20, 2011.

Work has resumed, and the area to the right has been leveled and many trees have been removed. This photo is from Dec. 4, 2011.

Last year started with demolition of two long-retired nightclubs at Pleasure Island. This photo is from Jan. 23, 2011 and the interior demolition is visible through the window frames.

Some interesting details of this project were published in Demolition Magazine. Excerpts from the magazine follow, reprinted by permission. The original article was written by Larry Trojak.

A few years back we removed one of the bridges linking Pleasure Island with the rest of Downtown Disney” (said Rich Lorenz, president and owner of demolition specialists CES). “It was a bit outdated in terms of being able to handle larger delivery vehicles, so – working only at night, when all the clubs and other facilities had closed – we cut it in half and flew it out.”

CES’ approach (to the demolition of Pleasure Island) included laying down heavy-duty matting on the road leading into the demolition site. Doing so would allow them to move equipment and roll-off containers in and out without affecting any of the adjacent, non-demo areas.

“Then, at the end of each shift,” explains Lorenz, “we would pick up all the matting and store it until the next night’s work, pressure wash the pavement to remove any trace of our having been there, close the gate, and the surrounding area would be ready for the next day’s business. We understand that, to Disney, nothing is more important than their guests’ satisfaction.”

The demolition itself is made more challenging by the fact the work can only be done between 2:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. To ensure the highest possible level of production, safety and control within that time frame, CES is using a GXP 500R mobile shear from Genesis Attachments.

“Mind you, these are not small pre-fab venues,” says Lorenz. “These are three-story structures, all metal, very well-constructed. The Genesis shear enabled us to cut through everything we came into contact with and in a very controlled fashion. That was important because ‘Motion’, the first structure slated to come down, was attached to an existing restaurant called Portabello, which was still fully-operational during normal business hours. So we had to cut the three-story building away, weatherproof the restaurant and make certain that its business was not disturbed. We did it without a hitch; it was a perfect application for the shear.”

In early 2011, the plan was to develop this area into a project called Hyperion Wharf. The project was placed on hold and the site has been a grassy lawn since.


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  1. The changes don´t make me sad. Investing in the future is great. But stuf that is taken away, like the skyway and pleasure island, and doesn´t rebuild something new is just sad.
    Especialy the skyway was great! Can you imagine flying above the new part of magic kingdom?

  2. The excerpt mentions Genesis Attachments. I went to college with the founder of that company and the factory is only a mile away from my home. (Superior, WI)