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09
Jan 13

What You May Not Know About the Set Up Process for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

walt disney world marathon 2013 finish lineDid you know that runDisney has to apply for a parade permit from Reedy Creek before they can setup on Walt Disney World Resort roadways for a race? Reminds me of a marathon sign I saw once….”Worst Parade Ever!” Though as far as I’m concerned, runDisney puts on the best “parades” ever!

While most of you are packing your bags and double checking that you have enough GU to get you through your Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend race, an army of folks over at runDisney and Track Shack are busy building the nerve center for the largest sporting event in Central Florida.

Today I had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes look at the setup process for the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend from Senior Sports Manager at Disney Sports, Michelle Maretti and Doug Heitman, Track Shack Staging Manager.  I must mention at this point that I had no idea how involved Track Shack was from a logistics standpoint at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  Maretti says of the Track Shack team members, “They’re basically cast members without name tags…”

wdw marathon weekend setup

Maretti gave me a look at what I dubbed her ‘runDisney Bible’ which was a packet of 30 some odd pages of highly detailed timelines encompassing every aspect of what it takes to put on the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  It was hard to even wrap my head around the volume of events that have to be perfectly choreographed to ensure that the weekend goes off without a hitch. Timelines for setup are driven by Reedy Creek and there is a specific schedule that is used to manage the event. Michelle said that this year they are actually ahead of themselves.  “My mind is already on 2014″, she said… “We work on it year round.”

walt disney world marathon set upMaretti also explained that the event set up is a committee structure and there are several committees and partners that meet once a week year round for an hour and a half.

Another bit of information…Marathon weekend is always scheduled the weekend before Martin Luther King Day, so depending upon when Martin Luther King Day falls, is where Marathon weekend falls. This critical date determines the amount of days that the team has to set up for the race. 2013 is the only year where runDisney will have this long of a period of time for setup…10 days in total. Disney Company Operations can not let runDisney into Epcot’s Imagine and Wonder parking lots until after the conclusion of the peak Christmas and New Year holiday season.  This means that Maretti and her team can not start setup until January 1st…January 1st at 2 p.m. to be exact.  In 2012, the start of Marathon Weekend races was January 6th, which gave the team merely 5 DAYS to complete set up for an event that draws close to 100,000 athletes and spectators. That’s half the time they were allotted in 2013. To say the team works miracles would be an understatement.

Michelle Maretti runDisney Disney cast memberAnother integral part of the race weekend is what Disney is best known for…the entertainment!  Maretti says, “Entertainment has more set up than anyone and on top of that, they have to come up with the show.”  Entertainment is also involved in making the staging area presentable. They will come in and tell set up where to put in greens packages and the different visual elements to make tent city look ‘guest-friendly’.

When asked about the challenges the planning team faces with runners being in the Disney theme parks during operating hours, she says that Magic Kingdom is the only park that runners do not run in while the park is open. There is a runDisney liason assigned to each park to make sure that plans are in tandem with the course director’s and that liasion knows the paths that the race is going to take within the parks.  They actually set the cones for runDisney on race morning.  They identify where crosswalks are needed and how many cast members are need to staff those locations and they work with entertainment as well.

Though marathon weekend planning is an ongoing year round fluid process, there are still timelines that need to be respected.  Six to five months out runDisney is asking race partners what they require. Doug Heitman figures out what everyone needs and how is he going to make it fit into only 2 of Epcot’s Parking lots.  It’s serious business.

Some changes that the race will see this year…Race Retreat doubled in size over 2012 and its sold out! The Cheer Zone also doubled in size.  The finish line has been shifted ever so slightly over and Heitman also pointed out a new tent for the wheelchair athletes to stow their everyday use chairs in while competing.  Another big change is the exclusion of port-o-potties on the road that connects the staging area to the start corrals. The team made the decision to take these out because during princess marathon weekend the lines for the port-o-lets stretched across the road where runners were trying to walk to get into their corrals.  Rest assured that there will be port-o-lets near the entrance to the corrals and around 500 or so in the Epcot parking lot staging area.

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is no small affair. Hats off to all of the cast members and volunteers who make this event as amazing as it always is!

For more info on Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend visit runDisney.com.

 


28
Dec 12

The Kinsey Collection Opens at Epcot in 2013

The Kinsey Collection EpcotThe African-American story of determination, courage, hope, struggle and inspiration will be told through more than 40 pieces of art, artifacts, books, sculptures and documents on display at the Walt Disney World Resort. Previews begin in late February and the official opening will take place March 9, 2013.

At Epcot, the American Adventure pavilion will be home to the Kinsey’s personal treasures of African-American art and history, amassed from their travels to 90 countries and dating back to the 17th century.

The Kinsey Collection is the intersection where art and history meet, a virtual history book opened wide, giving voice to untold stories of accomplishment and contribution. The Kinsey Collection, at the American Heritage Gallery, will be included in Epcot admission.


27
Dec 12

Mini Indulgence Culinary Delights at Senses Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Mini Indulgence Culinary Delights Disney grand floridian spa

Senses, a Disney Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, invites guests on a journey to relax, renew or imagine determined by treatment choice. Spa goers can sample tasty miniature carrot zucchini cupcakes (or dark chocolate banana, depending on season), plus cucumber-basil infused water, and antioxidant gummies with flavors like mango curry. The sensory treatment continues with flavorful and soothing elixirs, variations in lighting color, and music that harmonize with the respective journey. The spa recently opened at the Walt Disney World Resort.


19
Dec 12

Downtown Disney’s Splitsville – It’s So Much More Than a Bowling Alley

What do you get when you mix a dance floor, billiards, bars, bowling and good food? A very happy “Amanda”… Or Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney West Side.

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

This massive two-story building, in its former life, was home to the Virgin Megastore, but I must admit that I love this iteration much much more.

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

From the moment you walk through the doors you can just feel the funk. This place has a retro rad vibe!  It doesn’t feel like a sterile run-of-the-mill bowling alley and you won’t be overwhelmed by the smell of Lysol. Splitsville is crisp and clean and downright beautiful!

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

Yes, yes…it is a bowling alley at its core, but its also a fabulous restaurant and sushi bar with craft beer and specialty cocktails. You can come in and slide into one of the cushy booths, high tops or belly up to one of the many bars and just kick it with your family and friends.  You don’t even have to bowl to enjoy what Splitsville has to offer!

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

What gets me really excited about Splitsville is that we finally have something to do at Walt Disney World “after hours’!!! Most restaurants and lounges property wide are closed by midnight leaving the night owl guests scratching their heads wondering what to do. Splitsville is going to fill that gap as it will be open daily from 10am – 2am!!!

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

Billiards will run you $9 per hour per table.

Bowling is priced at $20 + tax per person for 1.5 hours inclusive of shoe rentals during peak times of 5-10pm. That price is reduced to $15 + tax per person per 1.5 hours during non peak hours.

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

The venue has 20 lanes upstairs and 10 lanes downstairs.  There’s also an outdoor bar and patio on the second level with amazing views of Downtown Disney West Side!

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

That’s Cirque du Soleil and House of Blues…

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

This is the view looking down towards Pleasure Island and the AMC Theaters…

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

I was lucky enough to attend two private events here prior to the official grand opening (one as media and one as part of the Disney Parks Blog Meet Up) and let me tell you, the food was ah-maze-ing! I love the selection of craft beers that they had. You can check out the entire menu at Splitsville.com.  They have everything from hand rolled sushi to pizza to salads to sliders to steaks!  If I can’t get a lane I will definitely still come in for a bite to eat here. And BTW… according to their Facebook Page, they will be accepting the Disney Dining Plan and your Key to the World Card!

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

When you do come to bowl, you will get VIP service all the way. Upon entering the Luxury Lanes you will put your name in with the hostess.  When your lane is ready, your party will be escorted by a staff member with a basket containing your bowling shoes to your assigned lane. Each lane has its own individual booth with a full size table…no flimsy table with swivel chairs attached.  You won’t have to make your way to the bar either. Each lane has their own wait staff who will take your food and drink orders and bring them right to your booth.

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

I was blown over by the attentiveness of the staff at Splitsville.  These folks have definitely been trained in “the Disney way”. Although not officially owned by Disney, you won’t be able to tell the difference once you’re here. The guest service is seamless from park to Luxury Lanes!  I can’t remember the last time I was THIS excited about a new venue at Walt Disney World.  Splitsville Orlando definitely lived up to the hype! I foresee Splitsville as being a local fan favorite. My family had a blast bowling, eating and drinking.

Splitsville Bowling Downtown Disney

Splitsville officially opened today!  As of right now lane reservations are not being accepted, its first come first served. For more info visit SplitsvilleLanes.com or call 407-938-PINS.

My family and I were provided complementary bowling and food at Splitsville. I was not required to write this post and all opinions are my own.


11
Dec 12

Disney Dapper Dans Sing Boy Band Songs and Give Guests a Laugh

My friend John Frost over at The Disney Blog captured some great footage last week at our media event showcasing “What’s New and What’s Next” at Walt Disney World. This was fun! As you can tell from the crowd’s reaction. Can’t wait to see the “Dans” performing these songs on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom!