Walt Disney Universe is a theme park/resort located near Dodge City, Kansas. It is the seventh Disney theme park and it opened on July 17th, 2025. Walt Disney Universe serves as the largest Disney theme park out of all of the parks, beating out its predecessor record holder Walt Disney World by twenty square miles. The entire resort, consisting of seven individual parks, rests on 63 square miles of farmland.
Overview and Development
The idea for a Disney park in the Midwest originated as far back as 1967. Roy O. Disney, then president of the Walt Disney Company (he took over after Walt's death), laid out a plan for yet another park that he deemed "Land of the Key to the West", where travelers alongside Route 66 could enjoy the magic easier rather than commute another 1,500 or so miles to Disneyland in Anaheim. Unfortunately, the Disney Co. was so caught up in the Walt Disney World project that the idea was scrapped. However, after Roy's death in 1971, Imagineers began to rethink the idea and slowly but steadily started buying farmland from Kansas farmers. This continued over the course of 30 years. By 2001, Disney had bought over 30 square miles of farmland.
In 2003, the first concept art was released by Roy E. Disney, who stated that the park would be called "Walt Disney Universe" and would be the biggest park ever created. "We wanted to make sure imagination goes beyond man's limits," CEO Robert Iger said in 2010. "And that's what Disney Universe will be all about".
Over the years Disney released other concept art to the media, which depicted three of the seven large parks, which was the original Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Universe, and the Epcot knock off CENTRACot. Construction officially began on July 17th, 2005 to mark the 50th Anniversary of Disney Parks. NBC broadcasted the opening events on location at the future park site 10 miles outside of Dodge City, which included the dedictation speech read by Robert Iger and the first area of farmland being razed and shoveled for construction by Mickey Mouse himself.
The entire construction project lasted for an entire twenty years. Disney had aimed the opening date originally for spring of 2016 to kickoff the Disneyland 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration but was delayed as the smaller park Shanghai Disneyland claimed the opening date spot, so Disney extended the opening date to Thanksgiving 2017. Unfortunately, an E-F3 tornado swept through the location that summer, destroying one-third of the half completed park and two of the four completed hotels, which were Disney's Discovery Heights and the Grand Kansasan Hotel. Now the opening date was extended to 2025, so Disney could rebuild all the parts of the park that were destroyed and make all of the buildings/attractions tornado-proof. Construction finally ended on December 12th, 2024, and the next seven months were spent testing all of the rides and attractions and making final adjustments before the opening day.
Walt Disney Universe officially opened on July 17th, 2025, which was twenty years after construction first began. The opening of the resort kicked off the Emerald Celebration, which marked the 70th anniversary of Disneyland and Disney Parks. Thousands of people had began piling into the resort areas as early as 2:00 AM. Within hours the five main parking structures were jam packed with cars and two hotels (The Grand Kansasan and Seaside Bays) were already full. There was also a huge traffic jam off of the interstate highways that led to the main gate. Maximum capacity was reached at the Magic Kingdom at 7:50 AM and NBC and ABC began live coverage of the opening ceremonies at 8:15.
The opening ceremonies began with a welcome spiel that played all throughout the resort, followed by the official flag raising ceremony by the United States Naval Forces, which was accompanied by the performance of the national anthem by Josh Groban and the Seventh Chapter of the Disneyland Band. It was then followed by the reading of the Disneyland Dedication by Bill Farmer, voice of Goofy and Pluto, and then followed by a Christian prayer by the Dodge City Church pastor.