Theme park news: Lawsuit alleges ‘dysfunctional construction mess’ at Disney / Universal ticket changes

The owner of a Central Florida construction company says Disney breached a $48 million contract for renovating Disney World’s Saratoga Springs Resort after it discovered a fire code violation. 

Nicole Wickens, owner of Validus Construction Services owner, had worked with Disney before on renovations at other Disney World hotels. Early on in the 2019 Saratoga Springs project, however, workers found that the space between floors at one building lacked the required fire protection and this code violation had existed for more than 15 years, according to the suit. 

When the safety problem was brought to the attention of Disney project manager John Gavin, the suit said his response was, “‘I assume you guys led him here.’ In so many words, Mr. Gavin accused Validus of refusing to maintain a conspiracy of silence.” 

The suit, which you can read here, said Disney refused to address the defect to keep the renovation on schedule, resulting in a “cascading effect” that allegedly cost Validus millions of dollars. Wickens accused Gavin of harassing her and her team with misogynistic comments, such as calling her a “fat bitch.” The feud escalated until Disney terminated the contract without cause in April and then signed a new deal with a Valdius subcontractor for $13 million more, according to the suit. 

Disney responded on August 14. In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Disney attorneys claimed Wickens failed to support her accusations and included “immaterial, impertinent and inappropriate allegations” in her complaint.

“These allegations have been included in the Complaint in an effort to attack Disney with scandalous accusations so as to place this matter into the arena of public discussion,” Disney said in its motion, which you can read here

Date-based tickets coming to Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando is following Disney World’s lead in implementing a date-based pricing structure to its theme park tickets. 

According to Attractions Magazine, the change will go into effect Tuesday. From then on, guests with single- or multi-day tickets to Universal’s theme parks will have to pick specific dates on a calendar, with prices based on how busy the parks are expected to be. 

Guests will be able to change those dates through Universal’s mobile app. If they move to more popular dates, they’ll have to pay the difference in the ticket price. 

Tickets bought before the date-based policy was implemented will still be honored.

Disney World rolled out a similar system in 2018. As Disney emphasized to Theme Park Tribune at the time, the date-based pricing structure is not the same as “dynamic pricing” used by airlines and hotels; prices are set in advance based on expected demand and will not fluctuate in real time.