Running Disneyland for Just One Day Costs an Insane Amount of Money
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Disney parks and resorts brought in $18.4 billion in revenue in 2017, according to The Walt Disney Company’s 2017 annual report. Clearly, the Disney theme parks are a huge revenue source for the company, but they also cost a lot to operate. The Disneyland Resort alone consists of two theme parks — Disneyland and California Adventure — as well as three hotels and the Downtown Disney entertainment and dining complex, all of which incur maintenance costs, payroll costs and other expenses that keep the parks and other properties running smoothly 365 days a year.
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Estimated Disneyland Daily Operating Cost: $3.25 Million
Disney owns and operates seven different parks and resort properties: the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida; the Disneyland Resort in California; Disneyland Paris; Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii; the Disney Vacation Club; the Disney Cruise Line; and Adventures by Disney. Disney also has effective ownership of the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and the Shanghai Disney Resort.
Operating all of Disney’s parks and resorts costs $10.68 billion every year, according to the company’s annual report. If the cost to operate was split evenly per park, that would amount to $3.25 million per park per day. Operating costs for each park include employee pay, landscaping, ride maintenance, park cleaning and more.
Disneyland isn’t just expensive to run, it can be pricey to visit so you’ll want to save money where you can.
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Expense #1: Employee Pay
The Walt Disney Company employs a total of 199,000 people, and there are 23,000 “cast members” working at Disneyland alone, with about 3,000 to 6,000 working each day depending on seasonal need, according to Tom Nikl, author of DisneyDorkTom.com. Cast member jobs include attraction hosts and operators, cashiers, character performers, vacation planners, food service workers, guest relations workers, security officers, technicians, photographers, parade performers and parking attendants. Although they aren’t always making tons of money, it does cost to employ all those people.
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Estimated Cost of Employee Pay Per Day: $396,000
Many cast members are paid hourly, with most making $10 to $12 per hour. Cast members that work at the attractions reported their salaries as $10 per hour, while character performers reported their income as $12 per hour, according to Glassdoor. Technicians earned more than double, reporting they earned $29 per hour. The highest-paid Disneyland employees are managers, who make about $134,000 to $144,000 a year; mechanical engineers, who make about $85,000 to $92,000 a year; and HR managers, who make about $83,000 to $90,000 a year, according to Glassdoor reports.
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Expense #2: Landscaping
The Disneyland resort sprawls across 541 acres of land in Anaheim, Calif. The hundreds of acres of property are landscaped by Disneyland’s horticulture team, which consists of 100 cast members who work in landscape design, installation and maintenance, arboriculture, landscape irrigation, landscape design, integrated pest management and project management, according to the Disney Parks blog.
Each acre always appears to be perfectly maintained to ensure those enjoying Disneyland vacations have a truly magical experience. But how much do all those stunning landscapes cost to maintain?
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Estimated Cost of Landscaping Per Day: $1.69 Million
Based on the number of acres and Disney’s location, it costs about $1.69 million to maintain Disney’s landscaping, according to Homewyse’s Lawn Maintenance Calculator. The horticulture team works every single day to make sure the flowers and landscapes look fresh, from the flowers in hanging pots along Main Street to the Mickey Mouse face made of flowers that greets guests as they enter the park.
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Expense #3: Roller Coaster Maintenance
Disneyland has 88 rides and attractions, including eight roller coasters: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Gadget’s Go Coaster, Goofy’s Sky School, Indiana Jones Adventure, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Radiator Springs Racers, Space Mountain and California Screamin’. Coasters are inspected daily, and the inspection process is extremely thorough and lengthy, according to the site Coaster101.
First, the tracks are inspected. Any obstructions that might have fallen onto the tracks are removed, and the tracks are visually inspected to ensure that there are no cracks and that everything looks safe. The lift hill gets its own thorough inspection to make sure all the various mechanisms that pull the car up the tracks are working properly. Then the vehicles are inspected to make sure restraints are working properly and that all the parts are intact.
Before the ride is opened for the day, it must run through a certain number of cycles to ensure it’s working properly. In addition to the daily checks, roller coaster parts have to be repaired and replaced frequently.
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Estimated Cost of Roller Coaster Maintenance Per Day: $7,424
Roller coasters can cost over $20 million to build, according to Fast Company, and they continue incurring costs to keep them in good working order. The main expense is the personnel required to maintain the roller coasters, and the number of technicians involved per coaster depends on its size and complexity. The personnel required for a single coaster could include a mechanical technician, a carpenter, an electrical technician and a fiberglass specialist, according to Coaster101.
If there are four technicians per ride per day, that’s 32 employees working on these rides alone, and a technician at Disneyland earns about $29 per hour, according to Glassdoor. Aside from labor, other daily costs include grease, oil, brake fluids, cleaning supplies and electricity to run the coasters.
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Expense #4: Park Cleaning
Keeping Disneyland clean is no small task. A crew of 600 custodians, painters, gardeners and decorators work overnight while the park is closed to make sure that everything is restored to pristine conditions, the Los Angeles Times reported.The night crew’s duties include plucking weeds, scraping chewing gum off sidewalks, repainting handrails where paint has chipped, repairing umbrellas that shade the outdoor dining tables and diving below the surface on water rides to pick up trash.
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Estimated Cost of Park Cleaning Per Day: $50,400
Disneyland spends most of its upkeep budget on the night shift, the Los Angeles Times reported. A custodial worker typically makes $10 to $11 per hour and horticulturists make $16 to $18 hourly. Additional cleaning costs include the costs of supplies: enough to clean all 41 of its restrooms.
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Expense #5: Fireworks Display
Every night, Disneyland puts on a 16-minute fireworks display set to classic Disney tunes. The current show, “Remember… Dreams Come True,” is a tribute to timeless Disney stories and characters, including Tinker Bell.
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Estimated Cost of Fireworks Display Per Day: $50,000
The fireworks show is one of the most memorable parts of a visit to Disneyland, but it costs the park a lot to put it on each night. The daily cost of the fireworks display is about $50,000, according to former Disney employee Ben Suarez.
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Expense #6: Hotel Operating Costs
The Disneyland Resort is home to three hotels and vacation club facilities with approximately 2,400 rooms and 50 Disneyland vacation club units. The costs of operating a hotel include labor, cleaning supplies, amenities, laundry, utilities and refurbishments, as well as reservation fees, marketing royalties and commission paid to third parties. The costs to operate a hotel vary, but budget lodgings are much cheaper to run than world-class resorts. The three Disneyland hotels — Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel — are all 3.5- to 4.5-star hotels, so their operating costs are likely on the higher end.
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Estimated Cost of Hotel Operating Costs Per Day: $147,000
The cost to operate a hotel ranges from $12 per room per night for a budget hotel to over $75 per room per night for a premium hotel, Lodging Magazine reported. Since the Disneyland hotels are at about a 4-star level, operating costs are likely around $60 per room per night. With 2,450 rooms to service, that would mean if the hotels were always at capacity, it would cost $147,000 per day to operate them.
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Expense #7: Material Costs
There are also a lot of material items needed to run Disneyland. These include costumes for the cast members, food and beverages for all the restaurants and dining carts, apparel and gifts to stock the carts and shops, and other costs such as utilities, water, flowers and other decorative items. Although Disney no doubt makes a large profit margin on food, beverage, apparel and gift sales, the company still has to pay to keep these items in stock.
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Estimated Cost of Material Costs Per Day: $211,250
Disneyland likely spends about 5 to 8 percent of its daily operating costs to cover the costs of materials, according to business strategist Al Jones. If the daily operating cost for Disneyland is $3.25 million, that would mean that $211,250 goes toward buying materials such as Dole Whip ingredients and Mickey Mouse ear headbands.
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