The alternative locations considered by Disney:Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
Orlando FL.What if (thank you, Planderella) WDW had not been built in Orlando?
Niagara Falls, New York - picked because it was, at the time, less than a seven or eight hour drive from about 60% of the United States population. (A Buffalo-area WDW would probably have been on Grand Island.) However, it would have been difficult to assemble massive tracts of contiguous land, and the park would have been open for only five months out of the year; the increased crowds from Corridor, Southern Ontario and Great Lakes area tourists wouldn't have made up for it. Disney ran the numbers, and Florida, South Georiga or Louisiana would have been a bit more profitable.
Cape Canaveral, Florida and Palm Beach County, Florida. Along I-95, which means it's an easy two day drive from the Northeast Corridor. Cooler than Central Florida, too. Disney was concerned, though, that the beaches would be a distraction, and that hurricane damage would cause bad PR.
Ocala, Florida. The runner-up. It had all the same advantages as Orlando at the time, but there was one little problem -- I-75. It would have been more difficult to drive to an Ocala-based Walt Disney World, because there's no convenient all-Interstate route from the NE corridor. Traffic from NYC would have to take I-95 to I-20 in South Carolina, head east to Atlanta, navigate a short chunk of the Perimeter, find I-75, and dart through gawd-awful South Georgia. An Orlando location would have meant a trip on I-95 south to Daytona Beach, then I-4 south an hour. Although Ocala was physically closer to NYC. the drive to Orlando would have taken about six hours less.
Let's say, though, WDW built their new amusement park in south Marion County, about 10 miles south of Ocala. What would Central Florida look like today? IMHO ...
* Ocala about 400,000 residents, Orlando about the same or a little less. Orlando was still larger, and I think they had Martin Marietta a while before Disney. Ocala had ... crackers.
* Ocala, being smaller than the Orlando of the day to begin with, would ahve a much greater percentage of the population working in the tourism and hospitality sectors than the current Orlando.
* More Yankee influence in north Central Florida. Today, that area is still predminantly Southern in its outlook.
* Instead of an Orlando metro area that grew largely to the north, there would have been more development pressure to the west. The orange groves would have hit the dust in the 1970s, and west Orange County would be much more developed than now. Probably wouldn't have the redneck reputation, either. Northwest Orange County and Lake County would also be far more populated than they are now. The north I-4 corridor would probably dribble out past Eatonville.
* Terrible traffic on the Florida's Turnpike between Orlando and I-75.
* The Marion County Toll Road Authority.
* Osceola County would still be largely rural.