Disneyland could theoretically let in 25,000 to 30,000 visitors per day and still allow for six feet of social distancing per person when the Anaheim theme park reopens with new COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place, according to new data analysis.
Disneyland could comfortably accommodate 50% of the 110-acre theme park’s theoretical pre-COVID-19 attendance capacity, according to estimates by the Thinkwell Group.
Thinkwell Group’s Brad Kissling calculated the COVID-19 physical-distancing needs of a theoretical future theme park in a new white paper published by the Los Angeles-based themed entertainment design firm.
SEE ALSO: What an attendance cap could mean for crowded Disney parks in the coronavirus era
Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and other California theme parks closed in mid-March amid the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and remain shuttered while they await guidelines for safely reopening from the state.
Disney theme parks in Florida, France, Japan and Shanghai have reopened with reduced capacity restrictions. Hong Kong Disneyland reopened in mid-June but reclosed in mid-July after a spike in COVID-19 cases in the communist-controlled city. Hong Kong Disneyland is expected to re-reopen soon after the city cleared theme parks to return.
SEE ALSO: How many people will Disneyland admit with reduced capacity?
Kissling’s Thinkwell white paper looks at mega theme parks like Disney and Universal that typically attract more than 10 million visitors annually.
Disneyland rarely discusses attendance or capacity figures for the park.
Disneyland drew an estimated 51,140 visitors per day in 2019, according to Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM. Thinkwell estimates a large U.S. theme park like Disneyland attracts approximately 60,000 visitors on a normal summer weekend day.
In pre-COVID-19 times, theme park density tended to range between 500 and 650 people per acre, according to Thinkwell. During the COVID-19 era, those numbers will need to be cut in half — to 250 to 325 people per acre — to accommodate appropriate social distancing, Thinkwell estimates.
SEE ALSO: Largest U.S. theme parks report no COVID-19 outbreaks since reopening
What is appropriate social distancing in a theme park?
Theme park planners typically allow for 10 to 15 square feet per visitor for a crowded circulation area, with personal space density dropping to five feet per person during parades and other large gatherings, according to Thinkwell. Post-COVID-19 protocols mandating six feet of social distancing will require theme parks to allow 140 square feet per person and 200 square feet for groups of three, Thinkwell estimates.
Using Thinkwell’s estimates, Disneyland accommodated approximately 545 people per acre in the pre-COVID-19 era and would need to cut those numbers in half to allow for appropriate social distancing in the “new normal.” On the low end that would be about 25,000 visitors per day and on the high end approximately 30,000.
“There is a lot that goes into calculating the daily attendance and densities,” Thinkwell’s Kissling said via email. “So it’s better to make estimates using big windows — such as 50,000 to 60,000 daily pre-COVID or with COVID 25,000 to 30,000 daily.”
SEE ALSO: How Disneyland could reopen under California’s 4-tier plan
Disneyland will have a number of models to follow in Florida, France, Japan and China when the California park reopens to the public.
Advanced reservations were required for the mid-May reopening of Shanghai Disneyland where attendance was limited to 24,000 visitors — about 30% of the Chinese theme park’s 80,000 capacity.
Disney reopened Shanghai Disneyland “far below” the 30% attendance cap to avoid backups in the park and to allow visitors and employees to adjust to the new COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on a conference call with analysts in May.