Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fond Memories of CityWalk

Just over 6 months ago Pleasure Island closed club doors and locked us out. In a brilliant move, Universal CityWalk offered PI annual passholders a free 6-month "annual" pass in order to get us to start spending our money there. And it worked. For the past six months many of us have become CityWalk regulars. Tonight our free pass privileges come to a conclusion and CityWalk has no plans to renew or sell new passes. Future visits will require a $6.99 ticket purchase for 1 club entry or $11.99 for all clubs, each time we visit. CityWalk, I'll still be visiting from time-to-time but 2-3 times per week ain't gonna happen no more.

CityWalk hasn't been all I that hoped it would be but there have been some pleasant surprises:

#5 Rising Star - Who would have guessed that karaoke could be so fun? Live band, dancing go go girls, excellent electronics, lines at the door. A real unique surprise.

#4 Red Coconut Club - The large moon makes a terrific backdrop to the live band playing in front of it. The club decor itself is a cliche' take off of a 1940's or 50's Vegas nightclub. Well done, and WAY better than predecessor Motown Cafe.

#3 Pat O'Briens - Hurricanes! Hurricanes! Hurricanes! Sorry, that's it though. Jellyrolls out on Disney's Boardwalk does dueling pianos far better.

#2 Latin Quarter - OMG, the "eye candy" can't be beat! And having the nationally famous techno DJ Leony at the helm has been a great surprise.

#1 The Groove - CityWalk's most popular club is #1 because of the crowds, the new confetti machine, the 80's Night featuring 8TRAX DJ Doc, the hot door and line hostesses (no comparison to the old ladies that used to work outside Mannequins) and the beautiful female bartenders! Actually, the entire staff both outside and in have been very friendly. They do a good job creating a welcoming atmosphere. Kudos to DJ AJ for trying to please everyone! The Groove could have done better though by signing DJ Peapod to a contract and allowing him to operate a techno night. Afterall, the roots of The Groove go back to it being a techno dance club. But overall, good job.

So CityWalk, thanks for the memories. I'll still be dropping by.......but just not as often.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mannequins Reunion Cancelled!

Disney has rejected my offer to have a Mannequins music night at Soundstage Club. The event had been tentatively planned for Saturday, May 2nd. I was fronting the entire cost of renting the club and meeting a $5000 drink sales quota with the idea of selling tickets to get my money back. And had the event not resulted in a financial loss to me, I was going to to do monthly rentals to keep this going. Our favorite DJ would have appeared.

The hangup seems to have been over the selling of tickets even though another music event organizer is doing just that elsewhere on Disney property, just not at PI. In an e-mail to me yesterday, my Disney rep wrote: Thank you for providing the information on (name of other event). Upon further research, I have found that they have a somewhat different set of circumstances and commitments that have afforded them the opportunity to offer tickets to pre-sell for their event. Unfortunately, we are not able to pass on that process to you.

So I regret to inform everyone that there is NOT going to be a Mannequins reunion at this time. (at least not at Pleasure Island)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PI Live to Move

As reported as a rumor last week, island sources pretty much confirm that in about 2 weeks the PI Live booth will be moving from its current location overlooking the Hub over to the upper floor of Laffers Cantina. The new location is the former home of the West End Stage tech booth.

A dueling DJ's format will be used with one DJ upstairs spinning the PI music but also bantering with a DJ downstairs who will also be chatting it up with DTD customers that are passing by. Appears that there will be comedy routines of some sort. This should definitely liven things up on the far west end of Pleasure Island.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

First Disney Balloon Ride Pics

© 2009 Thommy Sandvick

Here are perhaps the first photos on the internet of the new tethered balloon ride located at Downtown Disney Westside. Installation began late last night after nearly everyone had departed DTD. Large helium tanks on a flatbed truck were involved. The lower picture in the dark shows the balloon just partially inflated.

We're told that testing will take at least 2 weeks but no opening date has been announced as of yet. The middle picture was also taken last night; the top photo was taken earlier this evening and shows that the passenger gondola is now installed.. This one can be clicked on to see more detail. Rides will cost $16 for adults, $10 for children. The ride is operated by Aerophile, not by Disney. In other words, this is outsourced too.

Thanks to our roving reporter Thommy for getting this for the Save PI Blog.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Friend CityWalk

This past week or so has been devoted to Pleasure Island rumors so I thought it would be appropriate to mention that other place again: CityWalk

The new Food Court is open featuring the world's first Burger King Whopper Bar, a Moe's Southwest Grill and a Panda Express. Officially open until 2am, the place was mobbed last night at 1:45am as the clubs let out.

Speaking of the clubs, they continue to be packed on Saturday nights as Universal's Mardi Gras celebrations spill over into CityWalk. There were long lines at all clubs. DJ AJ stuck with the mostly hip hop/Top 40 format with just a few techno songs though. Unfortunately I walked into Latin Quarter too late to hear most of DJ Leony's House set; he was on a tear with progressive songs you're more likely to hear on his Sirius/XM show than in the club! The dance floor stayed packed.

Some of the largest CityWalk crowds of the year could happen this coming Saturday night as the featured music artist over at Universal for Mardi Gras is Kelly Clarkson.

I got to check out this past Thursday night's "80's NIGHT" at The Groove. It really got crowded in there; lots of spring breaker's were attending. 80's Night features former 8TRAX DJ Doc and a night here feels exactly like you're in 8TRAX. Fans of 8TRAX should definitely give this a try.

Monday Update: Today I heard from Jackie Fields, Guest Services Coordinator at CityWalk and she confirmed that there are no plans to offer CityWalk Annual Passes or to renew the free 6-month Annual Passes that were given to Pleasure Island passholders last fall.

Friday, March 20, 2009

PI Rumor Central

UPDATED SUNDAY 3/22/09: It's been a whirlwind week of PI rumors. Since these rumors were spread across multiple days, I have attempted to summarize all of the PI rumors right here. New information that I did not include previously is in italics.

Supposedly the booth for PI Live will move from it's current location above the Hub over to the tech booth above Laffers Cantina. There will be DJ auditions this coming Tuesday at Motion. They want DJ's that cannot only spin music but also have the ability to interact with guests. There will be some kind of "dueling DJ's" with the DJ's going back and forth to entertain the guests. They are trying to liven things up on the far west side of PI near the bridge to WS. The reason for moving the booth and the music is to eliminate interference with the Irish music at Raglan Road and the Latin music at the restaurant/night club opening soon on the waterfront.

According to the website, this is the name of the new Central/South American restaurant and night club under construction at PI. Located in the waterside building that was formerly home to the Missing Link Sausage Company and a few shops, they will also feature a tequila bar and food court called Street Foods of the Americas.

Allegedly a very high ranking Disney executive from the Entertainment division was in Orlando and touring PI this past Monday and after seeing the situation out there, basically told Maingate (the WDW entertainment complex) to immediately restore the sound and lights in these two clubs in order to get the rooms "show ready". I received an e-mail from someone else who apparently works at Disney who denies there are any plans to do this. Another source reported to me that in a later meeting with around 20 people, the executive mentioned above was screaming and wanted to know whose idea it was to close the clubs. Apparently after I posted these rumors they spread like wildfire across WDW.

Another source reported that to quell the wildfire, an e-mail was sent out shortly thereafter to CM's stating that the clubs will open permanently but only for conventions (private rentals); in other words, the 3 clubs previously announced as being available for private rentals through September 30th could now be booked beyond that date. And also in other words, the inference is that there is a misunderstanding about what it means that the clubs are reopening and if you're asked, that is what it really means. This whole e-mail thing is a rumor too but if its true my Blog posting must have pushed someone's buttons because Disney does not traditionally comment about rumors. Another new rumor says that the reopened clubs will be operated by a 3rd party vendor, not by Disney. Another source says that E-Brands is the 3rd Party vendor. This company is behind the Latin restaurant and night club currently under construction on PI.

Disney boards poster Maistre Gracey quotes sources telling him that Adventurers Club will be reopening in June, 2010 as a dinner show type club. The audience will move from room to room as a unit so all shows are viewed. The BET Soundstage may be converted to extend the space of the Club since it is actually one building below ground level. Another source says they can't open until after the closure anniversary because of union labor contracts. It is a fact however that AC is available right now for private rentals through September 30th (and perhaps beyond).

Motion is available for private rentals at least through September 30th and perhaps longer now. A rumor from a month ago was that this club was going to reopen within a year. Other than that, there are no new rumors about Motion.

The contract with BET ended last year and BET Soundstage is now simply the Soundstage Club. Soundstage is available for private rentals at least through September 30th and perhaps beyond now. The rumor from last month was that SS was going to reopen within a year. I am currently trying to rent this place out for a Mannequins reunion party and we are close on a deal. There are no new rumors about Soundstage.

Sorry, but absolutely no rumors about CW.

Absolutely no rumors about this place except the old one which says the building has so many leaks that it needs to be demolished.

OK, that's the summary of all the rumors. Let's see what develops over the next several weeks. Hope for the best!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rumor Updates

I heard via e-mail today from someone who says that there really are no plans to reopen Mannequins or 8TRAX. Hey, that person writing me may be correct. We don't know. Last night's posting was just repeating fresh rumors that came together earlier in the evening. Rumors are rumors. The accuracy rate is poor. If any Disney official would like to write in and give us the straight story, I would publish it immediately as fact.

One update I have today concerns the move of PI Live over to the far west section of Pleasure Island. Supposedly there will be some type of "dueling DJ's" thing over there with one DJ in the booth and the other down on the ground with the people passing through. Not sure how this will play out but it would liven things up on that end of the island.

Over on the Disney boards poster Maistre Gracey quotes sources telling him that Adventurers Club will be reopening in 2010 as a dinner show type club. That does sound like a viable way to get AC to earn revenue since presumably all future operations must pay for themselves and earn a profit.

Again...just rumors!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Mannequins & 8TRAX Ordered Restored

Oh my gosh, we've had some interesting developments during the past 48 hours. Details are still being assembled. Read the prior Blog entry below first to provide some framework for what is going on. I'll save the best news for last.

First of all, DJ auditions for PI are going to take place next Tuesday in Motion. The auditions are not open to the public. What are these auditions for? Sources say that the PI Live booth is being moved from its current location above the Hub over to the old tech booth above Laffers Cantina. Laffers is the bar that is still open for business over near Comedy Warehouse. The booth was previously used in conjunction with lighting and sound control for the now-defunct West End Stage. Two DJ's will work out of that booth providing music and comedy for guests on that side of PI and possibly parts of DTD WestSide. The PI Live booth and the music and fun is being moved to eliminate interference with patio guests enjoying Irish music at Raglan Road (there have allegedly been complaints) as well as any interference with Latin music that will be played for guests dining on the patio at the new Central/South American restaurant, opening soon nearby. So this part is all happening anyway and unrleated to Tuesday night's bombshell.

And now the big news: I have word that a very high-ranking Disney entertainment executive visited Pleasure Island on Monday and then ordered that the sound and light systems to both Mannequins and 8TRAX be restored immediately and to get the venues "show ready". A second source states simply that Mannequins and 8TRAX will be reopening soon! Then supposedly other Disney officials were out on the island Tuesday night with a very unhappy-looking Kevin Lansberry in tow. I've also heard from another source that Lansberry is being transferred over from Downtown Disney to manage Wide World of Sports.

Lots going down!
Sources are working on confirmations.
There is a prior disclaimer in this Blog and I want to repeat it here and emphasize it as well. The information presented in this blog is the opinion of the moderator and is not presented as fact. In many cases it is rumor-based and rumors are notoriously unreliable. Keep that in mind when you read any of this stuff.
Stay tuned!

Oh Those Rumors!

There are so many rumors floating around out there! These two very fresh rumors are almost direct opposites of each other. But hey, I just report them.

One source told me yesterday that CM's were informed in a pre-shift meeting that additional entertainment is coming "between" PI and the West Side but that none of the PI clubs were reopening.

I had no plans to publish that rumor until I received this one tonight: Another source tells me Mannequins and 8TRAX are reopening very soon!

I'd like to believe the latter rumor but it runs the risk of more disappointment. But get this third rumor I heard this past weekend from yet a different source: Auditions for Pleasure Island DJ's are scheduled to take place at Motion in the very near future!

So there you have it.
All from reliable sources.
Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Is This The Future of Mannequins?

Prior to Mannequins closing, one of the jokes was that Harley Davidson (the store next door to Mannequins) was going to put a restaurant into the Mannequins space. They were going to bolt some motorcycles onto the revolving dance floor so that patrons could hop on and ride around the room! There actually already is a Harley Davidson Cafe in business in Las Vegas so the idea does have precedent.

One of the problems with the Mannequins building is that it is so huge. 8TRAX, Harley Davidson and the Curl surfwear store are all in the same building with Mannequins. Mannequins and 8TRAX make ideal locations for.....nightclubs......and little else. I suppose one could put a restaurant in there but it would have to be a huge one.

One rumor says that the Mannequins building had actually been sold but the financing fell through. Another rumor says that it was sold and closed about 2 weeks ago. Are there plans for the space.....we don't know? For now the building sits there unused (except for the two small stores), supposedly stripped of sound and lighting equipment.

Is a new Harley Davidson Cafe coming to Pleasure Island? Let's hope not.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Club Report: Studio 54 (Las Vegas)

Was in Las Vegas these past few days for Spring Break and one place that had to be checked out was the reincarnated version of the famous NYC nightclub, Studio 54. Located in the MGM Grand Hotel, the 2-level club was a little bit on the underwhelming side. Thursday nights are advertised as hip hop, Top 40 and house but the music I heard was 100% hip hop. There is some cool lighting, a lot of the music is played with the accompanying video on the monitors and the go go dancers are a nice touch. Drinks are Vegas-priced at around $10 each. I expected more ooompf which was not delivered but it was ok. There a many, many night clubs on the Strip so there is something for everyone. Paul Oakenfold has a Saturday night residencey at the Palms that surely is awesome but unfortunately my visit did not include a Saturday night stay.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Status on Mannequins Reunion

My Disney rep has been on vacation this past week. I'm supposed to hear back from her this week. My rental proposal is in Disney's hands. If we come to terms, there will be a Mannequins Reunion on the first Saturday night in May....May 2nd. If we come to terms, the event will take place at Soundstage Club on Pleasure Island. Save the date.
Update: This event is nearing a REAL POSSIBILITY! Stay tuned!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Club Report: Techno at Latin Quarter!

One place you can find techno music from time-to-time at CityWalk is none other than the Latin Quarter. This might be the last place you'd expect to hear that kind of Dance music but the truth is, you're almost as likely to hear it at LQ than you are at The Groove! Last night was no exception with Latin Quarter's resident DJ Leony playing one of his "House Sets". How does the crowd react? By literally running up to the dance floor. When played, these Dance music sets typically last only 15-20 minutes at which time he has to reach back to his core audience. But when the music is on, it's on. Saturday Night update: At LQ, another House set by DJ Leony. At The Groove, a DJ I had not seen previously was substituting for DJ AJ and while most of his song selections were sos, the last half hour had a lot of us repeating "Mannequins song" quite often!

DJ Leony spins his style of high-energy Latin music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. He is also a DJ at Orlando's MEGA 98.1 Latin station. But he has roots in techno music, particularly Progressive House, and he has his own one hour techno show on Sirius/XM Radio. If you subscribe, tune in station BPM (Sirius 36/XM 81) on Friday night/Saturday morning at 1AM EDT/10PM PDT.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CityWalk Annual Passes To End

This is really disappointing: According to CityWalk General Manager Connie Colley, CityWalk is not going to be offering annual passes in the near future.

You'll recall that last fall they offered anyone with a Pleasure Island Annual Pass a completely free, no-strings-attached CityWalk Annual Pass. That was a brilliant move on Universal's part to capture the PI crowd who was being left homeless (or clubless) because of the PI closure. The free pass was valid until March 31, 2009, a date that is now rapidly approaching.

At the time this offer was rolled-out they hinted that they were also considering actually selling annual passes too at prices comparable to what PI charged. ($59/yr) The months continued to pass by though and no AP offer. Today I checked with CityWalk and the response was that they're not going to do it.

I think this is an error on CityWalk's part. Universal has been brilliant so far in going after the PI crowd, first with free entry coupons in the Sentinel and then with this free AP offering. Universal clearly has captured a lot of us. But why not offer a CityWalk Annual Pass to locals? If you checked my Pass usage you'd see I visited at least weekly and often more. You'd see that I club hopped a lot. If you could see my credit card bills you'd see that I spent at least $35 each visit and often more. Many PI people would purchase a pass, many locals would too. The AP sales revenue would be tremendous let alone all the liquor sales you get from it. But very few of us will come out very often at $13 per person per visit. Ain't gonna happen. Please reconsider.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Survey Says.................

There have been Disney Survey-takers walking around Downtown Disney (including Pleasure Island) lately. If you're out there and get asked to participate, please do so. YOU can help shape the future of Pleasure Island. If you're in a hurry they do offer to e-mail the survey so that you can complete it later.

Paraphrasing, here are some of the questions asked:
* They ask whether you plan to return to DTD anytime in the next 5 years.
* Based on your response, they ask why.
* How do you feel about the atmosphere and theming at DTD.
* Please rate the entertainment options at DTD, from Excellent to Just OK to Poor.

While the survey is about the entire DTD complex, the references to "theming" and "entertainment options" seems to suggest they're asking about Pleasure Island. People arrive on PI every night surprised or shocked to learn the night clubs are all closed. I'm not sure why they need surveys to find out that customers feel PI is a vast wasteland and that there's little to do (besides shop and eat) at DTD. But if that's what they want, give it to them. Take the survey if asked! Tell them you want the clubs back!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Flamingo Crossings - Not PI 2.0

To facilitate a discussion over on the Disney Boards, here are a couple pics taken yesterday from the side of TOLL 429 (Western Beltway) looking west towards the Flamingo Crossings development. This is where Western Way meets Hartzog Road, Exit# 8 along the toll road. With the economy is turmoil this developement has moved to a snail's pace. The original announcement put lower-priced motels, restaurants and gift shops here with a direct appeal to those frequenting the lower-priced offerings along US192 in Kissimmee. There have been close to no rumors that PI 2.0, if there even is such a thing, would be built here.