Expanding the AFRC Resorts Portfolio

Shades of Green originally opened as a Disney-owned resort known as the Golf Resort in December 1973 with 151 rooms. The Golf Resort was located in the middle of the Palm and Magnolia golf courses. The resort was built of wood and volcanic rock in the style of a country club. The core building of the resort was opened in 1971 as a two-story clubhouse for the golf courses and did not actually have guest rooms. Guest wings were added to the original clubhouse in 1973, due to the need for overnight accommodations. Every guest room at the resort felt like a suite with at least 480 square feet.

Disney renamed the resort The Disney Inn in February 1986 to try to appeal to a wider guest base than just golfers. It received an additional 150 rooms with a new Snow White theme during that renovation. The resort was still small though for Disney standards, with only 288 rooms. The resort was described as having the rustic charm of a quiet country inn. The guest rooms were decorated in a bright and airy style. The sitting area of each guest room had pale green paint, an oak table and chairs, along with a chandelier and a pull-out couch.

Transition to the Military
By the early 1990s, Army officials decided it was time to build a new Armed Forces Recreation Center in the continental United States. Orlando was the top choice in a market survey of soldiers. During 1992, in the aftermath of Desert Storm, Army MWR advertised in the Orlando Sentinel; inquiring if anyone in the local business community would be interested in leasing resort property to the Army. The desired number of rooms and required amenities, such as a pool, restaurant, and lounge were listed.

They received more than 40 responses! It was decided that the offer from the Walt Disney World Company to lease the Disney Inn was the right offer. After negotiations were completed, the Shades of Green opened on 1 February 1994. The Department of Defense leased the resort and the land it sits on with a 100-year lease.

There was a long process for deciding what to call the new resort. The new name had to be acceptable to both Disney and MWR. At the time, all branches of the military wore some form of green utility/battle dress uniform. It was decided to call the resort the Shades of Green to refer to the different shades of green in the various services uniforms thus encompassing all the services. In addition, Shades sits between two of Disney’s lush green PGA golf courses. It seemed the perfect name.

Military Operation
The resort was so successful and popular that MWR decided to purchase the resort in 1996. The resort was purchased outright from Disney. However, Disney still owns the more than 30 acres of underlying property on which the resort sits. Shades of Green is a self-sustaining resort, no outside/taxpayer funds are used in its operation or upkeep.

In the following years, the huge popularity of Shades caused it to fill to capacity often and early. Reservations were hard to get in busy seasons. So in 2002, the resort closed its doors for almost two years to expand the resort by 298 rooms.

During this time Shades of Green guests were housed in Disney’s Contemporary Resort North Garden Wing (now replaced by the DVC Bay Lake Tower). This section of the Contemporary was turned over totally to the Army MWR. Shades of Green set up their ticket sales office and gift shop in some of the guest rooms. This was a fantastic opportunity, military families were able to stay in a Disney Deluxe resort for Shades of Green prices!

The aim of the renovation was to create an even better resort that included more guest room options, meeting/wedding space, additional fine dining, and more guest amenities. The renovation doubled the number of guest rooms with the addition of the Palm Wing and added ten family suites. Additional restaurants were added as well as 7,500 square feet of meeting facilities, a fitness center, and a multi-level, 500 space parking garage. The first parking garage on Walt Disney World property!

The resort reopened in March 2004 with a total of 586 guest rooms, a new Italian restaurant, a guest fitness center, as well as roomier ticket sales and gift shop areas. The newer Palm guest rooms are the same size as the original rooms. The Shades of Green is widely recognized as offering the most spacious rooms at Disney World.

Shades of Green Today

Over the years several major and minor renovation projects were completed to refresh the guest rooms and update the pools and restaurants.

  • 2009 Magnolia Wing Guest room, corridors, and bathroom renovations

  • 2013 AAFES Store was renovated and expanded for more retail space

  • 2013 Magnolia Pool Renovation – total demo and new zero-entry pool built 

  • 2014 Mill Pond Pool Renovation – new water slide, new splash area (replaced the old Kiddie Pool), and fencing 

  • 2014 lobby renovation, Java Café (Starbucks) moved to the Lobby 

  • 2014 Summer All new patio furniture installed for all guest rooms 

  • 2014 New Playground was installed; custom-designed to match the new Millpond Pool slide and splash area 

  • 2015-2016 Garden Gallery Restaurant, Express Cafe, and Evergreens were renovated prior to Invictus Games

  • 2014-2015 The newer Palm Wing was totally renovated 

  • 2017-2018 The entire Magnolia Wing and Ticket Office waiting area were renovated 

  • 2019 Entire Resort Exterior Painting was completed