It’s almost “game over” for DisneyQuest.
The gigantic interactive-gaming center, which began as a showcase for state-of-the-art video games and other hands-on activities, will operate as usual at Disney Springs through July 2. But then, Walt Disney World will pull the plug in favor of a basketball-themed attraction called NBA Experience. The DisneyQuest building will be demolished.
Recent visitors are bringing nostalgia with them, said Jess Hess, who has worked at DisneyQuest since it opened in 1998 and is the sole remaining cast member from the opening-day crew.
“At least once a day, if not 10 times a day, someone will say ‘I’m here, and I just wanted to bring my kids back because I was here as a child,’” Hess said.
“People know that it’s coming to a close,” said Steve Ruffman, general manager of Disney Springs’ West Side and Landing neighborhoods.
“There are Disney gamers, there are Disneyphiles and there are people who are just excited as this has been part of their annual visit to Disney World,” he said. “It’s now a must-do when it was a may-have-been a year ago.”
Inside the 100,000-square-foot structure, there are five winding stories worth of electronic games, old and new. Patrons play four-sided air hockey, paddle through the Virtual Jungle Cruise attraction, design a thrill ride at CyberSpace Mountain and compete in Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster, which incorporates bumper-car and dodgeball qualities.
There are rows and rows of old-school pinball machines – one with an “Avatar” theme – and specially created Fix It Felix Jr. videogames, distressed to look old school.
“It’s a bit of a maze,” Ruffman said.
DisneyQuest fans tend to talk about the attraction in a “back in the day” way.
“What I really liked about it was it felt like Disney was doing something different. … This was like an indoor ultimate Chuck E. Cheese sort of situation,” said Joe Matt, 30, who lives in Akron, Ohio, and is a contributor to the Parkscope website, which covers theme parks.
It had “unique games that were specially created for DisneyQuest,” Matt said. “We always thought that was super, super cool.”
As a kid, Justin Leiser, 28, liked DisneyQuest.
“The ability to have a lot of access to a lot of coin-op games was cool, but having interactive components with the Disney theming was really cool,” said Leiser, who lives in Clearwater and is a Disney World annual passholder. “I really liked the Pirates of the Caribbean experience where you were trying to sink battleships.”
He returned to DisneyQuest twice in the past year.
“At first, I was a little bit sad, but then after experiencing it for about three or four hours, I was like, ‘Man, really why has this been open as long as it has been?’ ”
Fans complained about a lack of updates as the pace of technology increased over the decades.
“It clearly became frozen in time at some point there. At that point it became unworth our time, let alone the money,” said Mike Slisinger, 40, who makes annual trips from Michigan. “There’s just so many other things to do in Orlando.”
The transition into NBA Experience will begin soon after DisneyQuest is shuttered, a Disney World spokeswoman said, although no details or timelines have been announced. When announced in the official Disney Parks Blog two years ago, NBA Experience was described as “featuring hands-on activities that put families and guests of all ages right in the middle of NBA game action.” It will also have a restaurant and a retail store.
DisneyQuest assets will be sent in several directions, including resort arcades or charitable organizations, Ruffman said. Some parts will be shipped to the archives of Walt Disney Imagineering. Cast members are bidding online for more than 100 of the games.
All cast members assigned to DisneyQuest have been placed in positions elsewhere in the company, Ruffman said.
“I think I’m still in denial,” said Hess, the worker who’s been there since the beginning.
“There are people literally coming to say goodbye to us. And there are cast members who have worked here in the past who are coming,” she said. “There are cast members that spent a couple of months of their life in this building, but it meant so much to them they’re coming back to say goodbye.”