Photo: Jason MortonMajor theme parks began screening visitors in December.
Central Florida Roundup
Measure of security: Orlando's theme parks move to thwart terrorist attacks
In an apparently coordinated action just before the annual holiday travel rush, central Florida’s major theme parks began using metal detectors to screen the tens of thousands of visitors who stream through their gates each day.
Representatives for the parks — Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Sea- World — told local media that the mid-December decision was not prompted by a specific threat. It came just weeks after terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 and San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, and one day after the federal government issued a bulletin warning that “terroristinspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists might be encouraged or inspired to target public events or places.”
Metal detectors weren’t the only new security measures put in place. Disney World also removed toy guns from its souvenir shops, stopped allowing guests to check firearms before entering its parks and began prohibiting adult visitors from wearing costumes. The resort also announced that mounted sheriff’s deputies would begin patrolling Disney Springs, an ungated retail area.
Abe Pizam, dean of the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, says the heightened security measures are designed in part to soothe a jittery populace that remains uneasy after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. One sign of just how tense some travelers are: On Christmas, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, diners in a restaurant began stampeding out after mistakenly thinking they heard gunshots during an altercation between a guest and Disney workers.
Pizam says that the parks realize they make attractive “soft targets” for terrorists and must do more to harden themselves. A successful attack would be economically catastrophic for Orlando, he says, pointing to a sharp drop in Paris tourism following the attacks in that city.
“If there is an attack in a theme park or a tourist attraction in the United States, there will be a decline in visitors here,” he says.
Port Canaveral hired John Murray, president and CEO of shipping line Hapag-Lloyd USA in Tampa, as CEO.
Rollins College appointed Deborah Crown dean of its crummer Graduate School of Business. Crown, dean of the College of Business for Hawaii Pacific University, will start July 1.
Tavistock Group, the developer behind Lake Nona Medical City in Orlando, hired Dr. Thomas Graham as chief health innovation and strategy officer and chairman of the Lake Nona Institute. Graham had been chief innovation officer of Cleveland Clinic.
Orlando-based construction firm Williams Co. Promoted Bob Lipscomb to CEO and Taylor Huddleston to president.
DELTONA — Halifax Health plans to build a freestanding emergency department and other medical facilities on a 30-acre site near I-4 to anchor a planned Halifax Crossing medical village development.
The emergency department and imaging center are expected to open by December with 60 employees and an annual payroll of about $6 million. A second phase, with physician office space and related support services, may open by spring 2017.
KISSIMMEE — Osceola County will build more than 200 affordablehousing units on nine acres. In hopes of attracting more medical facilities, the city plans to designate a “medical arts district” that would encompass its two hospitals and a planned SunRail station.
Medical businesses in the district could get public incentives.
MELBOURNE — Porter Airlines began nonstop service between Toronto and Melbourne International Airport, the first direct service from Canada to the Brevard County airport.
ORANGE COUNTY — County commissioners voted to oppose fracking and also approved plans for a 425-foot-tall spin-ride attraction, two weeks after signing off on a nearly 600-foottall attraction that will include the world’s tallest roller coaster.
ORLANDO — City leaders hope to build a fiveblock- long bridge district beneath I-4 downtown using space that will be created as part of the I-4 Ultimate reconstruction project. The district could include retail areas, an urban park and recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds and soccer fields. The Orlando Magic sent requests for proposals for a new NBA developmentalleague team to eight locations in Florida, including Daytona Beach, Kissimmee, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Estero, Lakeland and two sites in Orlando. The Orlando Magic and CFE Credit Union pledged $1.5 million each toward construction of a proposed University of Central Florida campus in downtown. FB Orlando Acquisition, which owns the Artegon Marketplace mall, sold a large piece of the property anchored by a Bass Pro Shops for $17 million. The owners had previously sold another chunk of the property, which includes a movie theater, for $13 million.
Philadelphia-based GoldOller Real Estate Investments paid $42.8 million for the 560- unit Bonita Fountains Apartments in the southwestern part of the city. Sentinel Acquisitions of New York paid $55.2 million to buy the 302-unit Nona Park Village apartment complex in the Lake Nona area. The agency that runs Orlando International Airport has begun negotiating to buy the right of way for a possible light-rail system connecting the airport with the International Drive tourist corridor. Adventist Health opened a 12-story, 332- bed Florida Hospital for Women at its main Orlando campus.
TAVARES — Blue Rhino agreed to a $52,000 settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following a 2013 explosion at a propanegas plant.
WINTER PARK — Socialmedia marketing company Izea plans to begin trading on the Nasdaq exchange. City commissioners voted to prohibit musicians from performing on the sidewalks of the tony Park Avenue shopping district and to restrict them to a pair of “First Amendment zones” in the city’s central park.