Citing enormous economic and employment benefits for the state, Gov. Pete Wilson pledged his support for the proposed Disneyland Resort on Wednesday, committing $60 million for two freeway ramps and a massive parking garage.
Wilson said the state is getting involved in the Disney venture because it gives "the promise of major employment" and would help the state recover from the recession.
"The magnitude of the economic benefits of this project are difficult to overestimate," Wilson said. "It is worthy of the kind of team effort being made at all levels, the state as well."
After meeting privately with officials from the Walt Disney Co., Anaheim and Orange County about the project, Wilson publicly earmarked the funds at a news conference with Disneyland President Jack Lindquist.
The state's contribution would come from savings in other transportation projects, the governor said. State officials said they have identified about $25 million of those funds. All the money, Wilson added, is committed by law for transportation purposes and would not affect the state's general fund.
Wilson traveled to Orange County on Wednesday to discuss the entertainment giant's ambitious $3-billion plan for a new theme park next to Disneyland, several hotels, a 5,000-seat amphitheater, and a shopping district in what is now a run-down urban setting.
For months, Disney and Anaheim officials have been trying to win financial commitments from the state to help pay for massive public works improvements, particularly for freeway ramps and one of two mammoth parking structures to serve the resort.
Throughout negotiations with state officials, Disney and Anaheim representatives have highlighted the resort's benefits: It will create up to 28,000 jobs and $90 million in annual revenue for the state by the year 2008.
Wilson said the project will help fill the demand for jobs that has occurred because of the region's growing population.
"Orange County . . . is never again going to be a sleepy, quiet village. We have been discovered," Wilson said at the Disneyland Hotel.
Of the $60 million that Wilson pledged to the project, $25 million will pay part of the $50-million cost of two off-ramps and $35 million will go toward a $203-million parking garage, which will be used for guests of the Disneyland Resort as well as for commuters who will park there to meet buses, commuter vans and car pools.
About half a dozen local homeowners opposed to the project picketed Wednesday outside the Disneyland Hotel, carrying signs that read: "Stop Disney Greed."
"It seems a little odd that in these times of fiscal restraint and budget crisis that the state can scrape up enough money for a for-profit enterprise," said Steve White, one of the protesters. "It really seems out of tune with what's going on."
Disney and city officials were pleased with the state's financial support.
"We said from the beginning that this project was going to be bigger than Disney," Lindquist said. "We wouldn't be where we are today without the help of the state and the city. . . . There are many hurdles in the future, but I'm more optimistic today than ever. I believe it's going to happen."
Despite the state's contribution, Disney officials cautioned that they need further support from federal and city governments to make the project financially feasible. The entertainment giant, which earned $816 million last year, is asking for about $800 million in public funding for public works and other improvements in the Disneyland area.