Disney's Contemporary Resort opened on October 1, 1971 as the Contemporary Resort Hotel. Originally planned as the Tempo Bay Resort the name was changed during construction because it was always being referred to as the most contemporary resort on property. Disney's Contemporary Resort was considered Disney's flagship resort; until the opening of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in 1988.
The Contemporary Resort was one of the original two resorts that opened together with the Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World in 1971. The Contemporary Tower is the icon of the resort's buildings. The construction utilizes an A-frame with outer walls which slope inwards around an inner atrium. The Walt Disney World Monorail runs through the inside of the tower featuring a station for resort guests. The design was a collaboration by Disney Imagineers, the United States Steel Corporation, and Los Angeles architect Welton Becket. The building was constructed by erecting the steel frames on site. The modular rooms were pre-constructed in a nearby warehouse and later transported and lifted into place by a crane.
The Contemporary Resort featured 1041 guest rooms located among the tower building or in one of the two garden wing buildings. The tower building rooms are located on floors 5-14. The resort has no 13th floor. Garden wing rooms are located in either the north or south garden wings. The tower building contains the lobby, restaurants, shops, monorail, and bus stops. Boat service was also available to Disney’s Discovery Island, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. Boat service is now only seasonal to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground. The resort also features a 90,000 square feet convention center that opened on November 11, 1991.
The resort decor has changed very little through time until it underwent an extensive renovation occurring between 2005 and 2009. During this time all guest rooms and many of the resort’s public areas were replaced with a more modern design and sleek furnishings. The lobby, including the front desk and sitting area, was updated to complement the new design of the hotel; additionally, new lighting and modern furnishings were added. The Wave, a new table service restaurant, was constructed in the place of a former quick service restaurant and arcade. The guest rooms received a major update with modern design. New carpeting, beds, headboards, marble bathroom tile, and flat-panel televisions were added. To see some some examples visit WDW Magic.
In January of 2007 as part of the major renovation and construction the north wing of the hotel was demolished to make way Disney’s Vacation Club resort, Disney’s Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort that opened in 2009.