12 April 2009

East Restaurant Complex Unique Structure

Perhaps one of my most fond dining memories from my youth are the chicken sandwiches, complete with a toppings bar and entertainment on a center stage in the Odyssey Restaurant. Though the restaurant closed to the public in the latter half of the 1990s, it stills serves a purpose for meetings, special events, restrooms, and as a baby care facility.

Today’s Back Issue comes from the August 20, 1982 installment of EPCOT Center Construction News, and features a remarkable look into the facility and its intriguing features.

Sitting in the transition area between Future World and World Showcase, with the World of Motion 60 feet to the north and Mexico 60 feet to the south, is the East Restaurant Complex; a rambling 50,000 square-foot building perched some four feet above World Showcase Lagoon.

The East Restaurant Complex, as it’s currently named on the blueprints, is the home of the Odyssey, as it’s currently named on the blueprints, is the home of the Odyssey Restaurant, a major dining facility at Epcot Center. The Odyssey Restaurant will be a 600-seat fast foods facility looking out over the Lagoon. It will also have a large entertainment stage, complete with show lighting and sound system, where bands will appear.

But the East Restaurant Complex is more than just a restaurant facility, it houses a large employee cafeteria (250 seats), guest and employee first aid station, baby care center and lost children area.

With its elevated stance above the water and sharp angles, stone work and brushed copper exterior, the East Restaurant Complex will be an extremely handsome building. But more than architecturally pleasing, the building is a unique engineering feat, perhaps one of the most unusual at Epcot Center.

The building, which is 75% on piles over water (only the back of the building sits on land) was not designed so for appearance, but out of necessity. Bob Smith, Epcot Project Manager for the complex, explains: “When soul testing was done in the Epcot center area a number of years back, our engineers found several muck holes, one of which is in the center of the Lagoon and the other near the shore… right where the East Restaurant Complex sits.”

Therefore, Disney engineers decided to put the buildings on piles to support it. Muck holes are very common to Central Florida, but our approach to overcoming one is very uncommon for a building this size.

“We called it the ‘Black Hole’ out there and started right in pounding piles into it till we reached firm ground beneath.” In all, some 400 piles were used under the restaurant and Promenade bridge adjacent to it. Each pile is a 10-in steel pipe filled with rebar and concrete, measuring 90 feet long. As the huge pile drivers slammed them into the muck, 90-foot sections were added on. When the job was completed, the average depth for a pile is 150 feet, with some going down as far as 285 feet!

“The much is about 90% water and 10% decaying matter,” Bob explained. “Jello is more stable than muck!”

Another unusual item designed into the East Restaurant Complex is a long steel bar located about a foot under the surface of the Lagoon. Underwater spotlights are mounted on this bar and at night will shine up out of the water onto the sides of the Odyssey Restaurant and Promenade bridge. Visually, the area will be magnificent at night.

The Lagoon area beneath the complex began filling earlier this week, so soon the complex will take on the look of a modern style wharf restaurant.

The East Restaurant Complex is an important facility for our guests, with its major fast foods restaurant, first aid, baby care and employee cafeteria. Slated to be fully operational on opening day, construction employees are working around-the-clock to complete this unique engineering structure.


Marilyn said...

Does anyone know why Odyssey closed?

Ryan P. Wilson said...

From everything I have been able to gather, the restuarant was closed because it was never as popular as Disney would have liked.

Princess Fee said...

I love these articles, the 'back issues' - more! :)