The History of I-Drive


More to Come

Pardon our dust.

International Drive Economic Impact Analysis Report

Annual update of the I-Drive District commissioned International Drive Economic Impact Analysis Report.
I-Drive Economic Impact Analysis 2016

2018 I-Drive District Guide

Annual update of the I-Drive Business Improvement District's Guide, created specifically to provide details on the benefits and opportunities that are available to District Partners.
2018 I-Drive District Guide

I-Drive 2017 Development

With 33 projects tracked by the District, development definitely did not slow down in 2017. We saw many new additions such as Volcano Bay Water Park, Topgolf Orlando, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, plus 30 more!
I-Drive 2017 Development: A Year In Review

I-Drive 2017 Holiday Greetings

How to Use the I-Ride Trolley Service

International Drive Economic Impact Analysis Report

The I-Drive District commissioned the FIRST EVER Economic Impact Analysis study for the I-Drive Area.
I-Drive Economic Impact Analysis 2014-2015

2017 I-Drive District Partner Guide

Annual update of the I-Drive Business Improvement District's Guide, created specifically to provide details on the benefits and opportunities that are available to District Partners.
2017 I-Drive District Partner Guide

I-Drive 2016 Development

Development in 2016 kept moving forward with new additions such as SeaWorld's Mako Coaster, Skull Island Reign of Kong, Main Event at Pointe Orlando, McDonald's - World's Largest Play Place, and Seabra Foods, to name a few.
I-Drive 2016 Development: A Year In Review

I-Drive 2016 Holiday Greetings

I-Drive Aerial Tour

Take a virtual ride of I-Drive with our newest video! This video was produced using 3 mediums: filming street side with go pro & video camera, aerial with drone, and scenes from our existing destination videos!

"I Sizzle" I-Drive Destination Videos: SHOPPING

We kicked off 2016 with all new destination videos that celebrate the thrills, the fun, and the flavors of International Drive. The "I Sizzle Video Campaign" is a fresh, contemporary approach to promoting I-Drive on our resort website and social media platforms.

"I Sizzle" I-Drive Destination Videos: NIGHTLIFE

"I Sizzle" I-Drive Destination Videos: DINING

"I Sizzle" I-Drive Destination Videos: ATTRACTIONS


I-Drive 2015 Development

This is the year it all began with the opening of such highly anticipated and landscape-changing projects as I-Drive 360 Home of the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye and Mango's Tropical Cafe & Nightclub, among others.
I-Drive 2015 Development: A Year In Review

I-Drive 2015 Holiday Greetings

International Drive Vision Plan

Accepted by the Board of County Commissioners
on November 3, 2015.
International Drive 2040 Vision Plan

I-Drive District - 20 Year Anniversary

Take a look at I-Drive Then and Now as we share 20 years of I-Drive District Firsts!
20th Anniversary Presentation

International Drive Part Three: Attractions


I-Drive Resort Area Today

The I-Drive Resort Area is home to 6 theme parks, 17 attractions, 2 entertainment complexes, 550 designer and outlet stores, 200 restaurants, 3 cinemas, 107 hotels and resorts, a total of 35,883 rooms and the second largest convention center in the U.S.

Orange TV - History of I-Drive Part 2


I-Ride Trolley Ridership

The I-Ride Trolley reports a total of 1.93 million trips for the year and a total of 23.4 million trips since it began service in 1997,

Peabody Expansion Complete

On September 23, after a decade of planning and two years of construction, the Peabody Orlando opens its $450 million expansion with new guestroom tower, spa, pool, restaurant, bar and lobby.

T.O.P.S. on I-Drive

April 4, a public-private partnership between Orange County Government, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the International Drive Master Transit & Improvement District, results in a Tourist Oriented Policing Squad for a four year prototype safety initiative.

Orange TV - History of I-Drive Part 1


Peabody Expansion Underway

Expansions to the Peabody Orlando are currently underway and will connect directly to the Orange County Convention Center via the elevated pedestrian walkway as well. The elevated walkway currently connects the North, South and West concourses over I-Drive to each other and the Hilton Orlando.

The Hilton Orlando Opens

In September, the Hilton Orlando, a 1400 room luxury hotel, opened adjoining the South Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center's North/South Building via an elevated, covered pedestrian walkway.

Phase V Opens One Month Early

In September, Phase V opens a month before the original expected completion date of October. Surf Expo is the first tradeshow held in the North/South Building on September 12th and the Orlando Home Show is the first show open to the public on September 26th - 28th.

New Hilton Plans Announced

In August, Hilton Hotels Corporation confirms plans to build a 1,400-room convention hotel adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center phase V expansion.

Convention Center Keeps Growing

In January, a $32.6 million retrofit is completed. The Orange County Convention Center now totals 4 million square feet of total building space and 1,103,538 square feet of contiguous exhibition space.

Turning a Profit

Finley Hamilton and his partner sold their former Hilton Inn for $18 million more than they paid for it in 1970.

I-Ride Trolley Launches

I-Ride Trolley Service begins and is an immediate success with visitors.

Orange County Convention Center Phase IV

In August, phase IV of the Orange County Convention Center is completed at a cost of $198.7 million. This makes the total contiguous exhibition space at the center 1,095,390 square feet.

Phase III Convention Center Complete

In January, phase III of the Orange County Convention Center is completed at a cost of $219.5 million, adding 383,400 gross square feet exhibition space.

Belz is Sold

The Belz family sells the original outlet malls. Prime Outlets moves in.

Tax Increase

In December, the TDC and BCC approve a fifth cent increase of the bed tax.

I-Drive District Formed

The International Drive Master Transit & Improvement District is created under a public-private initiative with Orange County, the City of Orlando and the businesses of the I-Drive Resort Area. It is the first district of its type in Florida and serves as a prototype for other areas.

Universal Comes to Florida

June 7, Universal Studios Florida opens.

Phase II Complete

In December, Phase II of the Orange County Convention Center is completed at a cost of $13 million.

Phase II Begins

In February, Phase II groundbreaking begins for the Orange County Convention Center.

Resort Tax Increase

Resort Tax is increased to 3 percent.

Moving Up the Ranks

Orlando is named the 13th most popular convention destination in the U.S. according to Business News.

Peabody Orlando

In November, the Peabody Orlando opens.

Ponderosa Breaks Records

Jesse Maali, a Palestinian immigrant opens a Ponderosa Steakhouse near Wet 'n Wild and made it the busiest in the world with $6 million in annual sales.

I-Drive Grows

Belz Factory Outlets expands and I-Drive is extended to the site.

More Beds Added

Belz partners with Jim Brown of Plaza International to build an 891-room hotel to serve the new convention center.

Phase I Complete

In February, phase I of the Orange County Convention Center is completed at a cost of $54 million. Boston Pops perform at the grand opening.

I-Drive Welcomes a New Neighbor

Eli Sfassie sells his four I-Drive stores to Nur Ullah Khan, an Indian-born accountant who relocated from England.

Belz Factory Mall

Late this year, Marty Belz, owner of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, builds Belz Factory Mall on an 80-acre tract off Oakridge Road.


Phase 1 groundbreaking for the Orange County Convention Center.

Late 1970s

I-Drive and Central Florida are coming out of the recession. Disney is building EPCOT. SeaWorld is expanding. Orange County voters approve a new 2 percent hotel room tax to build a convention center to boost tourism.

Seventy acres are donated for the new convention center site by Orlando Central Park, the real estate arm of Martin Marietta Corp. The company also sells 722 acres for a development to be named Plaza International.

By this time...I-Drive had 12 hotels, 24 restaurants, 4 gas stations. Most were located at the two major intersections.

Orange County Votes on a Convention Center

In May, Orange County voters approve Tourist Development Tax to build a convention center for promoting tourism. Voters select Orlando Central Park as the site for the Orange County Convention Center.

In September, the master plan for the 325,000-square-foot Orange County Convention Center is submitted to the BCC.

In June 1979, the BCC approved the land donation agreement with Orlando Central Park. Provides an option to the county for additional land and requires Orlando Central Park to develop adjacent sites as hotels and commitment of a 1 percent surcharge of hotel room revenues for 30 years.

$9.99 Sale

Sfassie opens second store directly across from Wet ‘n Wild and sells Mickey Mouse tee shirts for $9.99 each.

Tourist Tax

Florida legislature passes statute to allow counties to impose Tourist Development Tax.

T-Shirts for Sale

Eli Sfassie, an eighth grade dropout from Hobart, Ind., opens I-Drive’s first free-standing tee shirt emporium ½ mile south of Wet ‘n Wild.

Wet n Wild Opens

March 13th - George Millay, Sea World co-founder, builds Wet ‘n Wild on 12 acres on Sand Lake and I-Drive. It was billed as the nation’s first water park.

Wet ‘n Wild soon lost $500,000. The park added new rides, slide, flumes and tunnels. Within 10 years, attendance was over 1 million.

Dowdy Arrives

Ron Dowdy, navigator and bombardier who flew 232 missions over Vietnam, retires from the Air Force and heads to Orlando, where in 1971, he had been stationed at McCoy AFB.

Dowdy own 15 acres that include a doughnut shop, land leaded to restaurants and a miniature golf course and retail stores. He opened a bowling alley and an ice skating rink (now closed).

More Development

Rosen/Daytons purchase the Solage Hotel (now Rodeway Inn) after a bank reduction from $5.2 million to $3.1 million.

Jim Brown, a Texan and an electrical engineer is named president of Orlando Central Park, a 4,300-acre office and industrial complex owned by Martin Marietta. His master plan included wide roads, large medians, landscaping, limited signage, shopping and entertainment.

Rosen Moves Inn

In June, former Disney and Hilton hotel executive, Harris Rosen, partners with Alan and Joanne Dayton of West Palm Beach to purchase the 256-room Quality Inn at Sand Lake Road. Cost: $150,000 cash and assumed a $2.5 million mortgage. Rosen and his dog, Rin Tin Tin move into the hotel to save money.

Rosen hitchhikes up the east coast and negotiates commitments from bus companies to stay at his hotel for rates of $7.50-$8.50.

At the end of year, the oil embargo is lifted and business increases.

Sea World Opens

December 15th, Sea World opens it doors in Orlando, FL.

Recession Hits Hotels

In the fall, rooms were vacant due to an Arab Boycott protesting the U.S. support of Israel. Gas prices doubled overnight and plunged the country into a recession that would last for years.

New Hotels

Early in the year, $60 million had been spent to build 11 hotels with 3,000 rooms along the new I-Drive’s Westside. This accounted for 1 ½ of the rooms built during Walt Disney World’s first year.

International Drive is Born

Early in the year, Hamilton and RF Raidle’s Major realty paved a 1 ½ mile road connecting Kirkman and Sand Lake. Hamilton named it International Drive because it “sounded important.”

Walt Disney World Opens

On October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World officially opens it doors.

Turning a Profit

In August, Hamilton and partner Jack Zimmer bought 28.4 acres to the north for $10,000 per acre. The land was soon resold as hotel sites for up to $200,000 per acre.

Hilton Inn South Opens

In May, Hamilton opened the Hilton Inn South, 17 months before Walt Disney World opened.

Hamilton Buys 10 Acres

Finley Hamilton, Orlando attorney and developer, paid $90,000 for 10 acres of land that was primarily sand, scrub and palmetto north of Sand Lake Road and east of I-4.

Disney Breaks Ground

Construction begins on Walt Disney World.

Coming to Orlando

Walt Disney announces new theme park to be built south of Orlando.