ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 220 acres (89 ha) athletic complex located in the Walt Disney World Resort, in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando, Florida. The complex includes 9 venues and hosts numerous amateur and professional sporting events throughout the year.
|Former names||Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex|
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.|
|Owner||Disney Parks, Experiences and Products|
(The Walt Disney Company)
|Operator||Disney Sports Enterprises|
|Opened||March 28, 1997|
|Walt Disney World|
It was known as Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex from 1997 until 2010 when it was re-branded with the Disney-owned ESPN brand. The rebranding was unveiled on February 25, 2010. The complex is a part of the Sports tourism emerging market.
Disney built the US$100 million facility on former wetlands under the direction of Disney Vice President Reggie Williams. Construction started in July 1995. The complex was built to:
- publicize Walt Disney World
- fill some hotel rooms
- some sponsorship revenue
- build Disney World's position as a sports destination.
The venue opened on March 28, 1997 with an exhibition baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds. On April 21–27, the main tennis courts hosted the U.S. Men's Clay Court Tennis Championships. A grand opening was held May 15, 1997. The initial build out consisted of nine venues with a 10th, the Olympic velodrome, expected in the third quarter 1997. Initial tenants were Braves & its rookie team, the Harlem Globetrotters, NFL Experience, the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, Amateur Athletic Union, Official All Star Café and Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.:2 Disney bid for the Florida state high school football finals for 1997 but lost to Gainesville. In June 1999, the complex made a deal with the Florida High School Activities Association to host the state prep volleyball championships at the Disney Fieldhouse for three years. USA Trampoline and Tumbling Championships was held at the complex the weekend of June 7, 1997.
A former baseball umpire and an architect alleged that they approached the Walt Disney Company in 1987 with plans for a sports complex, and that Wide World of Sports, which opened 10 years later, was heavily based on their designs. Disney claimed that, while the designs had some similarities, the complex was also similar to numerous other sporting facilities, and the concept of a sports park was too generic for any one group to claim ownership. The two men, represented in part by noted attorney Johnnie Cochran, sued Disney in Orange County civil court. In August 2000, a jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs with damages in the amount of $240 million, a fraction of the $1.5 billion sought. Disney appealed the judgment, and settled out of court in September 2002 for undisclosed terms.
With Planet Hollywood just out of bankruptcy, Disney offered to purchase its All Star Café located here in February 2000.
In August 2004, 20 acres of additional fields, four baseball diamonds with other multi-use fields, were added under the name of Hess Sports Fields. Plans for a 100 lane bowling stadium with restaurant was announced for the complex by Disney officials in May 2008. This stadium would be built and operated by a third party and was supposed to completed in 18 months. About 13 United States Bowling Congress tournaments were expected for facility.
During the ESPN the Weekend event kick off, the complex was officially rebranding as the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on February 25, 2010 in a Hollywood-style “turf carpet” event. The complex received a massive upgrade including the installation of HD video scoreboards at several of the venues, a new complex-wide audio system and a broadcast production facility. Additional places at the complex included The PlayStation Pavilion and Custom Tee Center by Champion.
In 2007, Disney announced the 450-acre Flamingo Crossings hotel-and-retail development which would be located near the sports complex for the complex visitors and budget minded Disney World visitors. Shelved due to the economic downturn, the project was revived with the 2013 sale of property from Disney subsidiary Flamingo Crossings LLC to first phase developer JL Properties Inc. of Alaska. An October 16, 2014 groundbreaking took place for the first phase consisting of two Marriott International brand hotels which opened in January 2016.
In 2008 and 2009, the Disney Channel Games were held at the complex. May 9–11, 2014, a WNBA pre-season tournament consisting of four teams was held alongside a AAU girls basketball tournament at the complex, with Minnesota Lynx winning the tournament over the Chicago Sky 76-69. While the Citrus Bowl was under repairs, Orlando City Soccer Club play its 2014 season home games here.
In September 2017 it was announced that the Atlanta Braves would be parting ways after their 20 year partnership. After a delay in their departure, they have stated that 2019 will be the last year for the Braves to host their Spring Training at Walt Disney World.
In early January 2018, The Arena opened at the complex as its third indoor multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena. Also that month, United States Specialty Sports Association left for the Space Coast Complex in Viera, Florida ending its use of ESPN's complex.
A 7,500 seat baseball stadium built in 1997 also has 2,000 more lawn seating. One of the original components of Wide World of Sports, it was formerly known as Cracker Jack Stadium and The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports. It was the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves from 1997 to 2019, and the recurring home for the Gulf Coast Braves. The stadium has hosted two regular season Major League Baseball series in 2007 and 2008 featuring the Tampa Bay Rays as the home team. It is sponsored by Hanes with their Champion brand.
HP Field House
A 5,000-seat multi-purpose arena, formerly the Milk House and Disney Fieldhouse, sponsored by HP Inc.. It hosts the AdvoCare Invitational college basketball tournament annually. The HP Field House has 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) with stadium style seating with the highest row 35 feet (11 m) off the floor. It also features a smaller gymnasium behind the main arena with retractable seating. It was formerly sponsored by the California Milk Processor Board, progenitors of the famous Got Milk? campaign. Beginning in 2018, the arena hosts the Jr. NBA Global Championship, a tournament that features both boys' and girls' teams divided into national and international regions (and is thus similar in setup to the Little League World Series).
First announced in March 2007, the complex's 10th anniversary year, the J Center (formerly Jostens Center) is a 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) arena (36% smaller than the HP Field House without the stadium seating) that opened in the fall of 2008. The center features six college-size basketball courts, twelve volleyball courts, or two roller hockey rinks. Its seating capacity is 1,200.
Marathon Sports Fields
Marathon Sports Fields, presented by Marathon Petroleum, consists of twelve fields, the Baseball Quadraplex, Softball Quadraplex and four multiple purpose fields.
One of the fields has 500 permanent seats, and another has 1,000 permanent seats, expandable to up to 3,000 with additional grandstands. Field 17, the field with the larger grandstands, hosts the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic, an annual eight-team preseason soccer tournament featuring Major League Soccer teams.
Consisting of four professional baseball fields and one practice infield, the quadrapelex also includes batting tunnels, pitching mounds, hitting tunnels, masters pitching machines, and ten bullpens. All fields are equipped for night play.
A 1,000 to 8,500 seat tennis complex with 10-clay courts with center court stadium and was one of the original nine venues.
Cross Country Course
Consists of multi-purpose fields, the Track and Field Complex, and a 0.7-mile (1.1 km) wooded trail.
Track and Field Complex
A 500-seat competition facility for track and field events, designed to International Association of Athletics Federations specifications. This venue was one of the original nine venues.
The Arena opened in early January 2018 as the third indoor multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena at the complex. While multipurpose, the venue was designed for cheer and dance events. Its first event was the UCA and UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship, January 12 to the 14, 2018.
Programs and events
Disney created 1/3 of its events while bidding for other tournaments or attracting long term partners such as the Amateur Athletic Union. As of 2006, the union hosted at the complex 30 to 35 tournaments a year. The United States Specialty Sports Association had reserved six weekends at the complex.
- Disney Spring Training (1997—) takes place from mid-February to mid-April in which high school and college teams practices during their spring break at the facility. Until 2005, the program accommodated teams in track and field, lacrosse and softball.
- Disney Soccer Showcase (2000-) a top youth soccer tournament
- Sunshine Showdown, women's baseball tournament
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- "Photos/Videos: Sports stars help relaunch the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex". Attractions Magazine. February 28, 2010. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
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- Simmons, Roger. "Braves delay spring training departure from Walt Disney World until 2019". OrlandoSentinel.com. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
- Lee, Banks (January 12, 2018). "The Arena officially opens at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex". Attractions Magazine. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
- Weissberg, Brad (November 29, 2017). "TicketForce Wins USSSA Contract". VenuesNow. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
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|Events and tenants|
| Home of Orlando City Soccer Club
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