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Entrance to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, 2010
|Former names||Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex|
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.|
Walt Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products|
(The Walt Disney Company)
|Operator||Disney Sports Enterprises|
|Opened||March 28, 1997|
|Walt Disney World|
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.
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.
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.
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 suppose 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 was held, along side a AAU girls basketball tournament, at the complex consisting of four teams 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 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 is the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves 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.
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.
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, presented by Marathon Corporation, 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.
Consists of multi-purpose fields, the Track and Field Complex, and a 0.7-mile (1.1 km) wooded trail.
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.
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.
|Events and tenants|
| Home of Orlando City Soccer Club
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