ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex lauded for its role in safely helping pro sports return amid the global pandemic
Disney facility chosen over several other top-tier venues
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (June 25, 2021) – Recognized for its ability to impeccably host major sports events and enhance them with world-renowned entertainment, accommodation, and customer service experiences for athletes, coaches and fans, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida was named Best Facility of the Year by Sports Business Journal.
The national magazine, widely regarded as the sports industry’s publication of record, lauded the 200-acre Disney facility during its annual Sports Business Awards on Wednesday night for pulling off what seemed almost impossible – flawlessly and safely hosting both the NBA Restart and the MLS Is Back Tournament in a “bubble’’ environment. During overlapping weeks. Amid the pandemic. And with only a handful of weeks to prepare.
Those events anchored pro sports’ return after the pandemic shelved virtually all sporting events for months, making ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, in some ways, the epicenter of the sports world.
The sports complex was chosen from a stellar list of facilities, which included the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park, Lake Point Sports complex in suburban Atlanta and Dickies Arena in Ft. Worth, Texas. But ultimately it was ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex that “bubbled’’ to the top.
The publication praised the Disney sports complex for providing significant construction in order to accommodate the NBA and MLS events, including working with the NBA and MLB to build two expansive broadcast compounds and installing innovative blue screens and high-tech video walls.
“None of this would have been possible without the trust and collaboration of the leagues,’’ Disney Sports Vice President Faron Kelley said in accepting the award. “The cast at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex should always be proud that when they talk about the ‘bubble’ that they are talking about you and the great job that you did.’’
The SBJ’s Best Facility Award adds to the Disney sports complex’s storied history of staging major national and international youth, collegiate and professional sports events during nearly 25 years of existence. Over the years, the complex, which is regarded within the industry as a pioneer in the youth sports travel sector, has hosted NFL Pro Bowl Week activities, the Invictus Games, the inaugural World Baseball Classic, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the AAU National Basketball Championships and the Pop Warner Super Bowl, among others.
To add to its impressive credentials, in the next 12 months, the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the 2021 Department of Defense Warrior Games and the 2022 Special Olympics are all scheduled to take place at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with additional big-time sports events expected to be announced soon.
And in 2022, the Disney sports venue will celebrate it’s 25th anniversary on the heels of Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary celebration. The complex opened in March 1997 with an MLB spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds.