I love sports. I played softball, basketball, and volleyball through high school and continued my volleyball career into college and after. I was a graduate assistant for the volleyball team at Kent State and even a head community college volleyball coach for a few years. Since then I’ve maintained an interest in health & fitness and enjoy staying up-to-date on the world of sports.
Airfare, accommodations, meals, park tickets, and gift items provided.
I’m also an avid Disney Parks fan. I’ve visited a number of times in the past few years and I’m always excited to learn something new on every trip. That’s why I was thrilled to be invited to be given the opportunity to attend the Disney Sports ESPN Wide World of Sports Festival Media Week.
It was a fantastic event where we learned a lot about the complex, experienced Disney magic throughout the trip, and even had the chance to snap photos with our favorite Disney characters.
Even though I consider myself to be well versed in sports, health & fitness, and the Disney Parks one question kept popping up in the back of my mind, “What is the ESPN Wide World of Sports?” I would see it every now and then as we’d drive around the Disney area and I did know the Atlanta Braves held spring training there, but other than that I wasn’t sure what the facility had to offer.
This tour changed all that. After spending a few days walking around the complex, hearing from executives, and getting a behind the scenes sneak peek at how the complex operates, I’m excited to share what I learned with you.
What Is The ESPN Wide World Of Sports?
The ESPN Wide World of Sports hosts more than 350 events and 350,000 athletes from more than 70 countries each year. The 255-acre complex accommodates 70 different sports. The complex has 30 outdoor venues and can host 12 basketball games at the same time and 18 volleyball games simultaneously. When we were there the Disney Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament was taking place for youth athletes ages 9-18.
Also taking place was AAU Boys Summer Basketball for players ages 8-18. At this event there were 1136 teams and 13,064 athletes. Every gym we walked into had a basketball game taking place. It was captivating to see the kids leaving their hearts on the court and the parents cheering feverishly from the stands.
We also got a glimpse of the USSSA Elite Baseball WSI for 10 & under, 12 & under, and 14 & under baseball teams. There were 100 teams present with 1250 athletes, 200 coaches, and 1300 spectators. These players had the chance to play in Champion Stadium the same place the Atlanta Braves hold spring training. They even had their names displayed on the scoreboard pro-athlete style – how exciting is that?!
There is also the Pop Warner Super Bowl, the National Cheer & Dance Champions, open registration tournaments, sports academies, camps such as the Drew Brees Passing Academy and the Coach Tom Shaw Speed Camp, and even DI and DII showcases where college scholarships are offered on the spot.
There are a number of ways to compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. There are the elite tournaments, spring training programs, and showcases mentioned above as well as open registration tournaments. There are also training camps that take place during major school holidays & summer vacation.
Disney Sports Solutions is also available to make team travel easier. There are discounted travel packages that include:
- Team Registration
- Resort Accomodations
- Theme Park Admission
- Meal Options
- …and more.
How Is Disney Magic Infused Into The ESPN Wide World of Sports?
Throughout this tour it was mentioned over and over again that the mission of the ESPN Wide World of Sports is to make every athlete feel like they have made it to the big time. Whether it’s the Super Bowl, the World Series, or anything in between, the goal is to help these youth athletes get one step closer to their dream and remind them it’s about play both on the field and off. They get the chance to experience the magic of Disney through their love of sports.
Some of the features that give youth athletes the opportunity to experience Disney magic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports include:
Upon entering the complex athletes can drop off their bags and have them delivered at their sports venue. We had the chance to experience this and I have to say it was nice not having to lug our bags across the complex
Playing in an all day tournament and don’t want to send the team parent out for fast food? No problem the ESPN Wide World of Sports offers boxed lunches, bulk pizza orders, snacks, and even stocked coolers delivered right to your sporting venue.
OfficeMax Business Center
Game Day Photo
Leave your camera at home and let a personal photographer snap from 35 – 300 photos of your child in action. There are also team photo options as well as fun and memorable green screen packages available too. We had a chance to pose in front of a green screen, once with Goofy and once on our own. Then we were surprised with our after photos.
Custom Tee Center
Live Television Broadcasts
The complex features 56 high-definition cameras that can capture your child in action and display live footage, highlights, and interviews on 40 high-definition video screens around the complex, on a dedicated channel in the Disney World Resort hotel room, or on the ESPN Wide World of Sports YouTube Channel. Some games are even broadcasted live on ESPN3, and highlights are sometimes shown on ESPN 2, ESPN.com, and SportsCenter.
The Welcome Center can help you navigate both the complex and your Disney Parks vacation in many ways. With maps available, concierge like services to help answer questions, order bagged lunches, make cheer cards, check the weather, find a restaurant that will accommodate the team, and even help plan a day at Disney with sample itineraries.
That’s right. Our group, along with thousands of youth athletes and their families, had the chance to roam around Animal Kingdom after it was closed to the general public.
We had a buffet dinner at Restaurantosaurus, played games in DinoLand, and got to ride Primeval Whirl, TriceraTop Spin, Dinosaur, and even Expedition Everest as many times as we wanted. Many of the kids and their families were from around the world and it was their first time visiting Disney. It was incredible seeing their never-ending smiles and the joy in their eyes as they got to experience an entire park to themselves and sing, dance, play, and ride the night away.
What Other Fun Things Did You Do And What Else Did You Learn On The Tour?
While on the tour I had the chance to check out the Disney Sports Festival Center Tent where athletes and their families could come to cool off in front of a number of fans and misters (it was 95 degrees when were were there!). At that time it also served as a place for Team Mom Check In where info was provided, questions were answered, and prizes were given away. Athletes (and their parents if they were feeling young at heart) could charge through an inflatable obstacle course and play a number of tailgating type games. There is also a big screen tv where movies played in the afternoon. When we were there Star Wars was on the schedule.
We had a fun evening at Splitsville in Downtown Disney as well. There was bowling, billiards, food, music, and lots of laugh, strikes, and smiles. And the view from the upstairs balcony was amazing!
One of the mornings we had the chance to participate in a runDisney Fun Run where we were able to run/jog/walk or push a stroller around Epcot World Showcase. We were given runDisney apparel and New Balance shoes (that are the lightest shoes I’ve ever owned!) and we were off. I was thankful to be able to do this with my mom who had never participated in anything like this. It was a fantastic experience and now I see why so many people enjoy runDisney events, they truly are magical and memorable!
They also gave us a few hints about the upcoming New Balance runDisney shoes coming out soon and Andy talked the runDisney Expedition Everest Challenge – which he won!
We also visited the Disney Parks of course! They are so close by that a visit was a must. As you can see by how busy Main Street in Magic Kingdom is many other people thought so too!
While on this trip we stayed at the Boardwalk Inn. We loved the old time amusement park theming of the hotel as well as the many places to relax and take in the sites.
I’ve heard the Boardwalk is lots of fun at night as well with a variety of performers. We didn’t get to see this because it rained every evening but the views in the morning made up for it. It’s a short walk to Epcot from the Boardwalk and our chartered bus ride only took about 15 minutes to reach the ESPN Wide World Of Sports.
The Art of Animation Resort is also nearby and is always lots of fun with its larger than life Disney drawings, characters, and hotel wings.
The lobby is one of my favorite places to visit. The pool is incredible complete with under water speakers. Each wing has its own theming and we had the chance to checkout the Cars wing and even took a look at one of the rooms.
I had a fantastic time on this tour and would recommend a visit to anyone planning an upcoming Disney trip. There is so much to see and there are new events taking place every week. If you have a youth athlete take a moment to check out the ESPN Wide World of Sports site to see what it has to offer and how it can add a bit more Disney magic to your child’s athletic dreams.