Playing sports while being in the middle of the magic is what the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports is all about.
I got a firsthand inside look of the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. I partied with an international crowd of athletes at Animal Kingdom and even had my name announced like I was an super-star athlete as I walked into the Disney ESPN Sports Grill for an early morning brunch! During a 4-day Disney Sports Festival in July, I along with other bloggers and media toured the facility and learned about the Walt Disney Company’s many initiatives to make every athlete of every skill level feel as if they’ve made it to the Super Bowl or the Olympics when they come to the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWOS). I’ve been to Disney too many times to count but can’t explain why I’ve never been to the ESPN WWOS complex. Now having had an inside, up-close tour of the massive facility, I can say that I honestly had no idea that it offers SO very much to sports fanatics and athletes and is the mecca of sports venues with a sprawling 255-acre facility and host to more than 70 different sports being played there in the spirit of competition. As a mom of a son who plays T-Ball I got pretty giddy and excited knowing that in just a few years my son could be playing at the WWOS facility. Yes you heard me right. Kids as young as second graders up to high schoolers get to play at the state-of-the-art WWOS facility. That’s something I knew nothing about. And if you’re like me, you probably didn’t know that Disney has a facility so comprehensive and SO accessible to kids of any athletic level. No your kid doesn’t have to be the star athlete to play at the WWOS sports facility and that makes it all the more appealing to a mom like me.
Aligning the world’s No. 1 family vacation destination with the worldwide leader in sports, Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN joined forces to re-imagine Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex as ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, creating an entertaining and immersive sports experience for the nearly 2 million amateur athletes, coaches and spectators who visit the sports complex each year. The re-imagined ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex features:
- A state-of-the-art HD broadcast production facility that will capture complex event highlights and produce live events for ESPN media outlets.
- High-definition video screens and “jumbotrons” bringing the complex to life with updates from around the sports world and ESPN Wide World of Sports
- ESPN Innovation Lab developing new technology to shape the future of sports broadcasting and production
- ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill with a replica SportsCenter desk and guest access to ESPN360.com, ESPN.com and more
- New and expanded amateur and elite sports events such as ESPNHS Games presented by Target
THE ROAD TO DISNEY ESPN WWOS – There are many different roads that your child and your child’s team can take to get to Walt Disney World and have that STAR experience. Disney has a lot of organizational partners at the local level to help parents from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) to Pop Warner Little Scholars, providing the largest youth football, cheer and dance program in the United States. So how can you get your kids to play competitively at the Happiest Place on Earth?
- Typically join a team in your local community and play their season. They have regional qualifiers that usually escalate to a national championships many of which Disney hosts at WWOS.
- There are several open tournaments most of which Disney produces that fall over major holiday weekends. Your team can choose and go to the Disney website and register. And the Disney sales team will work with your team to place them with the appropriate skill level so you will have a competitive tournament no matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re an experienced athlete.
- Showcase events – These lead to college recruitment. Disney has the number one soccer recruitment showcase – Some 900 D1, D2, D3 college coaches for male and female soccer recruit at Disney and scholarships are awarded on the spot!
And once you get to the complex, there’s not need to feel lost. They have a Welcome Center on site with knowledgeable Disney reps to help you step-by-step in planning your Disney vacation based on the teams’ competition schedule. The Welcome Center is an information hub for traveling teams and their families looking for sports event information as well as theme park information, dining reservation and team service.
There are also a number of camps and training facilities at Disney including:
- Disney Soccer Academy – Play and learn side by side with superstars of the game. You never know who you’ll meet during this 4-Day Instructional Camp at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
- Drew Brees Passing Academy – Come learn from Drew Brees and some of the best players and coaches currently in the NFL during the instructional passing academy designed by athletes for athletes. Then test your new skills as you compete against some of the best high school football teams in the nation in the 7on7 tournament.
- Spring Training – College spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will take your team to new heights. Schools can participate in Baseball, Golf, Lacrosse, Rugby, Softball, Tennis and Track & Field. The 2013 Disney Spring Training attracted more than 400 teams from across the country.
I already have my mind set on signing my kids up next year for the soccer academy. They’ve never played before but you better bet I’m going to sign them up asap for soccer so they can get acclimated. The prices are very reasonable and we also learned about what it takes to raise money to get sports teams to Disney. Fundraising is a big component and a daunting task and thanks to Team Moms we learned that they play a pivotal role in keeping the teams on track. (I’ll outline more about Team Moms and fundraising in an upcoming post.) The nurturing factor of moms helps tremendously. And Disney does a great job of making every aspect of your team experience a smooth operation. Forgot to order those team Jerseys? Champion’s Custom Tee Center is right on site and you can order a custom tee for your team or for your cheering section! We got to order our own custom tees while there.
Once you’re on site, you’re all set thanks to the OfficeMax Business Center where the team mom or any team member can come and charge phones, or email, print airline tickets or take a much needed break from the team and update social media.
I want to say thanks to New Balance for the stylish athletic footwear! We got to tour the New Balance track & field facility at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and received a pair of New Balance footwear! New Balance is the official athletic shoe of Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex! This exciting alliance brings New Balance’s innovative, design-forward athletic footwear to the leading vacation destination in the world, in particular Disney’s thriving sports business. New Balance is also the official running shoe for runDisney race weekends and the official baseball shoe of amateur baseball events at the Sports Complex.
Future initiatives include the creation of maps for the running trails at Walt Disney World Resort and fitness programs for Disney resort guests interested in pursuing healthy options. And speaking of food, the complex boasts:
- A full-service sports-theme eatery called ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill and the PlayStation Pavilion which features 17 PlayStation 3 systems and a collection of just-released sports-themed games and other titles.
Disney ties everything together whether you’re competing on the field and how you celebrate OFF the field. And there’s no more grand of a celebration than winning like a champion and going to Disney World as a champion.
Disclosure: Thank you Disney for lodging, theme park tickets, some meals and for all the awesome swag. All opinions are my own from my awesome experience!