Walt Disney World Sports: The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is Even More Impressive Than You Think

Walt Disney World guests are always making memories while meeting a princess in the Magic Kingdom or traveling the world at EPCOT, but it turns out they’re also making memories on the basketball court or baseball field. We were recently invited to take part in a Disney Sports and Great Outdoors media event and that meant getting a detailed look at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

The sports complex opened in 1997 and has been in business for 27 years. Complex hosts dozens of sports and entertainment events per year. Since opening, more than 70 different sports have been held at the sports complex featuring athletes from more than 70 countries. The 220-acre facility features multiple competition venues, including 16 baseball/softball fields; a 9,500-seat stadium; a state-of-the-art indoor arena in addition to two field houses for basketball, volleyball, eSports and other indoor sports; and 17 multi-purpose outdoor fields for soccer, football and field hockey. It has even been home to the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays and the 2020 NBA bubble.

But even with all of that information, you can’t truly understand what this massive complex offers until you see it for yourself. We got an extensive tour of the facilities, which brought us first to The Stadium, a retro-style Major League Baseball ballpark that annually hosts numerous amateur tournaments. We got the chance to walk on the field and even throw out a pitch (which you can see in our video below) and we can only imagine what it would be like to actually play a game under those lights.

But The Stadium is only one of a number of impressive venues. We also got to check out the State Farm Fieldhouse, which was not in use at the time. The AdventHealth Arena however, was set up for a gymnastics competition during our tour.

Meanwhile, on the seemingly endless outdoor field space, a soccer tournament was being played. During our tour up to 40 soccer games were playing played at a given time. As we made our way around the facilities, every turn seemed to reveal yet another game.

And if playing on these incredible fields and courts isn’t exciting enough for the young athletes who get that chance, events are even livestreamed for those who don’t get the chance to attend. Each playing surface is equipped with a camera that tracks the action and streams the events online. QR codes are placed at the venues during events so that the streams can be shared by athletes and their families with anyone who might want to watch from home.

And you might think the sheer scale of this complex or the countless fields, courts and other sporting facilities would be the most impressive features. But we haven’t even gotten into the technology and production side of what this complex has to offer.

The next stop on our tour was the ESPN Innovation Lab, a high-tech lab where advancements are being thought up to improve your favorite sports broadcasts. In fact, one of the most interesting things we learned during this tour was that the yellow line denoting the first down yardage during a football broadcast was thought up and created right in this lab. We were also assured that more incredible advancements are being worked on right now but also that all proprietary technology had been put away so that we could take photos.

Our next stop was the fully functioning production center, which actually uplinks to ESPN in Bristol, Conn., Los Angeles and New York to help broadcast live sporting events. The production center includes two full ESPN control rooms, eight edit bays and a full production studio with customizable graphics and lighting.

And if that’s not exciting enough, there is even a functioning television studio with a ready-to-use set for whatever ESPN might need. In fact, we were told Stephen A. Smith actually broadcasted from this studio just a few weeks prior to our tour.

The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is an incredibly impressive offering of Walt Disney World. And while you may have been aware of its existence, it’s likely you don’t fully understand its scale and the quality of product it delivers for the athletes who get to participate in events there. You can see more of these facilities in the video below.

Be sure to check out our recent coverage of some of the other sports and recreation offerings at Walt Disney World, including Golf, Fishing and Horseback Riding.

Laughing Place recommends MouseFanTravel.com for all your Walt Disney World travel planning
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Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."