Spanning the Globe: ESPN Wide World of Sports Re-Launch

| March 1, 2010 | Reply

We previously reported Disney rebranded its sports facility on the edge of the Walt Disney World Resort to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (ESPN WWoS).  Corey Martin of the DIS Unplugged attended an exclusive media tour of the changes to the facility followed by a press conference with several key Disney and ESPN executives including George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN and ABC Sports and co-chairman Disney Media Networks; Ken Potrock, senior vice president, Disney Sports Enterprises; Meg Crofton, president, Walt Disney World Resort; and Al Weiss, president of worldwide operations for Disney Parks and Resorts announcing the new initiatives coming to the complex.  The official Grand Opening Ceremony followed featuring several sports stars and ESPN personalities walking down a “turf carpet” and New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley “kick” starting the celebration.  The evening concluded with a special performance of the Harlem Globetrotters.  Continue reading after the break for photos and video of all the festivities.

Photo: (L-R) Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises; George Bodenheimer, president ESPN and ABC Sports and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks; Garrett Hartley, place-kicker for the Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints; Al Weiss, president of Worldwide Operations for Disney Parks and Resorts; and Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort, during the official re-launch of ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Spanning the globe…

Media members met at the Main Entrance’s new Globe Icon to get a first look at the ESPN enhancements to the complex.  The tour started at Champion Stadium Ballpark where the media engaged in batting practice on the Atlanta Braves’ spring training field, and caught a glimpse of themselves on the new Jumbotron.  Afterwards came the Innovation Lab, a real-world testing ground for the ESPN Emerging Technology Group.  The industry’s first 3D television network, ESPN 3D, is planned to begin June 2010, and the opening festivities of ESPN WWoS were part of the test for this new network.  The Harlem Globetrotters basketball game played at the end of the evening was taped and nationally televised on ESPN2 as a first test run for this facility.

Next up was a tour of the Josten Center where long time sponsor Jostens, maker of school yearbooks, class and championship rings and graduation products, along with Super Bowl rings and the Heisman Trophy, displayed examples of the many championship rings they designed.

Next to the Jostens Center is the ESPN WWoS Grill where Sony Computer Entertainment will sponsor the PlayStation Pavilion, a new video-gaming experience.  Guests can use PlayStation 3 video game systems, and the location will also host gaming tournaments.  In addition, the location will feature a SingStar stage where guests can play the music video game as well as other sports-themed video games.

In addition to the ESPN signage and technology, the ESPN WWoS Complex will bring you the constant variety of sport in the form of new events.  Announced at the press conference in the Milk House, Disney and ESPN revealed future sports projects and initiatives for 2010 and beyond.  One of the most intriguing of the new events will be the debut of the first-ever Major League Gaming Pro Circuit.  The complex will serve as a 2010 tournament stop on this new pro circuit that brings together video gamers for a three day tournament.  Another non-traditional sport returning to the complex in November is the VEX Robotics All-Star Challenge Tournament.  More traditional sports include an expansion of the national cheerleading and dance championships as well as a brand new nighttime endurance event, the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon in October.

Competitors will experience the thrill of victory… and be able to celebrate with new ESPN WWoS sponsor Jostens, maker of Super Bowl rings, and the official designer for all medals and trophies of the sports complex.

Those suffering the agony of defeat… can alleviate their suffering with the purchase of specially designed T-shirts from the new Custom Tee Center by Champion inside the ESPN WWoS Grill.

After the media tour and press conference, the human drama of athletic competition was on display during the Grand Opening “Turf Carpet” ceremony.  In the video below you can watch the numerous sports stars and ESPN personalities walk down the green carpet including:
Monica Abbott, Mike Alstott, Nick Anderson, Juan Pablo Angel, Brandi Chastain, Brian Ching, Bobby Cox, Brian Dawkins, Dwayne De Rosario, Jennie Finch, Josh Freeman, Darrell Green, Garrett Hartley, Santonio Holmes, Shawn Johnson, Chipper Jones, Maurice Jones Drew, Dax McCarty, Rashard Mendenhall, Chad Ochocinco, Darrelle Revis, Annika Sorenstam, John Schuerholz, Steve Spurrier, Thurman Thomas, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Adam Vinatieri, Bernie Williams, Jason Witten.

Photo: Shawn Johnson, 2008 Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast, walking the “Green Carpet” during the official re-launch ceremony for the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Photo: Garrett Hartley, Super Bowl XLIV Champion New Orleans Saints, ready to kick off the evening during the official re-launch ceremony for the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

ESPN personalities included: Sage Steele, Jay Harris, Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg, Tedy Bruschi, Mark Schlereth, Ron Jaworski, Karl Ravech, John Kruk, Tim Kurkjian, Chris Singleton, Buster Olney, Sal Paolantonio, Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, Jay Crawford, Dana Jacobson & Howie Schwab.

At the end of the event New Orleans Saints placekicker, Garrett Hartley, officially opened the complex kicking a football over the archway while fireworks and confetti blew.

Yes, this is ESPN’s Wide World of Sports!

The day concluded with a special basketball game played by the Harlem Globetrotters.  Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic of ESPN Radio’s Mike&Mike in the Morning were honorary coaches with Greenberg coaching the Globetrotters and Golic coaching their opponents the Washington Generals.  Before the game started the two honorary coaches placed a wager where the losing coach (Golic) would don a Tinkerbell costume.  Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle hosts of ESPN2’s SportsNation were guest announcers for the game.

Photo: ESPN’s Mike Golic (center in black) coaches perennial loser Washington Generals

In addition to Greenberg and Golic coaching, a number of the athlete guests played featured roles in the game.  Brandi Chastain, 1999 US Women’s World Cup soccer champion, played for the Washington Generals. She engaged in some Globetrotters soccer where the “Trotters” poked fun of Chastain’s iconic bra-baring celebration of her World Cup win.

Photo: Brandi Chastain plays basketball against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Tim Hudson, pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, pitched basketballs in a game of “Globetrotter baseball”.

Photo: (L-R) Globetrotters Flight Time, Big Easy, and El Gato joke with Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson

Legendary LPGA golfer Annika Sorenstam made an on court appearance in order to retrieve her “stolen” purse.  Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints kicker, Garrett Hartley played Globetrotters football during the game.

Photo: Chad Ochocinco goes out for a pass in Globetrotters football

Disney pulled out all the stops and scored a SLAM DUNK during this re-launching of ESPN WWoS.  If this is a sign of things to come there may be a lot more excitement in store for this area of the Walt Disney World Resort.  ESPN WWoS is poised to become the mecca for youth and amateur sports, and families bringing their children to compete are definitely going to feel as though they have made the “big time”.

What are your thoughts on the events and the new re-launch of ESPN WWoS?  Log in with your DISboards username and password to leave a comment below.

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