Disney World to Re-Launch Sports Complex Under ESPN Brand

Disney and ESPN are working together to re-brand Disney World's Wide World of Sports Complex under the ESPN umbrella as part of the latest push in the resort giant's growing sports business. The re-brand is scheduled to be unveiled Feb. 25 and 26, 2010, in conjunction with ESPN's "The Weekend" fan experience at Disney World.

The partnership will incorporate ESPN's entertainment and production elements in an effort to enhance the experience of athletes and fans who visit the sprawling 220-acre competition facility.

The facility will include an on-site broadcast facility that will deliver content to hi-def cameras, video screens and JumboTrons around the complex, showing footage from nearly any event taking place there in addition to ESPN's programming, breaking news and scores.

"We're very excited about the progress we're making," said Ken Potrock, senior VP of Disney Sports Entertainment at a Nov. 5 press event in New York City. According to Potrock, the Wide World of Sports complex hosts 500,000 athletes and 1.5 million spectators each year. The complex has brought added visitors to Disney World, said Poltrock noting that 85% of the athletes would not have come to the resort were it not for a sports competition.

The new facility will feature integrated content from ESPN Sportscenter anchors as well as customized highlights from sporting events taking place at the complex each day. It will also have the ability to send video highlights to hotel rooms at the resort and to audiences outside the complex, such as athletes' family members.

The facility will also house the ESPN Innovation Lab, run by the ESPN Emerging Technology group, which develops and tests new sports-programming technology initiatives. Among the technologies that have been developed by the group and already utilized in pro sports broadcasts include the EA Virtual Playbook application, used during ESPN's NFL and NBA coverage, and the Home Run Derby ball tracking technology.

ESPN VP of Marketing Chris Brush said the partnership was a chance to extend the relationship between ESPN and its audience. "It's really a natural evolution of things we've been doing with Disney for years and years," he said.