Halloween at Walt Disney World Resort

Live Out Your Racing Fantasy at the Disney Speedway

posted on May 20th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Our friends over at the Walt Disney World Speedway have been providing guests with plenty of thrills with their Richard Petty Driving Experience and Exotic Driving Experience. But now they have come up with a special event that sprinkles a little competition into the mix.

They are calling it the Fittipaldi Cup, a fun racing event on June 13 hosted by professional racer Christian Fittipaldi but designed for any driver (must have a valid driver’s license) with an itch to test their driving skills against the competition. Drivers will compete in various racing sessions involving supercars – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, etc. – used in the track’s Exotic Driving Experience, as well as great American muscle cars, such as a Chevrolet Camaro, and high-performance go-karts.

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Fittipaldi, the reigning Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race winner, will provide drivers with tips, one-on-one coaching and instruction, as well as the opportunity to ride along with him on a few “hold-onto-your-seat’’ hot laps around the Exotics Course at the speedway. The driver who masters all three segments will take home the inaugural Fittipaldi Cup trophy.

If you want to see how you stack up against the competition, drivers can sign up at http://www.exoticdriving.com/offers/vip/ or by calling (855) 822-0149. Entry is $999 and includes several souvenirs such as an in-car video of your performance and a photo plaque. And, for one talented driver anyway, a pretty cool trophy and a ton of bragging rights.

But if you ask me, my money is on Lighting McQueen to win it all.

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WNBA Stars Take To the Court at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 8th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Some of the best women’s basketball players on the planet are coming to Walt Disney World Resort this weekend. The WNBA is hosting its first-ever WNBA Preseason Tournament 2014, Friday through Sunday at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

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As it just so happens, the four teams competing – the Minnesota Lynx, the Chicago Sky, the Phoenix Mercury and the Indiana Fever – feature some of the biggest names in the sport. Among the top players on display will be Diana Taurasi (2009 WNBA MVP), Tamika Catchings (2011 WNBA MVP and 2012 WNBA Finals MVP) and Maya Moore (2013 WNBA Finals MVP).

And the teams are pretty good, too. The Lynx are the reigning WNBA champions. The Fever won the league title the year before. The Mercury has been league champs in 2007 and 2009. And the Sky posted the league’s best regular-season record last year (24-10).

The four-game tournament is open to the public. There will be two games on Friday starting at 6 p.m., a clinic and autograph session on Saturday for AAU girls’ basketball players and the WNBA players, and two games on Sunday starting at 10:30 a.m. A two-game package on Friday and Sunday is $20 each day and a four-game package is $35. Tickets can be purchased at the sports complex box office or through Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.

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Do You Have Disney’s Million Dollar Arm?

posted on April 11th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Anyone want $1 million?

Well, Walt Disney Studios is prepared to give that much money away as part of the world premiere of its new movie “Million Dollar Arm,” in which a sports agent (played by Jon Hamm) concocts a scheme to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a Major League Baseball star.

Walt Disney Studios is staging a contest on April 25th and 26th to find a real-life “million dollar arm” by offering guests (you have to be age 18 and over with no prior professional baseball experience) the chance to throw the fastest strike. Here’s how it works: Participants at three locations;­ Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and New York City, get three chances to throw a baseball as fast as possible. Participants who throw the three fastest strikes at each location will be flown to the finals in Hollywood, Calif., where they will attend the world premiere of Disney’s “Million Dollar Arm” on May 6 and get a chance to compete for the grand prize. Any of the nine finalists who throws a 100-mph strike during their three attempts could potentially win the $1 million.

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Click here for official rules.

Even if no one wins the $1 million, everyone who steps up to the mound will be a winner in some way. All contestants will receive complimentary tickets for themselves and a guest to an advance screening of the movie at a nearby AMC Theatre location. In addition, the nine finalists and their guests will be flown to Hollywood for the movie premiere and the final competition, plus treated like VIPs along with other movie stars, Major League players and Hollywood celebrities.

If you want your shot at the million-dollar prize, just show up at Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla., or the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day at the Tribeca Family Festival in New York City on April 25 or 26 (New York location available only on April 25) between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. local time. You’ll need a valid U.S. identification card to complete and sign a registration form and release. Oh, and don’t forget your baseball glove and anything else you need to warm up.

You only have a couple of weeks to go, so start getting your arm ready. It could be worth $1 million!

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Mirror, Mirror, Who Is the Fittest of Them All at Walt Disney World Resort?

posted on March 6th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Think you’re super fit? Want to find out?

Come check out the inaugural Disney Fit Challenge, a three-day competitive fitness event in September where competitors will test the limits of their power, speed, balance, strength and endurance in a series of fitness maneuvers. And if you think you can really stack up against the competitors, then sign up to be a part of the September 26-28 event at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex when registration opens March 18.

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If you haven’t heard, competitive fitness is arguably America’s trendiest sport with hundreds of thousands of people nationwide and beyond participating in the sport, and more getting involved every day. Some national competitions involve as many as 1,000 athletes.

But not all competitive fitness events are alike. One of the unique aspects of Disney Fit Challenge is that it’s designed so that competitors only compete against other fitness buffs of similar age and skill level spanning several divisions, including elite, intermediate and recreational. And the fitness maneuvers are also tailored based on age and ability, with experienced fitness athletes tasked with advanced exercises such as muscle ups and recreational athletes doing more basic exercises such as squats, pushups and kettle bell swings.

Competitors amass points based on their performance in each fitness exercise with the top point leaders from the first two days advancing to the final day of competition. Follow Disney Sports on Twitter @DisneySports to get more details on registration and spectator information.

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Real American Heroes to be Honored at Braves Game at Walt Disney World

posted on March 5th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Disney has often shown its appreciation for U.S. military veterans and their service. Now for the second year in a row, we’re hosting a Military Appreciation Day during an Atlanta Braves spring training game at Walt Disney World Resort this week.

During the Braves-Marlins game on Saturday afternoon at Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney Sports is offering half-priced tickets on select seats for military personnel. Also, Army Colonel Stephanie Rivers will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and military personnel in attendance will be honored in various ways, including a sing-along medley of military anthems.

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Supporting the U.S. Armed Forces and celebrating their service has long been a Disney tradition. In March 2012, we introduced our Heroes Work Here program, building on a proud legacy with a new company-wide initiative to hire at least 1,000 veterans and provide additional support military families. In March of last year, we expanded our goal to hire an additional 1,000 veterans through 2015, and to date, have hired more than 3,000 veterans.

So join us at our latest military appreciation effort and come on out to the game Saturday. General admission tickets and the specially-priced military personnel tickets can be purchased at the sports complex box office.

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runDisney Continues to Find Success

posted on March 4th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


With the announcement of a new Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend coming to Disneyland Resort this fall, there’s no secret that runDisney events are hugely popular. As the business expands its portfolio to now eight events throughout the year, this new race weekend provides yet another creative way to bring new runners into Disney Parks and to the sport itself.

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From 5Ks to a marathon, and even kids runs, held at both Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Disney has created unique race weekends that every member of the family can enjoy. Former Olympians to first time runners can experience the legendary Disney entertainment and guest service, while ultimately celebrating their accomplishments with a Disney vacation, and this is what makes the runDisney business so magical.

And this magic has translated to popularity and growth. Since 1994, runDisney has become one of the largest race organizers in the United States, both in terms of number of events and number of runners. Between 2012 and 2013, the total number of participants at runDisney events increased nearly 40 percent. Additionally, virtually every runDisney race weekend sells out in record pace, some within hours.

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There’s also a substantial economic impact that runDisney events bring to the community. Just recently, the Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals took place at Walt Disney World Resort, welcoming some 40,000 participants. It is considered to be the second largest women-focused race weekend in the nation. And the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which happens every January, is considered to be the largest race weekend in the country. More than 50,000 runners participate, bringing with them some 50,000-plus spectators for a total attendance of more than 100,000 coming into the Central Florida area. In Anaheim, it’s estimated that the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend drives approximately $20 to $30 million in additional economic activity locally attracting thousands of out-of-area runners to Southern California.

Runner’s World magazine identified Disney races as the perfect races for new runners – there’s less pressure, no required qualifying time, and guests can enjoy a Disney theme park during their race. Likewise, professionals in the field, even former Olympians, also join in the fun, as evidenced by this year’s Princess Half Marathon winner – New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith. And there’s plenty for the family to participate in from family fun run 5Ks and kids races, to health and fitness expos and guest speakers, making runDisney events appealing to various audiences.

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runDisney is also leading a widespread trend of race organizations offering multi-race challenges. For instance there’s the “Dopey Challenge” during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend where participants must complete four races in four days, for a total of 48.6 miles.

There are also a number of added amenities that runDisney offers to runners and their families that really set runDisney races apart from others. Participants can take advantage of the VIP Race Retreat during the Walt Disney World Marathon and Princess Half Marathon Weekends, which includes a designated tent at the race with brunch, WiFi, TVs, Disney character meet and greets and more. There’s the ChEAR squad, which helps guests cheer on the runners with cheer signs, noise-makers and even special viewing areas. There are also several pre-race and post-race parties inside the theme parks that provide exclusive experiences for runners and their family and friends.

With all the unique experiences that runDisney provides participants, the result continues to be a winning finish. So what are you waiting for? Start training and sign up for a runDisney event at www.rundisney.com!

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Olympian Kim Smith Wins the Disney Princess Half Marathon

posted on February 23rd, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


When three-time Olympian Kim Smith decided to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals on Sunday, she figured she would get a nice training run out of it in preparation for the London Marathon. Instead, she got a whole lot more.
Olympian Kim Smith Wins the Disney Princess Half Marathon

Smith set a course record, shattering the previous mark by nearly six minutes, and crossed the finish line nearly 15 minutes ahead of everyone else. Smith ran the 13.1-miles through Epcot and Magic Kingdom Park in 1:11:49, easily surpassing the previous course record of 1:17:38 set last year.
Olympian Kim Smith Wins the Disney Princess Half Marathon

“I wasn’t sure of the course record before the race, but my plan was to run it in about 72 minutes so that’s about perfect,” said Smith, who is an elite runner with New Balance.

The course record, though, wasn’t the only thrill for Smith, a New Zealand native who was running her first runDisney event. Like many of the more than 24,000 mostly women runners, the highlight of the race for Smith was running through the Disney theme parks. “It’s just a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s definitely a fun event that’s pretty low-key for an elite athlete to do. I’d recommend it to people out there.”

There was no shortage of runners Sunday who felt the same way. The 24,000 runners Sunday were part of the 40,000 who participated in various races during the four-day event, which is one of the largest women-focused events in the nation. Many runners took on an even bigger challenge – namely the inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge, which involves running the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K on Saturday before running Sunday’s half marathon. That’s 19.3 miles!

Smith, 32, just stuck with the half marathon. And judging by her performance Sunday, that was more than enough for this princess for one day.

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Walt Disney World Resort is Home to a Variety of Sports This Spring

posted on February 21st, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Home to four theme parks, two water parks and 26 resort hotels, not only is Walt Disney World Resort where guests come to vacation, it’s also where they come to compete in various sporting events and watch their favorite athletes from around the world.

Walt Disney World Resort hosts everything from baseball and soccer to marathons and track & field, with more than 300 events throughout the year for professional athletes, youth players and everyone in between. Teams and fans from around the world come to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to watch, train, compete and play in the middle of the magic at Walt Disney World Resort.

This week, the Atlanta Braves began spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with their first full-squad workout of the season. While on vacation, Disney fans and Braves fans alike can watch the defending National League East champions as they embark on their 17th spring training season and play 17 home games starting February 26 against the Detroit Tigers at Walt Disney World Resort’s Champion Stadium.

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Coming up this weekend, Walt Disney World Resort will host a runDisney race — The Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. More than 24,000 runners, mostly women and girls, will embark on a 13.1 mile journey through Epcot and Magic Kingdom Park as Disney Princesses, Disney characters, bands and fans cheer them on.

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For soccer fans, another professional athletic event that guests can attend is the Disney Pro Soccer Classic where eight pro soccer clubs, including six Major League Soccer squads, are now competing. The tournament culminates on March 1 with a championship game. Fans of all ages can come out to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to see several players who may be competing in the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

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And now through April, high school teams across seven sports—baseball, softball, track & field, lacrosse, tennis, golf and rugby—will participate in the Disney Spring Training program. Many of the teams come from places where there’s snow on the ground and freezing temperatures to spend their spring break training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and enjoying everything the resort has to offer.

With an unparalleled roster of facilities and partners, and the backdrop of the top vacation destination—Walt Disney World Resort — Disney Sports takes sports and competition to the next level for athletes and fans alike. To find out more about these events and other upcoming sporting events, where you can watch the pros or participate, visit espnwwos.disney.go.com. For more information on runDisney races, visit www.runDisney.com.

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Atlanta Braves Getting Ready to Play Ball at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 13th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


It’s time to grab your baseball glove and some peanuts and get ready for Major League Baseball Spring Training again.

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The Atlanta Braves are arriving at Walt Disney World Resort this week for the 17th straight spring, and begin their first workouts this Friday at Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. After a couple of weeks of training, the team opens its spring home game schedule on February 26 against the Detroit Tigers.

As usual, fans attending the Braves’ 17-game home schedule will see a parade of the league’s marquee clubs, including the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox (March 22), the New York Yankees (March 19) and the St. Louis Cardinals (March 15). The Braves close out their spring home schedule on March 26 against the Marlins, then head back to Atlanta to get ready for the regular season where they look to defend their National League East title.

Braves spring training games at Walt Disney World Resort are, of course, unlike any other spring games. There are fireworks during the singing of the National Anthem at various games, Disney character appearances, and kids are invited down onto the field to run the bases after each game. That’s why we call it America’s most magical pastime.

Fans can get more information and purchase tickets at espnwwos.com/atlantabraves or at the ballpark box office.

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Southern California Runner Earns Her Tinker Bell Wings at the Disneyland Resort

posted on January 19th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


If you don’t believe magic can happen at Disney Parks, just ask Melissa Hernandez.
Southern California Runner Melissa Hernandez Earns Her Tinker Bell Wings at the Disneyland Resort

The 29-year-old runner from Oxnard, Calif., is an experienced endurance runner, but as much as she tried, she had never been able to finish first in a half marathon. That is, until she came to Disneyland Resort this weekend and undoubtedly was doused with a little pixie dust somewhere along the way. Running her first Tinker Bell Half Marathon, Hernandez did what she had never been able to do before, leaving the field behind in a trail of … well, pixie dust, to win the 13.1-mile race Sunday.

Not only was it her first half marathon victory, but it came at the biggest half marathon event she said she had ever undertaken. She somehow outran a field of more than 15,000 runners from across the country and beyond to earn her “wings” and a gold Tinker Bell finishers medal. And she did it in impressive fashion – her winning time of 1:25:40 was the third-fastest in the race’s three-year history.

Who says this isn’t the place Where Dreams Come True?

“I had finished second in a few half marathons, but I had never won one,” said Hernandez. “And I had never run in a race this big before either, so it was really nice to win my first one here.”
2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Start Line at the Disneyland Resort

Hernandez’s win capped a magical weekend of race events that included a new Disneyland 10K, a Never Land Family Fun Run 5K, several runDisney Kids Races, a Pasta Party and a health and fitness expo. In all, more than 30,000 runners participated in the various weekend race events, making this one of the largest women-focused race weekends in the country.

If you want to try to make your running dreams come true like Hernandez, registration for the Disneyland Half Marathon opens January 28 at www.runDisney.com.

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