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Italian Soccer Club AS Roma Announces Upcoming Winter Training Schedule at ESPN Wide World of Sports

posted on December 18th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

You may remember that back in March, we announced that famed Italian soccer club AS Roma would be coming to Disney for their winter training. We now have details on where and when you can catch the three-time Serie A champions later this month at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Francesco Totti and the Rest of AS Roma Will Train at ESPN Wide World of Sports

International soccer superstars Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi, and U.S. National Team member Michael Bradley, among others, will kick off their training December 29, with their first session at 11 a.m., and continuing through January 1.

At the same time, America’s top youth players will be taking the ESPN Wide World of Sports pitch as well. The Disney Soccer Showcase presented by AS Roma runs December 27-30, and features top teams from around the country. During a special clinic, the dream of taking the pitch with the pros will come true for two youth teams. Players from Orlando’s FC America (girls) and Atlanta’s Concorde Fire Soccer Club (boys) will train together with AS Roma in a 30-minute clinic.
Michael Bradley and the Rest of AS Roma Will Train at ESPN Wide World of Sports

AS Roma Training Schedule:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

  • 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Sunday, December 30, 2012

  • 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • 4:00-6:00 PM

Monday, December 31, 2012

  • 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

  • 4:00-6:00 PM

All training sessions are open to the public with paid admission to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

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Brees to Host Prestigious Football Academy at Disney

posted on December 12th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

NFL star quarterback Drew Brees shouted those famous words “I’m Going to Disney World’’ after his team won the Super Bowl in 2010. Now, he’s coming back to Disney, this time during the summer to launch his first high school football academy.

The Drew Brees Passing Academy and Tournament will make its debut at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, June 27-30, 2013. The academy is open to all skill levels but is expected to attract some of the most highly-ranked high school players in the country and will involve elite-level instruction from Brees and other marquee NFL players and coaches. The academy participants will learn insider tips related to virtually every facet of the passing game, from the proper throwing motion to throwing on the run to taking command of the huddle, from one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.

Also, the athletes will immediately get to test what they have learned by taking part in three days of intensely-competitive 7-on-7 competition, a format which has been widely credited with helping accelerate the development of several current young NFL starting quarterbacks. The 7-on-7 competition will be run by KSA Events, the nation’s premier host of high school sports events.

The unique part of the academy is that the proceeds from it go to benefit Brees’ charitable foundation, the Brees Dream Foundation, established in 2003 by Brittany and Drew Brees to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need.

Teams can sign up for the academy at

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Dreams Come True in Fast Motion at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 18th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

Magical moments happen all the time at Disney Parks. A cool one occurred this week at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, when several Daytona Beach area school kids got to spend the afternoon with NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson, who was in town to promote the Coke Zero 400 race at Daytona International Speedway next month, raced wooden stock cars (think pine box derby cars) with the kids, who built the cars to resemble Johnson’s actual No. 48 race car. Johnson then spent several minutes talking to the kids, answering all of their questions and giving autographs to anyone who asked for one.

It was a dream day for the kids even before Johnson arrived at the sports complex, because the kids got to do some fun training with various NFL players and Olympic athletes who regularly train at the complex. One of the NFL drills involved the kids running across the field tethered to two parachutes.

By the time Johnson left Disney, there were lots of smiles, laughs and priceless memories that will probably last a lifetime.

Oh, and the kids had a good time, too.

Read on for more news from ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:

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Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 11th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

The Olympics are a little more than a month away and everyone is getting into the Olympic spirit – even other megastar athletes like soccer legend Kaká. The Brazilian soccer great stopped by the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex today and couldn’t resist checking out the handful of Olympic contenders who regularly train at the complex with renowned track coach Brooks Johnson.

Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

Kaká, who apparently won’t compete in the Olympics but will compete for Brazil in the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer tourney in Brazil, mixed and mingled with several Olympic hopefuls including Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver, as well as Mickey Mouse who didn’t want to miss out on all of the fun. Kaka posed for a few photos, autographed a few soccer balls and donned a Disney Cup International Soccer t-shirt.

Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

After several days of vacation at Walt Disney World Resort, Kaká will head back to Brazil. Meanwhile, the Olympic track stars will continue preparing for next week’s US Olympic Trials, which determine who will make the US team that will compete in the Summer Games in London starting in late July.

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The Most Unlikely Race You May Ever See: A Disney Parks Turkey Leg Races Olympic Hurdler David Payne at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

posted on May 15th, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

The famous Disney Parks Turkey Leg is known for being a popular snack. In fact, guests love the treat so much it has inspired hats and t-shirts (as Disney Parks Blog author Steven Miller detailed in this recent post) toy merchandise, and even sweet snacks that resemble the tasty turkey goodness.

Which brings me to a question: what does a Disney Parks Turkey Leg have in common with the 110m hurdles? Not much, unless that hurdler is David Payne.

A Silver Medalist at the 2008 Olympics and a former U.S. Champion, David chose ESPN Wide World of Sports as a training ground for his run at Gold in the 2012 Summer Games in London. He’s training under the tutelage of an all-time legend in U.S.A. Track & Field, Coach Brooks Johnson. Brooks has coached a track and field participant at every Olympic Games since 1968 and is utilizing the pristine facilities at ESPN Wide World of Sports to train athletes this year.

While David is all business when it comes to training, he’s a fun-loving guy. So when I challenged him to race “a legendary Disney figure,” he didn’t know what to expect but was up for it anyway. Perhaps he thought he was racing Mickey, Goofy or Donald, because I think he was a bit surprised when a six-foot-tall Turkey Leg emerged to meet him at the start line. This is only the second time my homemade Turkey Leg costume has been worn. It made a cameo at last year’s “Trick or Meet-Up.” And now with this race under its belt, I think it’s time to retire the drumstick.

I don’t think David has ever raced a giant Turkey Leg and I doubt he ever will again. But he and Coach Johnson were great sports in letting me share the track, at least for a few minutes, with one of the best athletes in the world and one of the sport’s all-time great coaches.

(I also found out how hard it is to run with aluminum foil-wrapped shoes.)

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A Personal Look Back: When Major League Baseball Came to the Mouse House

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

As you read in Darrell’s post, 15 years ago, a new era was launched at Disney Parks when Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex opened at Walt Disney World Resort. To answer the question Darrell posed in his post, I was fortunate to attend the game and watch the Braves and Reds play under the stars. I was asked to jot down some memories that stuck with me from the event — an event dubbed a “Grand (Slam) Opening.”


Even though I was working that evening, I was excited as any sports fan as I walked into the pristine stadium. I bent down and touched the grass in front of the dugout and was instantly reminded of my own Little League days.


I was one of the PR cast members assigned to gather quotes to provide to visiting news media in the press box. I remember talking to legendary Braves manager Bobby Cox in the dugout. I listened as he likened the facilities to a brand-new luxury automobile about to be driven for the first time. I heard the crack of a bat and looked behind me to see Braves star Chipper Jones (pictured above during the evening’s introductions) fielding ground balls right outside the dugout. I remember talking with Braves starting pitcher Greg Maddux as he warmed up in the bullpen. Soon, skydivers descended onto the field and fireworks filled the night air. It was time to “Play Ball.”

A capacity crowd watched the Braves beat the Reds 9-7. Reds outfielder Deion Sanders, one of the greatest athletes in pro sports, holds the honor of recording the first hit, stealing the first base and scoring the first run in the complex’s history. Fred McGriff of the Braves smacked the complex’s first home run that night as well.


Fifteen years later, a lot has changed. Cox and Maddux, both future Baseball Hall of Famers, have retired. McGriff, who hails from nearby Tampa, also has retired. Sanders was enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2011. The Reds shortstop in that 1997 game, Barry Larkin (pictured above, prior to the inaugural game), will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. And just last week, Chipper Jones announced his retirement at the very same stadium he helped open 15 years ago.

The biggest changes, though, have come with the growth of the sports complex. Now known as ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, there are more sports, more fields and courts, more athletes and more competitions than ever before. Athletes of all ages come every year to “play at the next level.”

I can only imagine what memories young athletes have when they train and compete at the 270-acre facility. For me, my greatest memory was 15 years ago as I watched the boys of summer first play in Mickey’s backyard.

If you were at the Grand (Slam) Opening in 1997, be sure to let us know in the comments.

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A Toast to 15 Years of Wild and Wonderful Sports at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

With the swing of a bat, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort officially opened 15 years ago today. It was an Atlanta Braves spring training game under the lights against the Cincinnati Reds that featured the likes of superstar Deion Sanders, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and former All-Star Fred “Crime Dog’’ McGriff.

Were you there?

Back then, the place was called Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. But over the last decade and a half, the venue has undergone extraordinary growth, including being re-imagined with the ESPN brand, and today stands as the leading multi-sports venue in the nation for youth and pro athletes.

In all, more than 200,000 athletes, coaches and fans visit the 270-acre complex each year to compete in more than 350 different events, which over the years have included Tampa Bay Bucs training camp, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the Major League Baseball Draft, the World Cheerleading Championships and the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

To mark today’s 15th anniversary, here’s my unofficial look at some of the most memorable moments in the sports complex’s history:

AAU Boys Basketball Super Showcase and National Championships return to Disney and feature a host of future NBA stars, including preps Al Jefferson, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and O.J. Mayo (pictured). Coaches attending include Roy Williams (North Carolina), Bill Self (Kansas), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Billy Donovan (Florida). National Consortium for Academics & Sports (NCAS) inducts Muhammad Ali into its Hall of Fame. Celebration at the sports complex includes special ceremony renaming Victory Way to Muhammad Ali Way for the day. Legendary sports journalist Dick Schaap serves as Master of Ceremonies. Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex Grand Opening includes a Major League Baseball spring training game - the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 9-7, in front of a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 at the Baseball Stadium. Reds outfielder Deion Sanders records first hit, steals first base and scores first run in the history of the sports complex, while Braves slugger Fred McGriff hits the ballpark’s first home run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp marks the first NFL preseason training camp in the history of Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The Bucs’ new era under first-year head coach Jon Gruden started at Disney and ended in January 2003 with a Super Bowl title in San Diego. The Bucs conducted joint practices on Aug. 9-10 with the Miami Dolphins (incl. Ricky Williams, Jason Taylor and Zack Thomas) in the outfield of the baseball stadium. The joint practices attracted a stadium record 12,550 fans. The inaugural World Baseball Classic, a 16-team tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), featured many of the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories for the first time ever. Disney’s Wide World of Sports hosted one of four Round 1 pools (six games). The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and Italy participated at Disney. Players included David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Piazza and Andruw Jones. A host of sports’ biggest stars help kick off the opening of the newly re-imagined ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. More than 50 athletes and ESPN personalities, including Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, NFL all-pro Chad Ochocinco, softball star Jennie Finch and former LPGA great Annika Sorenstam, walk the “green carpet,” and attend the special grand opening event that also included a Harlem Globetrotters game, MLS exhibition game and a special Atlanta Braves evening practice. Special guests also included Florida governor Charlie Crist, ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer and Disney Sports Senior Vice President Ken Potrock.
Disney Sports launches runDisney, which encompasses all six current Disney marathon and half marathon weekends. The series creates a unique series of destination races that offer one-of-a-kind running experiences over each weekend. The runDisney series also names former Olympian and endurance expert Jeff Galloway as the official training consultant. The ESPN Innovation Lab officially opened at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The lab is used to develop new products for television broadcasts and is the official 3D broadcast development hub for ESPN. Soccer Player Lionel Messi Kicks Off a Game with Mickey Mouse
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a fitness activity with local children at the Magic of Healthy Living event at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The event celebrated the First Lady's 'Let's Move!' initiative and recognized Disney's efforts to promote healthier lifestyles among kids and families. Orlando Magic Training Camp brings Coach Chuck Daly’s squad to Disney’s fieldhouse prior to the Magic franchise’s ninth season. Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, and Horace Grant highlighted the Magic roster. The Magic returned to train at Disney in 2003. The Tampa Bay Rays hosted the first of two regular-season series at Champion Stadium (the second one was in 2008). In 2008, the Rays swept the Toronto Blue Jays (6-4, 5-3, 5-3) to improve their record at Disney to 6-0 and went on to reach the team’s first-ever World Series.
NBA Pre-Draft Camp is held Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in 2007 and 2008. Potential top draft picks – including future MVP Derrick Rose – are involved in drills, games and physical exams under the watchful eye of representatives from virtually every NBA team and the league office. Among the well-known names were Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Larry Brown. On the heels of recruiting Lebron James and Chris Bosh to join him in South Florida, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade visits the complex, and plays in a special 3-on-3 basketball game with AAU girls’ basketball players and Mickey Mouse. PGA TOUR mega-star Tiger Woods conducts his first-ever Tiger Woods Youth Foundation golf clinic at Disney’s Wide World of Sports as one of a handful of events that took place just prior to the Grand Opening of the complex. During the event, Tiger provides instruction to 150 junior golfers from Tampa and Orlando. He also receives the key to the City of Orlando from Mayor Glenda Hood.

See the posts below for another look at just a few of the past events held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:

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AS Roma and ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort Create Italian Pro Soccer Presence for America’s Youth Athletes

posted on March 19th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

Famed Italian football club AS Roma is teaming up with ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. As part of the new agreement, the sports complex becomes the official winter training home of the three-time Serie A champions, along with AS Roma serving as presenting sponsor of several Disney-owned youth soccer events. The Rome-based professional team will also have one of its youth academy teams compete in Disney’s Soccer Showcase.


Franco Baldini (photo, right), director general of football operations for AS Roma, and the club’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Pannes (photo, left) recently visited the 270-acre multi-sport complex, and anticipate many benefits to training at Walt Disney World Resort.

“The facilities are tremendously impressive,” said Franco Baldini, director general of football operations for AS Roma. “The ability to come here to train at this state-of-the-art complex in good weather during the Serie A winter break will be a big advantage.”

AS Roma’s involvement underscores the sports complex’s stature as the nation’s top youth soccer venue, which annually hosts pro soccer events as well as many of the country’s most prestigious youth soccer tournaments.

The joint venture also integrates the Italian football club, winner of nine Coppa Italia titles and two Supercoppa Italiana crowns, into the U.S. youth soccer market, where it hopes to expand its fan base.

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Stars of NFL Gridiron Show Off Their Arms at the Walt Disney World Resort

posted on March 12th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

Chicago Bears Linebacker Brian Urlacher Throws First Pitch at the Walt Disney World Resort

One of the unique opportunities about ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is you never know who you might see.

Over the weekend, Atlanta Braves spring training, in its 15th year at Disney, enjoyed a pair of visits from two big NFL names – both literally and figuratively. On Sunday, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher got the Braves-Blue Jays game off on the right foot, firing a perfect first pitch strike to Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy. With the help from a couple Disney friends, of course.

One day earlier, as the Yankees came to town, New England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis attended his first-ever baseball game, and showed he’s got the natural skill set to have been a two-sport star himself.

Braves spring training at Walt Disney World Resort runs through April 2. New this year is the for Family Field Day Package (four lawn tickets, four hotdogs, four bottled sodas and four chips) for $69 – available for the following dates: March 16, 17, 18 or 30, or April 2. For more information visit, or call 407-939-GAME.

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From Wheelchair to Running on Air at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 27th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World

If you happened to see Kimberly Sheerin running the Disney Tangled Royal Family 5K this past weekend at Walt Disney World Resort, she probably looked just like any other runner in the field. But the truth is she is far from ordinary.

The fact that she was able to run three yards, let alone 3.1 miles, made her unique when you consider that it was about this time last year when she was in a car accident near her hometown of Winter Haven, Fla., that left her as a virtual quadriplegic. A C-3 incomplete spinal cord injury is what doctors called it that day in April when she was rushed to Lakeland Regional Hospital. She couldn’t move her arms and could barely move her legs.

Yet, after several months of exhaustive and painful rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, she regained the use of arms and legs and set a goal of running in the 5K during Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Her doctors called it “remarkable.’’ I would argue it was a little magical too. I mean, this is the place where dreams come true, right?

In typical Disney fashion, her entire rehab team decided to run with her. And yes, they all finished the race. Together.

Here’s a video clip of her story.

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