“Play ball!” That’s how it all started 25 years ago, as cast members at ESPN Wide World of Sports welcomed fans for the first time. On March 28, 1997, the first major league spring training baseball game took place in the newly built, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Last week- in the same stadium where it all began- we celebrated the memories, friendships and magic our incredible cast have created.
Throughout the years, cast members at ESPN Wide World of Sports have done more than work the games – they’ve created magic, bonded with fans and made every event a welcoming, exciting place for guests to cheer on their favorite team. Since opening in 1997, the Sports Complex has hosted hundreds of professional and amateur sporting events and in 2010 relaunched as ESPN Wide World of Sports. The power of ESPN and the magic of Disney have made it possible to create more immersive sports experiences and entertainment and host world-class sporting events, such as the Invictus Games, the Florida Cup, NFL Pro Bowl, and even a championship spelling bee.
In July 2020, during an unprecedented time for the sports industry, the complex created a “bubble” for the NBA and MLS leagues to safely restart their seasons. At a time when professional sports were on pause, ESPN Wide World of Sports provided fans around the world top-tier entertainment – and just as importantly, something to cheer. That same year the complex was voted ‘Best Facility of the Year’ by Sports Business Journal.
“It’s all about the cast,” said Faron Kelly, vice president of Disney Sports, in attributing that honor to the role our cast members play at the sports complex. “When guests and athletes come and they get the experience of ESPN Wide World of Sports, it’s because of our cast members. At the end of the day, it’s the people that make the difference.”
Throughout the 25 years, the complex has continued to evolve, making Central Florida a destination city for youth, collegiate and professional sports. The magic our cast members create doesn’t stop there. ESPN Wide World of Sports will continue to be the national stage for a variety of events providing a sports experience that is sure to “knock it out of the park.”
Here’s a look back at the last 25 magical years!