ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Celebrates 20 Years
20 years ago, the cost of gas was $1.19 a gallon, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were kings of the world and at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., a new sports complex was opening that would become a premier destination for youth sports travel.
Since its opening on March 28, 1997, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has remained a preeminent multi-sport facility for professional, collegiate and youth sports events of all levels, from AAU Basketball National Championships to the NFL Pro Bowl Week. In its 20-year history the sports complex has hosted more than three million athletes and over 100 annual athletic and entertainment events featuring 70 different sports.
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex was one of the first major sports facilities in the country, blazing a new trail in youth sports tourism. In its wake, countless other youth sports complexes have emerged around the country to meet the increasing demand, as 27% of all travel taken in the U.S. is solely for organized sporting events.* ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and others comprise what is now an estimated $7 billion youth sports industry.
Since 1997, the story of ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has been written through the athletes who have passionately competed on its fields, courts and diamonds. Over the last 20 years, athletes of all ages and abilities have experienced glory, exhilaration, victory and defeat at this destination. Those emotions have created lasting memories for all who have been part of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex story. While the celebration kicks off on March 28, there will be more tributes throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary and emphasize the positive impact of youth sports. Additionally, there will be new sports-related initiatives announced that will continue Disney’s long-standing support of youth sports nationally and drive tourism in Central Florida for the next 20 years and beyond.