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Walt Disney World key sport tourism site

By Heather Gibson, PhD


Walt Disney World Florida: The Ultimate Sport Tourism Destination

Since 1997 Walt Disney World (WDW) in Orlando, Florida, has become an important venue for sport tourism in the state of Florida with the opening of its Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Indeed, in June 2005, the Wide World of Sports welcomed its one millionth athlete, a participant in the 32nd Annual AAU Junior National Volleyball National Championships (www.travelwirenews. com). Between 1997 and 2005 the venue has hosted over 1,000 events. The Wide World of Sports Complex contains world-class facilities for hosting a range of sport events from baseball and beach volleyball to basketball and gymnastics. The Milk House, the indoor venue, has over 30,000 square feet (2,800 square meters) of space for competitions and seating for 5,500 spectators. Similarly, the tennis complex has 10 courts and room for 1,000 spectators with the capability of expanding the seating to accommodate 7,500 people when hosting a professional event. The baseball stadium is the spring training venue for the Atlanta Braves and home of the Orlando Rays minor league team. But most of the sport events held at Disney’s Wide World of Sport are youth and adult amateur competitions. These include the Pop Warner National Football Championships, high school field hockey championships, NCAA women’s basketball, and the Transplant Games. The strategy behind Disney’s Wide World of Sports is to use sport to promote its core product, the theme parks. Athletes and spectators are actively encouraged to visit the parks during their stay. In fact, theme park tickets are packaged with tournament fees and on-site hotel accommodation. Just as many commu- Walt Disney World Wide World of Sports nities in the United States have realized that youth and amateur sport events bring both athletes and families to their towns and cities, Disney uses sport tourism as a way to attract more guests to their theme parks.

The Wide World of Sports Complex uses volunteer sports enthusiasts to help run the larger events. On event days, guests can participate in the NFL Experience, a simulated football training camp. Boston’s Northeastern University has a branch of its Center for the Study of Sport in Society housed within the complex, thereby providing research resources for use by the center and WDW. Moreover, on the WDW resort properties as a whole, many opportunities are available for guests to take part in sports. They can play a round of golf on one of the five championship courses, play tennis on one of the 12 clay or 8 hard courts, or jet boat across the lagoon in a specially designed two-person water mouse boat. The Richard Petty Driving Experience helps guests realize the dream of being a NASCAR driver. In May each year WDW hosts the Danskin Triathlon for women, which entails swimming across the lagoon, running around the Magic Kingdom, and biking around the backstage area of Epcot. At the former Disney Institute building, the auditorium hosts forums in which fans get a chance to listen to and interact with their favorite athletes. There has even been talk of hosting sport-themed cruises on the Disney Cruise Lines. At the end of the day guests can watch their favorite athletes on the TV screens of ESPN Zone, which is part of the Board Walk shops and restaurants. In its diversity of sport tourism offerings, WDW provides opportunities for active, event, and nostalgia sport tourism in conjunction with visiting the four theme parks.

 

This is an excerpt from Contemporary Sport Management, Third Edition, edited by Janet B. Parks, Jerome Quarterman, and Lucie Thibault




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