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When my wife planned our Disney trip last year for Thanksgiving, my immediate concern was how I was going to view my beloved TCU Horned Frogs in their rivalry game against Baylor. We’ve rarely missed a TCU game over the past decade due to living in Ft. Worth and having season tickets. We have skipped births, family events, and even a couple of weddings that conflicted with Saturdays in Amon Carter Stadium. The TCU vs. Baylor rivalry has become heated over the past few seasons and this post-Thanksgiving match-up had been highly anticipated for the last year. An undersized hotel room TV or resort bar wasn’t going to cut it for this match-up.
My wife knew that it was a big sacrifice for me to give up my seats in Fort Worth for our Disney trip, so she surprised me with the best option that she could find on property. She booked the ESPN Club’s VIP Experience at the Boardwalk for me. I found this to be a great alternative to me not being able to be seated in the friendly confines of Amon Carter. This is my review of ESPN Club’s VIP Experience.
The Build-Up to the Big Game
The date was November 27, 2015, and our battle with Baylor was much anticipated after the Frogs had fallen infamously 61-58 in Waco the year before. When I found out that we wouldn’t be able to attend, my tickets and parking passes sold in about a week on Stub Hub.
TCU had lost a heart breaking game to Oklahoma the week before, (our first weekend at Disney). All-world quarterback Trevone Boykin and first round NFL draft pick wide receiver Josh Doctson were injured going into OU, and future folk hero, Bram Kohlhausen had come in and almost lead an improbable comeback against the Sooners. The prognosticators on TV weren’t giving the Frogs much of a chance on that night which pumped me up that much more and had me bouncing off the walls around midday.
On game day, I spent the morning at Hollywood Studios with my family and had a great time. We had breakfast at Hollywood and Vine and went back for our customary midday nap. I was fortunate enough to catch some ESPN to prepare me for the buildup to the night’s main event. We headed back to Hollywood Studios in the early evening so that my wife and son could go enjoy the unreal Osborne Lights for the second or third time of the trip.
I made the pleasant walk along the water to the Boardwalk from the front gate of Hollywood Studios. It was a pleasant 65-70 degrees and I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve TCU shirt. I arrived about an hour early and got a phone call from a friend in Fort Worth who lives behind the stadium. He told me it was freezing and raining and that I should be happy that I was in beautiful Orlando. I have to say, once I saw the game on TV, I had to agree with him.
I checked into the impressive rectangular bar at the front of the restaurant when I arrived. The very friendly host told me that my seat wasn’t ready yet but that he would come get me when it was available. I listened to some usual analytic banter between the bartender and a couple about their opinions of the always overrated Ohio State Buckeyes. It turns out they were Penn State fans. He noticed my TCU gear and we started talking. He complimented my Frogs and Coach Patterson, and we shared a disdain for Baylor and Texas which put me in a good mood. It’s always cool to hear things like that about TCU from around the country, especially after the brand has grown so much in the last decade
The Layout of the VIP Area
Before I knew it, the host came back and told me that my table was ready. He took me back to a large viewing room (which appeared to be the main dining room of the restaurant). He showed me to my seat on the right side of the room as we entered.
This was a circular room overlooking countless TVs. The VIP area was split to the right and left by the main entry way which is a great idea to keep opposing fans separated. The VIP area was elevated above the main dining room to give you a stadium seating feel. It wrapped around the room in a semi circle, and even had a railing in front of you to separate you from the rest of the dining area. There was a convenient, “back way” shortcut to get to the restroom and eliminate some of the main dining room traffic.
Drinks and Service
After sitting down in the TCU area by myself, I immediately had a server arrive. At that point, I ordered a Cigar City Jai-Alai IPA draft for $8.25. The high-priced draft made me feel even more like I was at a real sporting event. Seriously though, this is pretty standard for resort prices. I had no complaints, especially with the quality of the brew. You could tell that I was so distraught with the price that I went on to purchase 8 or 9 more over the next 4 hours. I held off on the food because I was just ready to get in the zone and watch the game.
My server was great. He didn’t let me have an empty drink while I was there despite it being very busy. Kickoff was set for 6:30. However as my friend back home had warned me, the weather had taken it’s toll. There was a lightning delay in the stadium. This was great because it gave me a longer time to sample more Cigar City Jai Alais.
I immediately noticed some Baylor fans milling around. Since I had seen no fellow Frogs in the audience, so I figured I was going this was alone. Reinforcements soon arrived to the Frog fan ranks, when a family of four showed up clad in TCU purple and sat beside me. We chatted a bit. It turned out that they also had season tickets at home. We shared disappointment at missing the game at home, but agreed that our set up here offered a great alternative.
During the lightning delay I had a few more drinks and was ready for kickoff. Around an hour later the game finally started. There were probably 50 Baylor fans there and only five of us TCU fans. When I saw the wet and cold conditions at home, I was very happy to be sitting in the comfort of the ESPN Club.
The game was very exciting from the get go. The Baylor supporters were doing some kind of goofy bear paw on kickoffs. They were pretty mouthy from the start. I didn’t hesitate to get loud myself when Boykin hit Jarrison Stewart for a 25 yard TD in the first quarter. My fellow Frog fans had two young children with them. Due to the late start, they had to bail on me in the second quarter. So, I was alone now. I did feel kind of secluded from the Baylor fans in my VIP spot because of the VIP area being split. This made it more enjoyable.
Half time came, and I decided to try to get some food in. I ordered the pub nachos, a very generous portion of tortilla chips with delicious pulled pork. It hit the spot perfectly for a good halftime meal. I don’t remember finishing them. It is always a good thing when you fill up before the plate is empty.
Pretty soon though it was back to the game. For the next hour or two I hung on every play there in my own personal spot. My waiter kept my drinks flowing with little interruption and was very courteous while doing so. As the game wore on, the mouthy Baylor crowd also thinned out. During the final plays of overtime, it was only me in my VIP spot and 4 or 5 Baylor fans on their side. When Ty Summers and Julius Lewis stuffed the Baylor RB in the backfield, I shouted, “Get it out of there!” When I looked up, I saw that I was the only person left in the whole place. As a disgusted Art Briles left the field, I joyfully exited out onto the boardwalk and went into the Disney night to find the nearest transit back to my hotel.
All in all this was a great experience. I would gladly do again if ever in the position to miss a big game. The food and drink were spot on, service was great, and the game was memorable. This game was so epic, that every TCU fan will probably remember where they were when it happened. I could have had that experience in many places, but the ESPN Club made it top notch. This was an amazing place for game watching. I would recommend it to anyone in need of a place to watch their big game. I hope this review of ESPN Club’s VIP Experience was helpful.