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Are you missing sports? I know we are at our house! It is so strange to not have any sports to watch. Luckily, we are slowly getting more and more information about what our favorite sports will look like in the post-quarantine world. We recently learned that both the NBA and MLS are going to Disney World to resume competition play. Here, we’ll break down what both leagues’ participation at Disney World will look like and what it means for guests returning to Disney this summer for vacation. (Updated June 17, 2020.)
The National Basketball Association (NBA) Plan
Let’s start with the NBA. According to ESPN, which is owned by the Disney Company, 22 of the league’s 30 teams will play 8 regular season games and then playoffs at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports. The teams will report to Disney World on July 7. Games will begin on July 31. The NBA Finals are expected to conclude in mid-October. Unfortunately, no fans will be allowed to attend the games in person, but they will more than likely be broadcast on ESPN. The only teams not returning to play are the eight teams at the bottom of the standings, who realistically have no chance of making the playoffs.
The tentative plan is for the teams to stay at Disney World resort hotels. ESPN sources have stated that the teams will be using three of Disney’s hotels. As of June 16, we know that the three hotels that will be housing the players will be Coronado Springs, Grand Floridian, and Yacht Club. Additionally, players will be tested for COVID-19 nightly. It has been reported that the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has told players that they must stay on Disney property during their stay for safety reasons. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has reported that the NBPA will also not allow players or their families to visit the Disney parks while staying on property to finish the season.
Major League Soccer (MLS) Plans
According to an article by The Washington Post, MLS will begin playing a tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports with all 26 teams in July. The players should begin arriving at Disney World sometime in June. Preliminary plans involve each team playing three matches before 16 of them advance to a “knockout stage.” Again, no fans will be allowed to attend the matches in person. They are expected to broadcast the games on television, however.
Similar to the NBA, MLS players, coaches, and staff members will stay at a Disney World resort hotel. Additionally, they will all be tested for COVID-19 regularly. And in an effort to protect everyone’s safety, they will also have as little interaction with the public as possible.
Facilities at ESPN Wide World of Sports
Is it really possible for the NBA and MLS to go to Disney World at the same time? Is Disney World big enough for two professional sports leagues to play all of their games there simultaneously? Believe it or not, it is!
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex covers 230 acres and has 700,000 square feet of playing space. It has enough state-of-the-art facilities to host a wide range of sporting events. It has three indoor arenas that can be configured into 20 full-size basketball courts. There are also 12 soccer fields and 4 multi-purpose fields. Additionally, they have the broadcasting capabilities in place already to televise the games in both sports.
Impact on Visiting Guests
Many people who will be heading to Disney World for vacation this summer are worried about how the NBA and MLS going to Disney World will impact their trips. Realistically, the answer is probably not much at all. In fact, I suspect that vacationing guests will not even know that there are professional athletes on property. As stated above, no one associated with either league will be going to the parks. Fans will not be allowed at the games. Additionally, among other health-related restrictions, Disney is limiting availability at its resorts, so there will be plenty of empty hotel rooms to accommodate the teams without taking away rooms from guests.
A couple of Disney’s resort hotels, including Coronado Springs, are also convention centers. These hotels regularly host conventions throughout the year without interfering with vacationing guests. So, if you are planning to be at Disney World this summer, you shouldn’t worry about this negatively impacting your trip.
Sports have been gone for a long time. So, it is nice to start seeing plans for their return, even if it is in an unconventional way. It will be interesting to see if these plans to play at Disney World are successful. It will also be interesting to see what other college and professional leagues do during their return. What do you think about the NBA and MLS going to Disney World? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. To plan your trip to Disney, see our step-by-step planning guide and quick tips. Happy travels!