ESPN Zone was a theme restaurant and entertainment center chain in the United States that included arcades, TV studios, and radio studios, operated by the Disney Regional Entertainment subsidiary of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts using the Disney-owned ESPN brand. While the ESPN Zone name is no longer used, similar, still-operating restaurants include the ESPN Club at Disney's BoardWalk Inn and the ESPN Grill at ESPN Wide World of Sports, both located within the Walt Disney World complex in Bay Lake, Florida.

IndustryRestaurant and Entertainment
FoundedJuly 11, 1998
FounderArt Levitt
DefunctJune 2, 2018
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California, United States
Key people


In 1992, Art Levitt conceived of an ESPN/Disney project, while he was Disney Parks and Resorts vice president of resorts and special projects, to increase Disney's Pleasure Island's attractions. Levitt's concept was "to put an ESPN experience in Disney World". Despite discussions with ESPN, the project was not immediately given the green light. Levitt exited Disney for the CEO post at Hard Rock Cafe International. The ESPN Club sports bar, at Walt Disney World with 13,000 square feet of TV screens, was a modest attempt that came from those discussions, and drew enough attendance as a proof of concept.[1] The restaurant opened on July 1, 1996, at the BoardWalk entertainment complex.[2]

A similar project, Sports Center USA, led by Lynda O'Dea working with ABC Sports, attempted to get started in the early 1990s with its selected first location at Baltimore's Power Plant. A lack of financing ended this project that was done in conjunction with Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.[1]


ESPN Zone in Baltimore in 2007.

With Disney's purchase of Capital Cities/ABC in 1996, ESPN was a key part of the purchase, which Disney chair/CEO Michael Eisner then moved into additional brand extensions from biweekly sports magazine, ESPN-themed restaurants, video games to retail stores.[3] With Levitt having the original idea in 1992, Eisner turned to him to head up Disney Regional Entertainment, the subsidiary that would start up and run the chain.[1]

The concept was originally called ESPN Grill when announced in October 1997, with a slate of major city locations scheduled to start with Baltimore, Maryland, in mid-1998 and Chicago in spring 1999.[4] ESPN Grill was renamed on December 29, 1997 to ESPN Zone to connote that there was more to the venue.[5] The first ESPN Zone opened in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 11, 1998, in the Power Plant on the Inner Harbor.[6]

The Chicago location opened on July 10, 1999 in the North Bridge development where DisneyQuest, a fellow Disney Regional chain, opened a month earlier.[7] After the Chicago location opening, there was to be a new location every three months.[1]


ESPN Zone in New York (4702626143)
ESPN Zone interior in Times Square, New York, in 2010.

In 2009, Disney Regional Entertainment closed two ESPN Zone locations. A restaurant in Denver closed in June,[8] and another in Atlanta closed in October of that year.[9] The Atlanta location had opened in 2000,[9] while the Denver location opened in 2001.[8] In both cases, Disney Regional Entertainment cited the "economic environment" as the reason for the closures.[8][9]

Now-closed ESPN Zone in downtown Washington, D.C.

In June 2010, all but two locations were shuttered, with the remaining restaurants located in Southern California. As part of the decision by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, through their Disney Regional Entertainment division, to no longer operate the restaurants in 2010, they sold the rights to operate the location in Anaheim to Zone Enterprises of Anaheim, another Disney subsidiary, and the L.A. Live location to Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the L.A. Live complex.

Baltimore lawsuit

Employees at the Baltimore ESPN Zone filed a class action lawsuit against Disney and its local subsidiary after the 2010 closing, claiming that Disney had violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988. U.S. federal district judge Catherine C. Blake, in a January 2013 decision, found that Disney and its local subsidiary violated the Act by failing to notify workers of the closing and underpaying them. Disney and the employees settled the lawsuit in November 2013; Disney paid approximately 70 percent of the employees' back pay.[10]

Final closures

The Los Angeles location, housed in the ESPN West Coast headquarters building, closed in July 2013.

In October 2017, Disney announced plans to replace ESPN Zone and other Downtown Disney vendors at the Disneyland Resort with a resort hotel, in conjunction with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in 2019. The restaurant closed on June 2, 2018.[11][12]


The prototype ESPN Zone was a two-level, 35,000 square foot complex with a stadium-like design which could hold 550 customers. People could dine at the bar or restaurant area. 200 TV screens were hung from the walls and ceilings. There were two special rooms, a screening room and a 10,000 square foot arena for actual and virtual game play.[1]

ESPN Zone incorporated sports news into daily operations. Each shift, all staff were to receive daily sports news briefings. Placemats would be generated daily as a mini-sports page of a newspaper. The chain was to change its exclusive program, games, and memorabilia regularly.[1]

Broadcast facility

All of the ESPN Zone restaurants were equipped to be remote ESPN broadcast locations,[1] though only two were used to house regular series. The Anaheim ESPN Zone was the home of Unscripted with Chris Connelly, from 2001 to 2002. The ESPN Zone in New York City's Times Square was used as the location of the Monday Night Football halftime show for several years. The weekly series The Sports Reporters was broadcast from the Times Square location every Sunday morning from its opening until its closing, at which point the show moved to ESPN's home base in Bristol, Connecticut.

Several of the locations also had radio studios, used by the local ESPN Radio affiliate and leased to other stations on occasion.


2009 ESPN Zone Chicago Ultimate Couch Potato Contestant - Steve Janowski 03
The 2009 Ultimate Couch Potato Competition at ESPN Zone Chicago.

ESPN Zone hosted the Ultimate Couch Potato Competition, a competitive sitting competition. In 2009, competitions were held in New York, Chicago and Baltimore. The Baltimore winner, Jessica Mosley, unofficially broke the Guinness World Record by sitting and watching consecutive sports for an unprecedented 70 hours, and 45 seconds. She repeated as Baltimore champion in 2010.[13] The 2009 event received attention nationally, as well as from international outlets like the popular Australian television show Sunrise. Jeff Miller, the 2010 winner in Chicago broke an ESPN Zone record and also unofficially broke the Guinness World Record by watching 72 hours of non-stop sports and his third win in the competition.[14]

Former locations

Las Vegas New York10
The ESPN Zone marquee is visible at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in the Las Vegas Strip in 2010.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Arney, June (March 8, 1998). "ESPN's fun zone Entertainment: The first ESPN Zone, a venture with Disney, promises to be on the cutting edge of interactive sports entertainment". Baltimore Sun. pp. 1–3. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  2. ^ Shenot, Christine (June 10, 1996). "Espn Steps Up To The Plate With Sports Bar". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  3. ^ Mulligan, Thomas S. (November 20, 1997). "Expansion Team". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  4. ^ Richmond, Ray (October 15, 1997). "ESPN serves up Grill". Variety. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  5. ^ "Power Plant tenant renamed as ESPN Zone". Baltimore Sun. December 30, 1997. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Gunts, Edward (July 9, 1998). "In the zone". Baltimore Sun. Tribune Publishing. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  7. ^ "Disney's double plans: Disney Regional Entertainment said..." Chicago Tribune. March 4, 1999. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Lopez, Tyler (June 29, 2009). "Denver's ESPN Zone Closed". The E.W. Scripps Co. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  9. ^ a b c Eldredge, Richard (October 1, 2009). "ESPN Zone in Buckhead closes". Peach Buzz. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on October 4, 2009. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  10. ^ Smith Hopkins, Jamie (November 3, 2013). "ESPN Zone workers, employer reach settlement". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  11. ^ Fisher, Marla Jo (June 1, 2018). "Disney says goodbye to the ESPN Zone concept as the chain's final restaurant closes in Anaheim". Orange County Register. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Pimentel, Joseph (October 25, 2017). "Disneyland cancels parking expansion on eastern side of park, focuses on new hotel and parking on west side". Orange County Register. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  13. ^ Madigan, Nick (January 4, 2010). "Champion Couch Potato Repeats At Baltimore's Espn Zone". Baltimore Sun. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  14. ^ McNamara, Chris (January 5, 2010). "Chicago man breaks Guinness World Record for competitive sitting, wins third straight title". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved February 13, 2017.

External links

2009–10 Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball season

The 2009–10 CAA men's basketball season marks the 25th season of Colonial Athletic Association basketball. The conference is doing numerous "Silver Anniversary" programs and highlights throughout the season.

Anaheim Sports

Anaheim Sports, Inc., formerly Disney Sports Enterprises, Inc. (DSE), was a fully owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company based in Anaheim, California and created in 1992 as the ownership group for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim professional hockey team.

Andy Segal

Andy Segal (born April 14, 1968), nicknamed "the Magic Man", is a trick-shot pool champion from Huntington, New York. He began as a professional nine-ball player in the 1990s, and was a regular on the Camel Pro Billiard Tour before switching to trick-shot competition in 2002. A full-time pro player since 2007, Segal holds three world records (and is tied for a fourth) in artistic billiards. He is known for his television competition appearances on ESPN, and has won many such events, including Trick Shot Magic (2009, 2010 & 2014), the World Cup of Trick Shots (2006, 2008 & 2009), the WPA World Artistic Pool Championship (2007, 2011 & 2012), and the Masters Artistic Pool Championship (2005, 2007 & 2009). Segal also performs trick shot exhibitions all over the world, and in films and television.

Beth Mowins

Elizabeth Mowins (born May 26, 1967) is a play-by-play announcer and sports journalist for ESPN and CBS. She typically calls women's college sports, and became only the second woman to call nationally televised college football games for ESPN in 2005. Mowins was paired with Cat Whitehill on ESPN's tertiary broadcast team for the telecasts of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Club Disney

Club Disney was a regional children's play center concept operated by Disney Regional Entertainment. The indoor centers were designed for families with children under 10 with gift shops, various play areas and snack bars. The clubs were expected to change over time and to reflect the current Disney movie.

Disney's BoardWalk Resort

Disney's BoardWalk Resort is a AAA Four-Diamond Award–winning hotel and entertainment complex at the Walt Disney World resort, in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando, Florida. First opened in 1996, the BoardWalk Resort lies in the Epcot Resort Area, alongside Crescent Lake, and is situated between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The resort is owned and operated by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. The inn and the villas share a common lobby with the rest of the resort. The Inn, Atlantic Dance Hall, and other features of the boardwalk were designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

Disney Regional Entertainment

Disney Regional Entertainment was the subsidiary of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts which developed and operated unique local entertainment concepts. It previously operated the Club Disney, DisneyQuest, and ESPN Zone chain entertainment concepts.

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney (officially the Downtown Disney District) is an outdoor shopping center located at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It opened on January 12th, 2001; a component of the Disneyland Resort expansion project alongside the Disney California Adventure theme park and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

ESPN Online Games

ESPN Online Games were a collection of sports-themed internet video games available on the ESPN3 broadband internet channel. There are currently two collections of games. The first is “Arena Games,” which features a home run derby style baseball game; a 3-point shooter basketball game and Throwdown, a four-round boxing game. The second section is “Bar Sports” which features air hockey, bar curling and a coin toss game. The games are played at

The games are reached through an interactive locker room and ESPN Zone respectively. The locker room features a wise-cracking Janitor named Willy who also appears in Home Run Derby and Throwdown, coaching players in how to play each of the games. It also features video and photo content, and explorable lockers. The ESPN Zone features video patrons and a number of Easter eggs, such as a stadium from which a ball is hit.

The games were produced using Flash 8. They combined video footage, animation and 3-d rendering to offer a feeling of hyperreality. The use of video footage gives many of the games the look and feel of games played on the Sega CD platform as well as many of the pre-3D PC games. ESPN Online games are played in a virtual “Game Controller” that looks remarkable like a Sony PSP. This virtual controller can be flipped over to view a leader board, a friends list and avatar generator.

Gary Miller (sportscaster)

Gary Miller (born October 31, 1956) is an American sportscaster and radio host.

Inner Harbor

The Inner Harbor is a historic seaport, tourist attraction, and landmark of the city of Baltimore, Maryland. It was described by the Urban Land Institute in 2009 as "the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world." The Inner Harbor is located at the mouth of Jones Falls, creating the wide and short northwest branch of the Patapsco River. The district includes any water west of a line drawn between the foot of President Street and the American Visionary Art Museum.

The name "Inner Harbor" is used not just for the water but for the surrounding area of the city, with approximate street boundaries of President Street to the east, Lombard Street to the north, Greene Street to the west, and Key Highway on the south. The harbor is within walking distance of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium. A water taxi connects passengers to Fells Point, Canton, and Fort McHenry.

Jay Rasulo

James A. "Jay" Rasulo was the Senior Executive VP and CFO of The Walt Disney Company. On June 30, 2015, Christine McCarthy was announced as his successor. Prior to being appointed CFO, he was chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts from October 2005 until December 2009 when he switched positions with Thomas O. Staggs. He was made the president of the theme park division in September 2002, replacing Paul Pressler.Walt Disney Parks and Resorts comprises Disneyland Resort in California, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Resort Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. In addition, Rasulo oversaw Disney Cruise Line, Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Creative Entertainment and Disney Regional Entertainment, which operated the ESPN Zone sports-themed restaurants.

In 2006 and 2007, Rasulo is serving a two-year term as national chair for the Travel Industry Association. He also serves as chair of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, established in 2003 to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce, and is a director on the Department of Homeland Security's Safe Borders / Open Doors Committee.

Rasulo joined The Walt Disney Company in 1986 as a director within Corporate Strategic Planning and later rose to senior vice president, where he led development for Disney's real estate-based businesses. After two years as a senior vice president of Corporate Alliances and three years with Disney Regional Entertainment, Rasulo became executive vice president of Euro Disney S.C.A., which operates Disneyland Resort Paris. He served as president and chief operating officer before taking over as chairman and CEO of the French resort in 2000.

A native of New York, Rasulo has a degree in economics from Columbia University and an MA in economics and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Before joining Disney, he worked for Chase Manhattan Bank and the Marriott Corporation.

He serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the French-American Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Jobs and Economy Commission.

L.A. Live

L.A. LIVE is an entertainment complex in the South Park District of Downtown Los Angeles, California. It is adjacent to the Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center.L.A. LIVE was developed by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), Wachovia Corp, Azteca Corp, investment firm MacFarlane Partners, and with tax deferments paid by Los Angeles taxpayers. It cost approximately US$2.5 billion to build. The architectural firm responsible for the master plan and phase two buildings was Baltimore-based RTKL Associates.

NASCAR Countdown

NASCAR Countdown was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series prerace show that debuted on February 17, 2007. It was a live on-site pre-race show for all Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. It came as a result of ESPN getting broadcast rights to NASCAR races, including the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The program was also available in high-definition on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. Along with the press release of this program, ESPN also announced plans for a daily show devoted to NASCAR entitled NASCAR Now. NASCAR Countdown was telecast from a new, state-of-the-art mobile pit studio, similar to NASCAR on Fox's "Hollywood Hotel."

At Sprint Cup events, the program was always hosted by Nicole Briscoe. Joining Briscoe was five-time NBA All-Star and former winning NASCAR team owner Brad Daugherty and former Cup champion Rusty Wallace. Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett also contributed to the program from the broadcast booth.

Nick Franklin

Nick Franklin is the former Executive Vice President of Next Generation Experience at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide. His duties include the development of new experiences at the Disney parks and resorts worldwide, and monitoring and enhancing user experience.

Prior to that, Franklin was Executive Vice President of Global Development and directed operations of Walt Disney Attractions Japan and Disneyland International, supporting Disney's association with The Oriental Land Company, the third-party operator of Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan. Franklin was also responsible for the growth of new and existing Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in particular Disney resorts in France, Hong Kong and Japan.

Franklin began his Disney career in Disney's Corporate Strategic Planning department, where his primary responsibility was working with Parks and Resorts on key decisions and long-term strategy for all of its business units. Franklin also was part of the ESPN Zone Opening Team. He was then promoted to Senior Vice President, International Development in 2003 where he oversaw the improvement of Disney Parks worldwide. Franklin was again promoted in 2007 to his former title. He left the company after 17 years of employment by personal choice, wishing to bring his unique strategic edge to other companies. As of April 14, 2015 he became the KB home executive vice president of strategic operations.Franklin is an officer of the board of trustees of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.

Pratt Street Power Plant

The Pratt Street Power Plant — also known as the Pier Four Power Plant, The Power Plant, "Pratt Street Toenail", and Pratt Street Station — is a historic former power plant located in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It has undergone significant repurposing development since retirement and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Samantha Ponder

Samantha Ponder (née Steele) (born December 11, 1985) is an American sportscaster who is currently the host of Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN. Prior to hosting Sunday NFL Countdown, Ponder worked as a reporter/host for ESPN college football and as a basketball sideline reporter. Ponder replaced Erin Andrews on College GameDay Saturdays at 10 AM ET on ESPN, as well as co-host of the Saturday 9 AM ET edition on ESPNU. In addition to her duties on College Gameday, Ponder had been the regular sideline reporter for ESPN's Thursday Night College Football with Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack from August 2012 until 2014. Ponder also appeared on the ESPN-owned Texas-oriented regional network Longhorn Network.

Six Flags

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, also known as Six Flags Theme Parks or simply Six Flags, is an amusement park corporation based in the United States, with properties in the US, Canada and Mexico. It is the largest amusement park company in the world, based on the number of properties owned and is ranked seventh in terms of attendance. The company operates 25 properties throughout North America, including theme parks, amusement parks, water parks and a family entertainment center. In 2017, Six Flags properties hosted 30.4 million guests.Six Flags was founded in Texas on August 5, 1961 and derived its name from its first property, Six Flags Over Texas. The company maintains a corporate office in Midtown Manhattan, while its headquarters are in Grand Prairie, Texas. On June 13, 2009, the corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection due to crippling debt, which it successfully exited after corporate restructuring on May 3, 2010.

The Sports Reporters

The Sports Reporters was a sports talk show that aired on ESPN at 9:30 a.m. ET every Sunday morning (and replayed at 10:30 a.m. ET the same day on ESPN2 and 11:30 AM on ESPNews). It featured a roundtable discussion among four sports media personalities, with one regular host and three rotating guests. The show began in 1988, patterned to some extent after the Chicago-based syndicated show called Sportswriters on TV. ESPN Deportes, ESPN Latin America and ESPN Brasil may launch Spanish-language and Portuguese-language versions of the show in the future.The show was originally broadcast from a studio in Manhattan, and from 1999 to 2010 it was recorded at the ESPN Zone at Times Square in Manhattan before it closed. It then moved to Bristol, Connecticut at the main ESPN studios, where it stayed until the end of its run. On January 23, 2017, ESPN announced its planned cancellation, following the death of host John Saunders. The final episode aired May 7, 2017. The show would return in the form of a podcast in September 2017.

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