MLS, NBA, you have just spent three months unable to play games because of the coronavirus pandemic, what are you going to do next?
We're going to Disney World!
(Cue: Tinkerbell, Cinderella's castle, fireworks and "When you wish upon a star" music...)
Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando is about to become the epicenter of U.S. professional sports this summer, as all 26 MLS teams and 22 NBA teams will resume their seasons there fan-free after the COVID-19 crisis forced leagues to shut down in mid-March.
MLS will take approximately 1,200 people to Orlando - a traveling party of about 45 from each team - from late-June to early August. Details are expected to be announced later this week. They would play a made-for-TV World Cup-style tournament with three group games and a 16-team knockout round. Standings from that event would be applied to the regular-season standings with hopes that teams can return to play in home markets in late-August.
MLS teams and officials will be sequestered at a resort on Disney property. Among the more upscale options near the sports complex are the Four Seasons, Waldorf Astoria, and the Swan and Dolphin Resort, which all offer privacy, spas, pools, and convention-style meeting rooms.
Disney owns 18 resort-style hotels in the area, as well as four golf courses, so the leagues can make sure players are isolated from the public.
The NBA is expected to have about 1,600 people check into their Disney bubble around July 7, regular-season games would restart July 31, followed by the playoffs and the NBA Finals, which could drag into mid-October. According to ESPN, NBA teams will be housed in three different hotels on Disney property.
Both leagues would adhere to strict health and safety guidelines, including regular testing for COVID-19 and limited to no visits from family members.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which opened in 1997, is a 220-acre state-of-the-art complex with multiple venues for basketball, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, baseball, cheerleading, dance and hockey.
It has 17 lighted soccer fields, and three basketball/multi-sport arenas. The HP Fieldhouse is a 70,000-square foot facility with six basketball courts, the VISA Center can accommodate six to eight courts, and the Arena has space for six practice courts.
ESPN also has a 2,500-square foot broadcast center on site with eight editing bays, so they can send feed directly to Bristol, Conn., and Los Angeles.