LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (March 28, 2007) -- Hailed as the leading venue for amateur sports in the world, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex celebrated its 10th anniversary Wednesday, punctuating a decade of making kids' sports dreams come true and reveling in the complex's expansive future.
Former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles and Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, who are among the more than 1.5 million athletes who have competed at the complex during its 10-year history, were on hand for the event, which was highlighted by the unveiling of additional details of the complex's new Jostens Center, set to open in summer 2008. As part of the event, the sports stars stepped out of the pages of a life-size Jostens memory book to tell their personal stories of competing and training at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex during the past decade.
"From the very beginning, we have been about the kids, so we are extremely proud that so many young athletes at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex these past 10 years have experienced those exhilarating moments that occur when your sports dreams come true,'' said Reggie Williams, vice president of Disney Sports Attractions.
"We have far exceeded our original goals. And now, with the addition of the Jostens Center, we are uniquely positioned for the kind of future growth and expansion that will allow millions and millions of other kids to compete and train at the highest levels in an environment that is unlike any other in the world.''
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex officially opened on March 28, 1997, with a spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds. Since then, the 220-acre complex has attracted many of the biggest names in amateur and professional sports, including Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Mia Hamm, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones and Andre Agassi, among others. And hundreds of athletes, such as Rockets center Yao Ming, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, MLS soccer sensation Freddy Adu and NBA star Elton Brand competed at the sports complex as youths en route to realizing their sports dreams of playing professionally.
"The place is amazing,'' said tennis mega-star Serena Williams, who participated in the Elton John Smash Hit event at the complex. "It had just opened when Venus and I played there back in 1997, but with all of the courts and fields and baseball diamonds they have, you could tell it was going to be a place where every kid would jump at the chance to play there.''
Initially anchored by renowned sports organizations such as the AAU, Pop Warner Little Scholars and the Braves, the sports complex at Walt Disney World Resort has quickly blossomed and now hosts more than 180 events featuring 30 different sports each year, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp, Atlanta Braves spring training, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, a Tampa Bay Devil Rays-Texas Rangers regular-season series, the Pop Warner Super Bowl, the Tom Shaw Performance Enhancement program, the Old Spice Classic college basketball tournament and various AAU National Championship events.
"Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex offers the highest-quality facilities for NBA staff, coaches, and general managers to conduct our annual NBA Pre-Draft Camp,'' NBA Commissioner David Stern said. "As you might expect from Disney, the complex provides an extraordinary venue for aspiring players to showcase their talent."
In 2005, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex recorded its One Millionth Athlete - Desirre Wilkerson, a 13-year-old volleyball player from Louisville, Ky., who served as honorary grand marshal in the "Share a Dream Come True" parade at the Magic Kingdom theme park along with her teammates and coaches.
"The sports complex was great,'' said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who competed at the complex in 1999. "It was a first-class experience when I was there in 1999 for the NFL Players Rookie Premiere. If I was a kid again, I'd love to play there.''
The Jostens Center will be a state-of-the-art multi-sport field house similar to The Milk House, thus allowing the sports complex to potentially double the number of indoor sports events that it hosts annually. At more than 75,000 square feet, the center will house six NCAA regulation size basketball courts, 12 regulation size volleyball courts, two roller hockey rinks, four locker rooms, two conference rooms and two officials' rooms. In addition, the center will have several unique spaces within the facility to showcase its heritage and capabilities.
Jostens will also become an Official Sponsor of events at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex and will offer personalized memory books and Internet services to help recognize achievements and preserve memories for teams and athletes at the sports complex.
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex remains a world-class sports destination where all athletes, especially kids, can experience athletic opportunities that they will cherish forever, whether they conclude their athletic careers at Disney or even if they are gifted enough to advance to the highest levels of competitive sports.
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex offers a pair of signature facilities in The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, a two-tiered 7,500-seat retro baseball ballpark, and The Milk House, a 5,500-seat old-style indoor field house. Other sports complex venues include: the Hess Sports Fields (multi-purpose fields and diamonds), a baseball quadraplex, a track & field complex, a six-field softball complex and a 10-court tennis facility (with center court stadium).
For more information on Disney's Wide World of Sports, visit disneysports.com.