|Founded||July 11, 1998|
ESPN Zone was a restaurant chain in the United States that included arcades, TV studios, and radio studios, operated by a division of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts using the Disney-owned ESPN brand. The only remaining operating ESPN Zone restaurant is located at Downtown Disney in the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, United States. 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 Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
The first ESPN Zone opened in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 11, 1998, in the Power Plant on the Inner Harbor. This was a pivotal moment in Disney Parks and Resorts' history, as it was the first ever major business venture outside of Disney's highly controlled theme parks.
Use as broadcast facility
All of the ESPN Zone restaurants were equipped to be remote ESPN broadcast locations, 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.
ESPN Zone regularly hosted events featuring athletes from local professional teams. Their most notable event was 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. 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. He was the only competitor to win three years in a row.
In 2009, Disney Regional Entertainment closed two ESPN Zone locations. A restaurant in Denver closed in June, and another in Atlanta closed in October of that year. The Atlanta location had opened in 2000, while the Denver location opened in 2001. In both cases, Disney Regional Entertainment cited the "economic environment" as the reason for the closures.
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, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, and the L.A. Live location to Anschutz Entertainment Group, the company that owns the L.A. Live complex. The Los Angeles location, housed in the ESPN West Coast headquarters building, closed in July 2013.
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Pratt Street Power Plant, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland
- Denver, Colorado
- Chicago, Illinois
- New York-New York Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas Strip, Paradise, Nevada
- L.A. Live, Los Angeles, California
- Times Square, New York City, New York
- Thurman Arnold Building, Downtown, Washington, D.C.
- ESPNZone at Yesterland
- Orange County Restaurant & Dining Guide orange-county-restaurant.info
- The Ultimate Couch Potato ESPN Zone
- Jessica Kartalija (2009-01-04). "Baltimore Crowns Ultimate Couch Potato". WJZ.com. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- "Topic Galleries". Chicago Tribune.
- http://www.startribune.com/sports/80864012.html?elr=KArksi8cyaiUo8cyaiUiacyKUnciaec8O7EyUr This link is defunct.
- Tyler Lopez (2009-06-29). "Denver's ESPN Zone Closed". TheDenverChannel.com. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- Richard Eldredge (2009-10-01). "ESPN Zone in Buckhead closes". AJC.com. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
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