Disney doesn't want to give the competition a sporting chance. In 1997, it branched out with the multimillion-dollar ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (known as Disney's Wide World of Sports in a previous life), a 200-acre facility. The Mouse hit a home run with a 7,500-seat baseball stadium -- dubbed Cracker Jack Stadium in 2002 -- that's the spring-training home of the Atlanta Braves. In addition, there's a 5,000-seat field house featuring six basketball courts, a fitness center, and training rooms; major-league practice fields and pitching mounds; 4 softball fields; 12 tennis courts, including a 2,000-seat stadium center court; a track-and-field complex; a golf driving range; and more. The Hess Sports Fields include baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and football fields, while the Jostens Center (a state-of-the-art multisport field house) practically doubles the complex's capacity for indoor sporting events. Future additions include a 100-lane bowling center (one of the largest bowling facilities in the U.S.). A variety of events, from tennis tournaments to band competitions, has been held here since the center opened. For information about events taking place during your stay, call tel. 407/939-1500 or visit www.disneyworldsports.com.
So, if you and your kids are sports nuts, you won't have to forgo your fix while in Orlando. Even taking the above into account, Disney isn't the only show in town.
The Multisports Experience -- The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World has an expanded multisports venue that lets you test your skills at football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and volleyball. Admission is $11.31 for adults and $9.34 for kids 3 to 9. It's open on select days. For information, call tel. 407/939-1500.
If you're a true sports fan, your best bet is to request in advance a package of information about the facilities and a calendar of events. Write to ESPN Wide World of Sports, P.O. Box 10000, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000, or call tel. 407/939-1500. Online, check out www.disneysports.com.
The Orlando Predators play from February to mid-May. For the uninitiated, arena football is a wide-open sport played by eight-man teams on a much-abbreviated field. You don't necessarily need to know the rules to enjoy the up-close crunching and beer-fest atmosphere. The Predators have a loyal and rowdy following, not to mention a few championships under their belts. Sold-out games are common, but single tickets ($7-$85) are often available the day of the game at Amway Center. Call tel. 407/447-7337, or go to www.orlandopredators.com for more information. Note: At press time, the future of the Predators program was up in the air due to the instability of the entire AFL program.
The Atlanta Braves began spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in 1998. There are 18 games played during a 1-month season that begins in March. The smaller setting makes for a far more intimate experience for kids than a regular stadium game would, and the atmosphere is usually a lot more relaxed. Tickets are $15 to $39. For information, call tel. 407/828-3267. You can get tickets through Ticketmaster (tel. 800/745-3000).
The 17,500-seat Amway Center is the home court of the NBA's Orlando Magic (tel. 407/896-2442; www.nba.com/magic), which plays 41 of its regular-season games here from October to April. To get there, take I-4 east to exit 83B, Highway 50/U.S. 17/92 (Amelia St.), turn left at the traffic light at the bottom of the off-ramp, and follow the signs. Single-game tickets ($13-$65 and on up to $1,500 for luxury seating) can be hard to get. The team schedules special theme nights and promotions throughout the season, many of them family related, and mascot Stuff the Magic Dragon (that really is his name) is a hit with kids. For up-to-the-minute parking information, turn your car radio to 1620 AM. On-site parking runs $10 (and can be prepaid), but spaces are limited.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.