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  • Writer's pictureChris Green

State Farm Field House at Wide World of Sports - ESPN Events Invitational



Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

State Farm Field House at Wide World of Sports Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830



Year Opened: 2006

 

The Most Magical Tournament

College basketball in-season tournaments are all the rage lately, yet one Central Florida invitational has remained for many years. The ESPN Events Invitational Tournament, hosted yearly at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, has become a staple of the NCAA slate. Featuring teams from around the country, this event features plenty of action for an affordable price in a stellar location. Held inside State Farm Field House, this is a popular stop around the Thanksgiving holiday for fans of participating teams.

 

Food & Beverage   4

There are a lot of options at Wide World of Sports. Inside State Farm Field House itself, concessions include burgers ($8.75), chicken Caesar salads ($12), jumbo hot dogs ($10.75), Mickey Ice Cream Bars ($6.50), and pretzels ($7). Drinks include beer and alcohol ($12.75-$14.75) in souvenir cups that include $7.75-$8.75 refills, as well as bottled waters ($3.75) and Powerade ($5.25). The arena also includes a Wetzel’s Pretzels location, selling their famous hot pretzels in various options, as well as sodas.


Outside the arena, Wide World of Sports features a quick service cafeteria across the walkway inside Advent Health Arena (next to the fan store) where you can find pasta ($12.25-$12.50), burgers ($12.50-$14.75), tostadas ($13.25), and more. Additionally, coffee from Joffrey’s is available in the midway area ($3.69-$6.99), as well as churros ($7), popcorn ($8), and cotton candy ($8) from the sweets cart.

 

Atmosphere   3

State Farm Field House at Wide World of Sports features a lot of exposed metal beams in the architecture, and its curved roof amplifies the noise inside, as well as the lighting. The overall aesthetic of nearby facilities, including Champion Stadium, are carried over here as well. The arena has one concourse level, meaning you can walk up or down to your seats easily. ESPN logos are all over the facility, and past champion banners are hung above the VIP seating area.


A small fan store inside the arena features shirts, hats, hoodies, and various other souvenirs for the tournament, Disney World, and ESPN as a whole.


 

Neighborhood   5

The sports complex is located just off Osceola Parkway, literally across the street from the new entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Because of this you’re not far from pretty much everything you need on your trip. For obvious reasons, the best place to stay would be at any of the Disney Resorts – guests of the resorts get free bus transport to and from the arena. The closest hotels, Disney’s Pop Century and Disney’s Art of Animation, are two of the park’s lowest priced resorts.


For food, anywhere on Disney Property is a go-to; Kona Café at the Disney Polynesian Resort is a popular stop for sushi and a south seas flavor for dinner, while California Grill at the top of Contemporary Resort is also a popular go-to for a more upscale experience. In addition, popular tourist stops include EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom theme parks. Also, Disney Springs, which is accessible via bus and car, is home to countless restaurants, bars, and shopping opportunities for the whole family.


Fans   4

The games are split into two sessions a day, with two games per session. Tickets are sold by session, which means if you go to catch both games, you may notice one game is more or less popular than the other, depending on the fans who traveled for each team. While this can lead to some generally sparse attendance at times, the atmosphere is no-less electric. The noise is also amplified inside, so each dunk and three-pointer seem to garner loud cheers regardless of the attendance in the building, and since everyone has made the trip to Disney, you generally have a lot of families who are attending the games, making for a more family friendly atmosphere than some team’s home games might have.


Access   4

Getting to the Wide World of Sports is pretty easy, but traffic for certain games can be a pain. Parking is free in the further parking lots, or $20 for lots closer to the main entrance.


Now that the roadways have been re-routed in the area, access to the facility is easy when getting onto the property; there is signage all over Disney’s property leading you to Wide World of Sports, and getting off the main road is easy thanks to the new flyover.

 

Return on Investment   5

Tickets are very affordable, ranging from just $35 for the upper sidelines and $45 for the lower baseline, up to $60 for the lower sidelines and $80 for lower center court. All seating is first-come, first-served general admission within each seating area.


Additional hospitality can be purchased – tickets for an all-you-can-eat buffet with drinks cost $75-$90, with your choice of high top or couch seating areas at floor level behind the basket.


Extras   4

The facility features a popular picture spot at the main entrance next to the Wide World of Sports globe. There also are numerous sports facilities all throughout the area, including various other events that may be going on, from cheerleading competitions to youth soccer tournaments. TV screens throughout Wide World of Sports are also constantly playing various ESPN channels, fully immersing you in sports.



Finally, during the championship game Mickey Mouse makes an appearance in special basketball themed attire, and the tournament MVP is presented with a framed Disney World basketball jersey as their trophy.

 

Final Thoughts

The ESPN Events Invitational is certainly one of the longer running in-season college basketball tournaments, and it is easy to see why. Since 2006, teams like Notre Dame, FSU, Gonzaga, Memphis, Villanova, FAU, and others have hoisted the Tournament's trophy. Being located in such a family friendly location, this is an ideal tournament to visit in late November, especially for those fans looking to escape the colder weather up north.

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