NBA Experience opens at Disney World's Disney Springs

August 12, 2019, 12:40 PM · The Walt Disney World Resort dedicated its new NBA Experience at Disney Springs this morning, with a ceremony featuring ESPN and NBA personalities.

The NBA Experiences replaces the old Disney Quest building on the west side of Disney World's shopping and dining mall. The hard-ticket experience features 13 interactive elements and activities across 44,000 square feet and two floors, including interactive games, photo ops, trivia challenges, and skills exercises.

ESPN's Rachel Nichols hosted today's opening ceremony, welcoming NBA stars such as Victor Oladipo, Mike Conley, Dwyane Wade, Grant Hill, and Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, before turning the stage over to Commissioner Adam Silver and Disney CEO Bob Iger. [The broadcast starts at 11:05 and the ceremony begins at 16:23.]

"The NBA never has been more popular, or exciting, and we are thrilled to expand our relationship with the league and to partner with them on this one-of-a-kind experience," Iger said. "We are excited to open the doors to a fun and unique experience for basketball fans of all ages."

The NBA Experience opens to the public at 5pm today. Tickets are $34 for adults and $29 for kids ages 3-9. Athletic footwear is recommended, and everyone must sign a waiver to participate.

Replies (23)

August 12, 2019 at 1:53 PM

The early reviews on this are not very good. The common criticisms are that many of the activities you can do in your local gym or playground court, and that it's neither geared for the hard-core NBA fan or casual sports fans. Also, many reviewers complained that the promised integration with MagicBand was either weak or non-existent.

The price also seems rather high for an experience that reportedly doesn't take more than 90 minutes to complete. It should come as no surprise that Disney has kept a lot of the specifics of this experience under wraps, hoping to cash in on the "stupid money" flowing through Orlando each and every day. Maybe they'll start dangling this as a free perk for on-site guests like they do for the mini golf courses and in-resort arcades once the initial novelty wears off.

Disney should have just leased this space out to Dave and Busters, or invested some money in resurrecting Disney Quest or ESPNZone, because it doesn't sound like the NBA Experience is long for this world despite the league's increasing popularity.

August 12, 2019 at 3:06 PM

@Russel that doesn't surprise me... this concept seemed off to me from the beginning. I'd rather save my money and spend it on going to a game than on a sports themed interactive experience.

August 12, 2019 at 3:16 PM

This strikes me as the Disney World equivalent of the Pop Up Mickey thing at Disneyland (which was priced about the same, BTW). Probably well-executed for what it is... but not an experience that a lot of people in this market are looking for.

I think an NBA Experience could have been a big hit - and a huge marketing asset - at Shanghai Disney, though.

August 12, 2019 at 3:37 PM

I find it strange that Disney would invest in an experience that is in essence only aimed at American visitors. In the UK 99% of people haven’t the faintest idea what the NBA is and frankly couldn’t care less as basketball is a niche sport here about as popular as synchronised swimming.... But maybe they’re investing in anticipation of a sudden influx of Chinese visitors.... :)

August 12, 2019 at 3:42 PM

They're not Disney operated but an Operating Participant tenant like the majority of Disney Springs, so not much direct involvement from their Mouse Landlord- just as there was little Universal involvement in the NBA City predecessor venue that was a long time tenant at CityWalk. Didn't care much for my NBA neighbors there back then and not into them now that they are again my neighbors here. Way more bummed that Disney Springs quietly removed one of their seven designated smoking areas today, the one by T-Rex and UNIQLO, since that was the most convenient to the Lime garage. Now down to six legal designated on-stage smoking areas for Disney in the USA beyond the ones at the resort hotels....

August 12, 2019 at 5:29 PM

What they SHOULD do is make it a hard-ticket Soarin Over California.

It is the superior version, after all.

August 12, 2019 at 5:56 PM

In less than a year Robert will be writing an article giving us the closing date of this attraction. I just can’t imagine anyone leaving thinking they got their money’s worth or would be willing to do it again.

August 12, 2019 at 6:58 PM

I'm a huge NBA fan and I've been following this project since the beginning, anticipating that Disney would be somewhat involved in development and they would create something amazing with augmented reality or some type of experience we couldn't even predict. Now it's open and I'm still wondering what is there to make someone pay money to experience it.

August 12, 2019 at 7:18 PM

I wandered past the new NBA experience a week ago and thought then it just seems so out of place in Disney Springs. I briefly looked around the store but came out after a quick circuit, and not at all impressed. Yes, I am not a basketball fan ... come on, let’s be real ... we have the Magic ... LOL ?? but I had hoped something would stand out and make me somewhat interested ... but nothing. Just blah. I can’t see it lasting any more than 2 years, maybe not even 12 months.

The west side of DS needs Cirque back desperately, it’s a shadow of east DS on the other side of the bridge. Sadly the NBA experience will do nothing to help change that. I see Bongo’s is also closing next weekend. Even Splitsville is a dying source of entertainment for a lot of visitors these days.

August 12, 2019 at 8:00 PM

It seems like every topic recently has a british person "Well this doesn't make sense because in the UK..." No disrespect but WDW is in the in the USA not the UK...they are on different sides of the ocean.
The USA has 325+ million people, $20 trillion GDP, and ESPN (owned by Disney) has a contract with the NBA to air games on their network through 2025. The UK has a population of 66 million and GDP of $2.5 trillion. If the Premier League Experience were to open in London would it make sense for someone to post that they are surprised it was built there because nobody in the USA cares about it and London has lots of tourists from the USA? That's totally ethnocentric.

August 12, 2019 at 8:23 PM

FWIW, I would take a Premier League Experience in this space over the NBA one. It'd be something fresh for the home audience. (Same reason why I earlier pitched doing this one in Shanghai instead.)

August 12, 2019 at 10:38 PM

If you've ever been to the NBA Hall of Fame in Massachusetts you would know that there just isn't that much to do there, even if you are a basketball nut like me. So I don't see how something like this lasts at WDW. I wish they would try and convince Cirque to bring the Beatles' Love show to Orlando. That's a generational draw.

August 13, 2019 at 1:24 AM

@ the_man: I'm aware of the relative size differential between the USA and the UK. I'm also aware that unlike Disneyland Disneyworld relies heavily on UK visitors, being one of, if not the, most popular oversees destinations for a vacation from the UK.

Had this opened in Disneyland or close by I wouldn't even have commented.

Have a nice day!

August 13, 2019 at 7:55 AM

In less than a year Robert will be writing an article giving us the closing date of this attraction. I just can’t imagine anyone leaving thinking they got their money’s worth or would be willing to do it again.

Regards,
BestchairsReviews

August 13, 2019 at 8:08 AM

What a pity they closed Disney Quest for this.
Had a great time at Disney Quest with my kids playing old video games and some interactive experiences.
Sure some of the machines were broken but nothing that couldn't be repaired or replaced.
Hope this comes back sometime in the future when the basketball experience fails.

August 13, 2019 at 8:21 AM

@Robert - An EPL experience would be amazing, and I think the US audience (at least certain parts of it) would gobble it up. Living in DC, which is regularly the highest rated TV market for NBC's coverage of the EPL, there are sizable supporter groups for virtually every club, including newly promoted ones like Aston Villa, and the Premier League Mornings Live event they did last fall in the shadow of the US Capitol was hugely successful. However, with NBC/Universal holding the US broadcast rights for the foreseeable future (ESPN only holds rights for the FA Cup and Carabo Cup), Disney would be foolish to build an experience built around a league that a competitor holds the US broadcast rights.

I certainly see the synergy of building this, and the NBA definitely is building an audience, even in the saturated US market. The league is approaching a level or parity that should bode well for future success (much like what the NFL has achieved), and it still possesses a number of marketable stars that fans instantly recognize and relate to (a problem the NFL continues to struggle with). I think on paper, the concept of an NBA Experience could work really well, but based on descriptions, reviews, and first impressions, they've really missed the mark.

@Dave Bakas - Do you know who is operating the NBA Experience? The press releases and information provided about this venue make it sound like it is an attractions that has been completely developed and is operated by Disney (with Disney CMs). Even though it's in Disney Springs, where many places are partially developed by Disney but operated by 3rd Party partners, it seems odd that Disney, who directly owns the live entertainment rights to the NBA, would give up operational control at a venue (Disney Quest) that was completely under their umbrella. The biggest head-scratcher for me with this is that it diverts from the sports-bar/restaurant style experiences that have proven to be successful around the country. While it contains a huge merchandise location, the attraction lacks a dining element that would be able to sustain it through the leaner times and to lengthen stays and increase guest spending. If Disney was going to go so far into the athletic part of the NBA, it would have made more sense to place the NBA Experience at Wide World of Sports where it would have meshed better with the ESPN branding. Instead, this is stuck on the West Side of Disney Springs where there's little food and other points of interest. Even when Cirque re-opens, I don't see random guests venturing over just to do this. If this were at WWoS, guests are already there for other sporting-related activities, and the NBA Experience could either anchor a set of sports theme attractions or at a minimum stand alone as an experience for the sports fans that are naturally drawn to WWoS.

August 13, 2019 at 10:37 AM

@David Brown...actually let's be honest here. Orlando relies on us Canadians..haha I'm not sure of the numbers but I guarantee you the share of UK visitors is quite tiny compared to Canada. All though we don't really care about the NBA either but it will do fine regardless cause Americans like it. Where's the NHL experience?? :)

August 13, 2019 at 9:02 PM

@Robert: any thoughts on comparing this to the NFL Experience in Times Square? So many similarities: two big partners (NBA/Disney, NFL/Cirque du Soleil), both admission-based, the experiences don't seem to offer much more than opportunities to play the sport (for real or in video game form), and both are located in tourist hubs. While I hope anything can find an audience, this doesn't seem like it will. The NFL Experience didn't last a year.

Lucky for Disney, they own the land, and aren't paying NYC rent. They can change this to an NBA restaurant or something unrelated easily enough. And totally agree this may work better in Shanghai.

August 14, 2019 at 5:45 PM

It should have been a football experience. Yes, I know us Brits invented it, but it is the universal sport with universal appeal.

Hmmm, shouldn't there be one in CityWalk??

August 15, 2019 at 7:56 AM

@ProfPlum - We happened to be at Universal during last summer's World Cup, and the NBC Sports Grill and Brew essentially turned into a viewing venue for soccer matches (granted the broadcasts were in Spanish since only NBC/Universal-Owned Telemundo could not broadcast in English because Fox holds the US English-language rights). The only problem was that since the event was in Russia, all of the games were in the mid-morning and early afternoon, so even if you were a late riser getting to the parks (9-10 AM), the first matches of the day had not yet started as you walked past heading towards USF.

You would think Orlando would have a decent soccer fanbase with good support for Orlando City FC (MLS), but the market is nowhere near the top of the rankings when it comes to TV ratings for NBC's EPL coverage. I do wonder as NBC continues to expand its US coverage of the world's most popular sports league that they eventually hold a fan fest at CityWalk. 2 years ago, they held one event in NYC, and then last year had 3 (NYC, DC, and Boston), so maybe this year they will expand to include other markets that may have untapped potential. The success of such an event may lead to Universal considering a stand-alone restaurant/experience dedicated to futball. However, considering NBC tried and ultimately failed with another sport outside the US "Big 4" (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL) with the NASCAR Cafe, despite opening it during that sport's recent peak of popularity, I would think NBC might want to keep its sporting-related experiences more broad like the NBC Sport Grill and Brew.

August 15, 2019 at 10:38 AM

Forget any thoughts on a 'football' experience here in Orlando. It's just not a big enough draw to justify that sort of risk. Yes we have the boys and girls in purple to show us the way at Exploria, but they don't pull the crowds compared to the Magic, so whether it be Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, serie A, or a combination of all the top European leagues, it wouldn't last a lot longer that the NBA experience.

The life and death passion we Brits have for the well being of our chosen team does not exist here in the US, especially in Orlando. MLS is still seen as a Mickey Mouse league by the vast majority of the footballing world, and until they bring in promotion and relegation, that's the way it's going to stay.

They should have revamped Disney Quest and stuck with something they knew will bring in the masses. Just imagine if they'd made the 2nd floor a designated PvP area .... maybe a paintball VR experience ?? Now that would have been so cool ... :)

August 16, 2019 at 5:13 AM

Russell, thanks for the update. Wasn't aware of the CityWalk stuff. When we were over in March we watched the Fan Fest on NBC from The Fenway and couldn't believe the fanatical popularity.

Makorider, I agree that an updated Disney Quest has a better appeal for me but would have cost more but even though it became very dated I did enjoy the odd hour in there especially the retro games like Space Invaders and the Pirates attraction.

August 16, 2019 at 7:19 AM

I think the Fenway event was a special case, and wasn't part of NBCSN's original plans at the beginning of the year. From what I heard, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), who owns the Red Sox and majority stake in Liverpool, essentially told NBC they wanted to host the event. The previous events were all on NBC/Universal controlled properties where the network could utilize hard-wired feeds and broadcast infrastructure (the DC event that I attended was at CNBC/MSNBC's Washington bureau offices), while the Boston event was essentially a "remote" where they had to cart in all of the equipment and accessories needed to put on the broadcast (I'm sure FSG kicked in to help). The Boston event was essentially a Liverpool love fest, which was helped with their late win over my Spurs and helped to gin up the enthusiasm seen at the event on the broadcast.

NBC hasn't announced any events for this EPL season yet, but based on the reported success of the ones from last year, I don't doubt that they will do as many, if not more, this season. The fact that Fallon and other NBC shows have already done shows out of Universal Orlando would lead me to believe that the resort would be a prime candidate for a potential future event to reduce broadcast costs.

I think DisneyQuest was always a "dead man walking", and any level of updating would have cost too much to get too little benefit. I think Disney would have been better served leasing the space out to a tenant that could have made something of the space like Dave and Busters or some other sports/gaming complex. Even an e-Sports arena would have been a better concept than what they appear to have executed here with the NBA Experience. I think deep down there may be something redeemable in there, but it's going to take lots of trial and error for Disney to figure it out. Ultimately, I think they're going to run out of patience before they get there, and will be back in the same place they were 2 years ago when DisneyQuest finally threw in the towel.

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