Final Buzzer Sounds for Disney World's NBA Experience

August 16, 2021, 1:46 PM · The NBA Experience in Walt Disney World's Disney Springs shopping and dining district will not reopen, the resort has confirmed to multiple local media outlets.

The basketball-themed interactive attraction opened officially in August 2019 then closed along with the rest of the Walt Disney World Resort in March 2020, due to the pandemic. However, the attraction did not reopen.

Nor will it now.

Disney spokespersons told local reporters that the decision not to reopen the NBA Experience was mutual with the league and does not reflect any change in Disney's relationship with the NBA or the Orlando Magic. Disney's ESPN is the league's broadcast partner and Disney is the jersey sponsor of the Magic.

The NBA Experience replaced Disney Quest, and now Disney is again looking for something to occupy a rather large space at the end of the Disney Springs property.

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Replies (32)

August 16, 2021 at 2:02 PM

From WAY downtown - CLANG!

August 16, 2021 at 2:19 PM


August 16, 2021 at 2:31 PM

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.

Okay, I was off by a year, but I’ll blame that to the pandemic. It was open less than a year, so technically I was right. :)

As for what to use that space for, rumors of a physical WWE Hall of Fame continue to heat up and Orlando would be a good place to have one. Not sure Disney Springs is the best fit with NBC/Universal’s close relationship with WWE, though, but I’d the price of rent or the building was right, who knows?

August 16, 2021 at 3:22 PM

That space is like the Bermuda Triangle for theme park attractions. Between that and the empty space that once was Bongos, there are sizable holes at the west end of DSTP.

But parking is still free!

August 16, 2021 at 3:42 PM

TH, theme parks do not offer free parking, so Disney Springs cannot be a theme park.

August 16, 2021 at 3:44 PM

definitely not the least bit surprised. unless you were a rabid NBA fan, i never understood the appeal of the place as it seemed more like an NBA fantasy camp for the jock types out, for the average theme park going joe/jane, it was not an inviting place at all, and seemed more intimidating to me on my one venture inside.

August 16, 2021 at 3:58 PM

Keith Schneider, Holiday World has entered the chat. And it's brought free drinks to share!

August 16, 2021 at 4:00 PM

BTW, the folks up the road were having some fun with this news.

Maybe Disney can open a crazy-milkshake-themed restaurant on its former NBA site now, too?

August 16, 2021 at 4:27 PM

Really, Robert? Thanks, now we’ll never get rid of this notion.
Come to think of it, Knoebels offers free parking as well. Ugh...

August 16, 2021 at 5:52 PM

Robert - You can't forget the free sun screen, which is nice when it is hot and sunny. Holiday World is the best value for a theme park that I can think of.

August 16, 2021 at 7:07 PM

UO should take advantage of the situation and open its own NBA themed restaurant at CityWalk. They could call it 'NBA City: Supercharged'

August 16, 2021 at 10:21 PM

Real talk: escape rooms are all the rage right now. Maybe Disney could use all that space and do something really special with that.

August 16, 2021 at 10:47 PM

I actually liked Disney Quest as an old-school arcade nut. Maybe something like it could still work, themed to different IPs.

August 17, 2021 at 5:11 AM

Time to make the westside the live entertainment area of Disney Springs and bring in live Broadway Shows. It would not hurt Cirque du Soleil which has an audience and would continue to draw. Bring in a rotating Disney Musical and people could go one or more times a year. I know I would prefer seeing Lion King, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, and even Frozen in a new theater with comfortable seats with legroom.

August 17, 2021 at 8:49 AM

I think Douglas Dickson has the right idea, and make the West Side area a "theatre district" for Disney Springs. It already has the AMC, musical acts at House of Blues, and the big Cirque show. Convert the NBA experience into a lavish theatre, and convert Bongos into...I don't know...maybe some neat kind of dinner theatre or murder mystery experience.

August 17, 2021 at 10:18 AM

How about an ice arena? Offer skating and Disney on Ice shows?

August 17, 2021 at 10:31 AM

@B Goodwin:

Hey now let’s not get too crazy lol. Some of like Bongos as it is for their food, music and libations. Their Chicken and Rice dish is one of my favorites in all of WDW. The rest of the theater district idea sounds like a plan though!

August 17, 2021 at 11:04 AM

I don't think Disney would make a theater for touring broadway shows in that spot as the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts already fills that void for locals and there aren't enough blockbuster shows to fill a venue like that on a nightly basis for tourists. There is already a venue right next to it with HOB that can book medium size comedy shows and concerts and that venue hasn't really been doing anything for a year and half, also there is nothing stopping tourists from going to the Amway Center for major events (they already do if you look on Tripadvisor like more than half of the reviews for the Amway Center are people from other countries).

With the Delta variant raging in Florida and tourism starting to take another downturn sadly I expect this spot to sit idle for a while.

August 17, 2021 at 1:17 PM

I wouldn't mind a revival of the old California Adventure Aladdin show.

August 17, 2021 at 4:32 PM

DisneyQuest should have been updated. Maybe now they can bring it back, or something similar.

August 17, 2021 at 6:59 PM

@fatty: Bongos is gone. Demolished more than a year ago.

August 17, 2021 at 7:03 PM

Regarding the NBA replacement, tough call. Another restaurant would piss off other F&B tenants. I think it will remain shuttered.

Actually, I am wondering why they closed it. I mean, regardless of whether or not it's lame, unless there is an immediate replacement, why not leave it open and break even on the operating costs?

August 17, 2021 at 7:42 PM

Back when this opened, I compared it to the also short lived NFL attraction in Times Square. Tens of millions wasted on these concepts. Other than Ferrari World (which has oil money behind it), sports don't need themed entertainment venues. The attraction is the sport, so there's no need for this. Just go to a game!

August 17, 2021 at 7:52 PM

The most out-there suggestion I've heard yet is... Meow Wolf Orlando.

Second place goes to a massive, Disney-themed laser tag arena.

Actually, combing those two could be, uh, interesting.

August 17, 2021 at 10:56 PM

@TH: Leaving it closed may be better financially. If it’s open, then Disney has to pay for employees and utilities. Furthermore, how much money were they collecting at the gate? Were there people buying a stand-alone ticket or just using an admission from their waterpark and sports ticket or Parkhopper plus? And they couldn’t have been making much money on food, not with all the dining options nearby. Maybe merch was their biggest area of revenue.

Back along the lines of employees, it could also be an issue with getting enough workers. That seems to be an issue everywhere nowadays.

August 19, 2021 at 7:47 AM

Disney museum for archive items? They could have a seasonal rotating exhibit / theme like most other established museums offer…

August 18, 2021 at 7:28 AM

@TH: NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Does the slow lumbering Vader Force-break as he rises from his gurney)

Damn. Where the hell have I been? That’s a proper bummer. I guess it’s popularity waned given it’s location far away from the heart of Disney Springs? That place was a hidden gem for pre-show drinks and snacks ahead of House of Blues concerts, and the hidden bar in the back had some real trippy acoustic spots where if you sat in the right spot you could whisper and the person on the other side of the room could hear you clearly. Adios Bongo’s, we hardly knew ‘ye.

August 18, 2021 at 7:32 AM

I think they should replace the NBA experience with a Cuban-themed restaurant that features live music and delicious drinks LOL

August 18, 2021 at 8:38 AM

The whole concept that an extra paid for themed entertainment experience in WDW just seems like a bad idea to me. I probably already have theme park tickets, so why would I pay extra not to go to the theme park?

August 18, 2021 at 9:34 AM

This is such a tricky spot for Disney. Unlike Chad H, I do think there is value in a paid experience outside the WDW theme parks. While a majority of visitors to Orlando primarily visit and spend most of their time in theme parks, they do not spend 100% of their time in the parks. There are always times in a WDW vacation where it doesn't make sense to "burn" an admission, but you still want to do something. Arrival day, departure day, moving day (when you switch from one resort to another), are all situations where guests want to have something to do that doesn't require the use of a wallet-busting theme park ticket.

After all, Disney Springs wouldn't exist if guests came to WDW and spent all their time in the parks and resorts. I do think there's more value to an experience that is best enjoyed in the evenings that would also engage locals (like the previously suggested Broadway-style performance space), but I think there's also something to be said for having an experience that can be enjoyed during the day. However, the biggest issue with a daytime experience in this space is that it's really far from most of the retail experiences open during daytime hours. The NBA Experience/Disney Quest space just doesn't get the same foot traffic as the East side of the complex, so guests just wandering and looking for something to do on their first/last day (or just an off day away from the parks) would rarely find themselves near this space.

I think what would work best in this space would be a rotational entertainment space - arcade/laser tag/indoor mini golf by day, converting to a more adult experience with a bar/club atmosphere by night. I don't think an additional performance space really makes sense until Disney can reestablish Cirque, because the last thing they would want to do is to undermine the brand new show and the financially vulnerable Cirque under bankruptcy protections. Plus, I feel that the parks contain enough Broadway-caliber entertainment that offering a separately ticketed performance space would be at odds to those in-park options like Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo, Beauty and the Beast, etc...

I think an escape room concept might work, but would require a LOT of investment from Disney to be truly successful. Even though escape rooms are really popular, they're not blockbusters in terms of financial performance and necessitate a lot of initial start up costs. Given the size of the space here, Disney could offer numerous different escape room experiences with variable difficulty and they could leverage owned IP (maybe even Marvel properties) to bump up the appeal and allow them to charge premium prices. The typical escape room experience would mesh well with an average guest visit to Disney Springs (1-3 hours maybe longer if having a sit-down meal), but the capacity issues would limit the financial viability.

This space has a lot of potential, but ultimately Disney has to be willing to put in the investment into an experience that can draw guests from the more popular East side during the day while still complimenting the evening entertainment options on the West side. Add to it the shear size of this space and Disney's recent trend of wanting to quickly recoup initial investments by overpricing new experiences, and I think Disney will have a hard time finding something to work in this space that has lasting appeal.

August 18, 2021 at 11:25 AM

I miss Quest. Spent a lot of rainy days at Disney there with my kids when they were young. Maybe indoor go carts. The Andretti place by the convention center seems to do well. Having a place to spend part of the day when you get rain would be nice.

August 18, 2021 at 12:02 PM

Did somebody above mention a museum at all? Maybe a mini-Disney smithsonian?

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