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Levitt’s concept was “to put an ESPN experience in Disney World”. A similar project, Sports Center USA, led by Lynda O’Dea working with ABC Sports, attempted to get started in the early 1990s with its selected first location at Baltimore’s Power Plant. ESPN Zone in Baltimore in 2007. CEO Michael Eisner then moved into additional brand extensions from biweekly sports magazine, ESPN-themed restaurants, video games to retail stores. The concept was originally called ESPN Grill when announced in October 1997, with a slate of major city locations scheduled to start with Baltimore, Maryland, in mid-1998 and Chicago in spring 1999. ESPN Grill was renamed on December 29, 1997 to ESPN Zone to connote that there was more to the venue. After the Chicago location opening, there was to be a new location every three months. ESPN Zone interior in Times Square, New York, in 2010. 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.
Now-closed ESPN Zone in downtown Washington, D. In June 2010, all but two locations were shuttered, with the remaining restaurants located in Southern California. Employees at the Baltimore ESPN Zone filed a class action lawsuit against Disney and its local subsidiary after the 2010 closing, claiming that Disney had violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988. The Los Angeles location, housed in the ESPN West Coast headquarters building, closed in July 2013. In October 2017, Disney announced plans to replace ESPN Zone and other Downtown Disney vendors at the Disneyland Resort with a resort hotel, in conjunction with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. The restaurant closed on June 2, 2018. The prototype ESPN Zone was a two-level, 35,000 square foot complex with a stadium-like design which could hold 550 customers. People could dine at the bar or restaurant area.
200 TV screens were hung from the walls and ceilings. ESPN Zone incorporated sports news into daily operations. Each shift, all staff were to receive daily sports news briefings. Placemats would be generated daily as a mini-sports page of a newspaper. The chain was to change its exclusive program, games, and memorabilia regularly. This section needs additional citations for verification. 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.
Several of the locations also had radio studios, used by the local ESPN Radio affiliate and leased to other stations on occasion. The 2009 Ultimate Couch Potato Competition at ESPN Zone Chicago. ESPN Zone hosted 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 ESPN Zone marquee is visible at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in the Las Vegas Strip in 2010. ESPN’s fun zone Entertainment: The first ESPN Zone, a venture with Disney, promises to be on the cutting edge of interactive sports entertainment”.