Walt Disney World Resort is uniquely situated for NBA’s bubble season

Walt Disney World Resort could end up hosting the NBA's 2020 season. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
Walt Disney World Resort could end up hosting the NBA's 2020 season. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images) /

The NBA is reportedly considering Disney World as the site for a potential bubble to finish the NBA’s season. A sign that the league is moving to return.

There is movement in the NBA again.

The league is slowly planning a course to reopen its training facilities as restrictions around the nation begin to get lifted.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the state would enter phase one of its reopening plan starting Monday, May 4. The big change here is that retail stores and restaurants can reopen at 25-percent capacity with outside seating only for restaurants.

More importantly perhaps for the Orlando Magic trying to return to its training facility is that gyms will remain closed in phase one of the state’s reopening plan. However, Governor DeSantis has already allowed WWE to continue operating as sports teams are deemed essential employees to provide “content” for those stuck at home.

Whether the Magic could return to their training facility on May 8 — each phase is likely to last about two weeks, at minimum — might depend on special dispensation from the state. Considering DeSantis’ history, that does not seem like it will be a problem.

DeSantis said the phasing will look at applying these standards county by county depending on how they are doing. South Florida’s Broward County will likely remain fully closed as they still struggle to bring the coronavirus under control.

The rate of new infections and deaths in Orlando and Orange County is declining. Governor DeSantis praised medical workers and governments in Orange, Osceola and Seminole County for their work to make sure the disease did not hit this tourism hotbed so hard.

It is very likely Orlando will begin to get back to work under these new guidelines beginning Monday. And that may include allowing the Magic back into the practice facility next Friday. Sporting events, like WWE and the upcoming exhibition golf tournament with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, can go on so long as there are no spectators.

This is obviously the first step in getting back to the league play. Things are still developing slowly and the NBA is still considering a lot of things for completing the season. Everything is still in the beginning stages.

But a new idea is under at least some consideration that could be a big boost to Orlando.

The NBA is at least considering finishing its season at Walt Disney World Resort, using the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Keith Smith of Yahoo! Sports first floated and mapped out the idea and now Shams Chrarania of The Athletic reports this is something the NBA is at least considering:

Charania further reports Disney has offered its resort complex already as a potential site for the league to restart its season.

The NBA is not close to any decision on how to restart the season, let alone where to do so. The league is evaluating all of its options.

Ther is still some debate to be had about whether the league could pull off the bubble idea — putting all players and team personnel in a testing bubble with no contact with the outside world so they can play without the risk of reinfection to finish the season.

That feels like a tall task. Between feeding the players and other personnel needed to run games for a few months, it is a big ask to quarantine everyone for long periods of time. At the moment, it does not seem like players are in favor of this idea.

Everyone has to keep an open mind though. And everything has to be on the table.

Las Vegas was initially floated as a spot for this bubble idea because of the league’s relationship with the city and hotels for the NBA Summer League. But if that is why the league wants to go to Vegas, Disney works just as effectively.

In fact, Disney works a lot better.

As Smith notes, Disney is uniquely situated to host these games and quarantine players. They have all the infrastructure and facilities to do so with the know-how of hosting major basketball tournaments and transport players to and from their hotels to the playing venues.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Not to mention the understanding of how to serve guests staying on their property. Customer service is something Disney is absolutely known for.

If you have not been to Disney in a while, Walt Disney World in Orlando is 40 square miles and a whole lot more than just the four theme parks (and two water parks and shopping and on and on and on). The property has 25 hotels on site.

That property also includes the ESPN Wide World of Sports.

The venue hosts a variety of AAU and youth sports tournaments. But it also hosts the Advocare Orlando Invitational college basketball tournament during Thanksgiving week. The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has facilities that can hold multiple courts and have multiple games going on at once. The HP Field House can also be converted for a giant court for TV purposes.

The facility has two separate arenas that can be used for basketball and multiple courts or practice courts.

There are a lot of amenities the league can use to pull this off. And no place likely has the mix of basketball-ready venues and hotel space — let alone the transportation infrastructure with Disney’s fleet of buses to get guests around the property — to cordon off the NBA from the rest of the world and complete the season.

The NBA has a longstanding relationship with Disney from its TV deal with ESPN and the NBA Experience at Disney Springs. There would be a clear business interest in working together again.

It is still uncertain when and how Disney will reopen to the public. The state and county may leave it up to them on how to reopen so long as they follow CDC guidelines. They may begin to reopen shopping districts like Disney Springs and CityWalk using the state’s recent guidelines about capacity.

They could begin a phased reopening of their parks, limiting capacity. While Disney is big enough that they could cordon off the Wide World of Sports complex and any associated hotels to finish the NBA season, the resort complex will begin letting guests — or at least Florida residents eager to return to the park — soon.

But it is not impossible to do so. The cost of renting out a hotel or several hotels could be prohibitive to the bubble idea in general. If the league cannot guarantee player health and safety, then there will not be games at all — in one location or by travel.

Disney though is a real option. And judging by the report that Disney has at least initially offered the option, it is something the NBA is seriously considering too.

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There is still a long way to go before the league can consider returning. But Disney is about as good and perfect a place to try if everyone has to be in one place.