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IN THE ZONE: BALTIMORE SUN EXAMINES ESPN'S RESTAURANT FORAY
Published March 9, 1998
The first ESPN Zone restaurant, which opens in Baltimore this summer, was previewed by June Arnay in the Baltimore SUN. Disney execs said they chose Baltimore as the inaugural site for their concept because it is an "enthusiastic sports town," and the fact that its location is "near two stadiums and a thriving waterfront." The restaurant will be a 35,000 square-foot complex with two levels, "built to feel like a stadium," with a 550-person capacity. Customers can dine in the bar/restaurant, watch sporting events in a special screening room, or play "actual and virtual games in a 10,000 square foot arena" (SUN, 3/8). INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO: Arnay called theme restaurants a "big investment" and wrote that an analyst who follows Disney "projects the cost" of the initial ESPN Zone at between" $10M and $15M. While an ESPN Club which opened in Orlando in '96 "was not a blockbuster success," Disney is "quick to point out" that the Orlando venue, at 13,000 square feet, was "very different in scale and clientele," and that despite its "shortcomings," it "did show that combining an ESPN brand with Disney entertainment experience could draw crowds." Disney is "banking on" the everchanging nature of the sports world to keep the Zone "unique" and will hold 20-minute briefings for staff members before each shift, "so that everyone from the sous chef to the bartender knows what's going on in the world of sports" (SUN, 3/7).