Editor's Note: The closing was originally announced two weeks ago in SportsBusiness Daily. We held off on reporting on this story to show respect and not celebrate a competitor's closing, but also to seek official clarification from our friends at Disney/ESPN Wide World of Sports. Many people have emailed us asking what this means for the track and cross country events held there. Hopefully this article provides some insight on the current status. We wish the best for the 75 or so of our colleagues in journalism who are losing their jobs in this decision. We thank and congratulate them on their years of service to high school sports.
ESPN recently announced that it will be shutting down its high school business unit. The division was created by the acquisition and consolidation of two rival companies, SchoolSports (including Rise Magazine) and Student Sports (which owned DyeStat), in December 2007 and June 2008.
The group was originally launched as ESPN Rise--before being re-branded as ESPNHS in 2011--as a way for ESPN to assimilate the brands as a major hub in the high school scene. However, the market proved to be difficult for the Disney-owned media super-power. SportsBusiness Daily reported that the business was too locally-focused and ESPN has announced that it will be shutting down the ESPNHS operation in mid-September.
The properties that will be shuttered include the ESPNHS.com website and its sub-sites (including DyeStat), which will continue as a standalone website through the summer. Recruiting content will now be handled exclusively by ESPNRecruitingNation.com. In addition to this, the final editions of both ESPNHS Magazines were published in May, and the publication will no longer run.
As ESPN narrows its high school efforts, it will focus on the big three sports with television coverage of major games and recruiting news. ESPNHS also has an event management arm that hosts several high school sporting events and tournaments. Beginning in September, ESPN will no longer directly host any such events. The announcement cast some doubt on what that meant for cross country and track & field teams who attend events at the Disney/ESPN Wide World of Sports, including its two-day cross country meet and three weekends of track & field events.
Tony Morreale, Disney Sports Public Relations Manager at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, said that the “events scheduled for 2012 at ESPN Wide World of Sports will continue as planned,” which includes the Disney Half Marathon Weekend and the Walt Disney World Cross Country Classic.
As for events planned for 2013, such at Disney’s Track and Field Showcase and the Walt Disney World Invitational in March, the indication seemed to be that they would likely continue as planned; however, Morreale said they couldn’t “speculate on the future.” He concluded by saying “ESPN Wide World of Sports will be working with each of the individual event organizers to determine the future of these events in 2013 and beyond.”
Many teams in the Orlando area and out-of-state teams who make the annual pilgrimage to the House of Mouse hope the moves in Bristol won't impact the future of these successful meets. We will bring you more clarity on the situation as updates become known.
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