Following weeks of rumors, Disney and the NBA have confirmed they are discussing the use of Walt Disney World as an isolated site to safely resume professional basketball amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After first being reported by The Associated Press, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass released a statement confirming talks between Disney, the NBA and the league’s players.
“The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing,” Bass said. “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place.”
Soon after, Disney also confirmed the discussions in its own statement to reporters, noting that the company “has a great, long-standing relationship with the NBA.” The two collaborated on the NBA Experience, an interactive complex that replaced DisneyQuest at Disney Springs in 2019.
The NBA season has been suspended since March 11, soon after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gorbert tested positive for COVID-19 and days before stay-at-home orders began being instituted across the country in response to the pandemic.
Professional leagues have since been rumored to be discussing a variety of options to resume play. For the NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer, those have revolved around a single-site scenario where teams can live, practice and play while limiting exposures created by outside contact or constant travel between cities.
With its ample hotel accommodations and the number of venues available at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney World has been a rumored candidate for both the NBA and MLS’ plans to salvage their seasons. The resort itself remains largely closed since the pandemic shuttered it in mid-March, with the first reopenings seen earlier this week at select Disney Springs locations.
Disney also happens to own one of NBA’s primary broadcast partners in ESPN.
According to an ESPN report, the next steps may be laid out at a virtual meeting of NBA owners on May 29.
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