Ken Potrock, Senior VP of Disney Sports Enterprises, and Jon Butler, Executive Director of Pop Warner Little Scholars, pose with Mickey Mouse and two Pop Warner athletes at ESPN WWOS. (Gene Duncan, photographer)
For players and families of Pop Warner football, a new 10 year deal with Disney to host the Super Bowl and other games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex is a great deal. It means potential national exposure, plus access to all the fun that ESPN WWOS and Disney World provides. For Disney vacationers, it means another 10 years of loud groups and noisy nights at the value resorts. Having to share your resort with Pop Warner football players and Cheerleaders is one of the big complaints I read on discussion boards. On the balance though, I think this is a good deal.
Under the contract extension, which runs through 2019, more than 40 hours of live game coverage and game action cut-ins will be shown on ESPN3.com. In addition, the Division I Midget national championship game will be aired on ESPN2 and other networks.
The expanded national coverage of the Pop Warner Super Bowl is the result of the ESPN rebranding of the 250-acre Disney sports complex, which included the addition of 40 high-definition video screens (three are jumbo screens), 56 high-definition cameras and a state-of-the-art HD and 3D Production Center with direct links to ESPN facilities in Bristol, Conn., New York and Los Angeles, which, collectively, gives more national exposure for the more than 350 events staged annually at the complex.
“We are thrilled to create more exposure nationally for the youth athletes who work so hard every season to reach the Pop Warner Super Bowl at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex,’’ said Ken Potrock, Senior Vice President of Disney Sports Enterprises and Downtown Disney. “Expanding the opportunities to showcase America’s youth athletes is just one of the many ways we are working with our key partners, such as Pop Warner, to help take youth sports to the next level.’’
The Pop Warner Super Bowl is part of the Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. (PWLS), the nation’s largest and oldest youth football, cheer and dance organization. The PWLS is a national non-profit organization that endorses and promotes teamwork, responsibility, leadership and scholastic achievement among young boys and girls ages 5 to 16.
“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with Disney for the past 14 years and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with them to make our event even better,” said Jon Butler, Executive Director, Pop Warner Little Scholars. “With the re-branding and impactful technical upgrades from ESPN, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex maintains its position as the best venue to host a youth sports event.”
Many NFL players got their starts playing Pop Warner football, including Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars), Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings) and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos). The NFL Players Association estimates that roughly 70 percent of current NFL players have played Pop Warner football.
This year’s 55th annual Pop Warner Super Bowl (Dec. 3-10), which includes the Pop Warner National Cheer and Dance Championships, will be held at Walt Disney World Resort for the 17th time, extending Disney’s decades-long association with the event. Walt Disney himself attended the 1959 Pop Warner title game when it was held in Anaheim, Calif.