, Honored in Special Ceremony at AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships in Orlando
Eight-and-a-half years and more than a thousand events since Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex officially opened on March 28, 1997, the 220-acre sports complex at Walt Disney World Resort welcomed its One Millionth Athlete on Monday. Desirre Wilkerson (Louisville, Ky.), a 13-year-old girls’ volleyball player from the Kentucky Indiana Volleyball Academy (KIVA), was officially honored as the One Millionth Athlete.
Wilkerson and her teammates from the KIVA Red 13-and-Under girls’ volleyball squad participated in a morning ceremony at registration for the 32nd Annual AAU Junior Volleyball National Championships. When the team arrived at the sports complex, they were greeted by representatives of Disney Sports Attractions, including former National Football League players Reggie Williams and Kellen Winslow, the vice president and director of planning & new event development, respectively. Amateur Athletic Union President/CEO Bobby Dodd and AAU National Volleyball Chair Roger Goudy also participated, along with former U.S. Women’s Basketball Olympian and WNBA player Cynthia Cooper, who was already visiting the Disney resort and agreed to be part of the festivities.
As the One Millionth Athlete at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Wilkerson received a special globe-shaped trophy. She and her teammates also received One Millionth Athlete t-shirts and picture frames to commemorate the occasion. The nine-player girls’ squad then helped unveil a special “One Million Athletes” banner, which was raised to the rafters of the Milk House, the 5,500-seat indoor arena at the sports complex which hosts this week’s AAU Junior National Volleyball Championship (June 13-19) and many other Disney Sports events throughout the year.
“We built Disney’s Wide World of Sports with the goal of providing athletes, particularly kids, with the opportunity to chase their athletic dreams,” added Williams. “Today we recognize Desirre Wilkerson and we honor all the athletes who preceded her and the millions more who will compete in future years at our state-of-the-art athletic facilities. We also thank the Amateur Athletic Union and the many other sports organizations who have hosted events at Walt Disney World and made this One Millionth Athlete milestone a reality.”
“We are thrilled to have an AAU competitor named as the One Millionth Athlete at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex,” added Dodd, who has overseen the AAU’s longtime association with Disney Sports. “So many of our athletes have experienced these facilities since we relocated our national headquarters to Walt Disney World in 1996, and even more will have the chance to compete here this summer as we kick off the first of 20 National Championship events at the sports complex.”
Following the sports complex ceremony, Wilkerson and her teammates and coaches will serve as honorary grand marshals in the Share a Dream Come True Parade at the Magic Kingdom theme park. Riding down Main Street, U.S.A., the team will be greeted by thousands of regular park guests and even a few familiar faces, as parents, siblings and athletes from other KIVA teams participating in this week’s AAU Championships are expected to be in attendance.
On Tuesday evening Wilkerson will also have the honor of serving as the official torchbearer during the Opening Ceremonies of the AAU Junior Volleyball National Championships, which is expected to include more than 300 girls’ teams from across the country and Puerto Rico, including 15 teams from the Louisville, Ky.-based KIVA program. By week’s end, Wilkerson and her KIVA Red 13 teammates also hope to capture their fifth consecutive AAU national title.
The One Millionth Athlete milestone is a special achievement for Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Only a small percentage of today’s athletes ever have the opportunity to compete in a collegiate National Championship, Super Bowl, World Series or Olympics. Disney’s Wide World of Sports remains a world-class sports destination where all athletes, especially kids, can experience athletic opportunities that they will cherish forever. Participants will remember their sports complex experiences the rest of their lives whether they conclude their athletic careers at Disney or even if they are gifted enough to advance to the highest levels of competitive sports.
Since the sports complex opened in the spring of 1997, the 220-acre facility at Walt Disney World Resort has welcomed youth, amateurs and even professional athletes from across the country and around the world in more than 30 sports. Top athletes who have participated in Disney’s Wide World of Sports events as amateurs include: NBA stars Yao Ming and Amare Stoudamire, Major League Soccer teenage sensation Freddy Adu, WNBA standout Chamique Holdsclaw and U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team star Mia Hamm.
One of the world’s premier sports destinations, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex continues to host more than 170 events each year. Top organizations which annually host events at the sports complex include: the Amateur Athletic Union, Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pop Warner Little Scholars, the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) and Varsity Cheerleading.
Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex offers a pair of signature facilities in Cracker Jack Stadium, a two-tiered 7,500-seat retro baseball ballpark, and The Milk House, a 5,500-seat old-style indoor fieldhouse. Other sports complex venues include: the Hess Sports Fields (multi-purpose fields and diamonds), a baseball quadraplex, a track & field complex, a six-field softball complex and a 10-court tennis facility (with center court stadium).
Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex by the Numbers:
Below is a breakdown of how all-time athlete participation at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex compares with various professional sports leagues and the Olympic Games:
|Dates of Existence
|Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex
|National Football League
|Major League Baseball
|National Basketball Association