Our European Trip: ESPN, The Worldwide Leader in Hospitality

Early in the afternoon of March 18th, we pulled into ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, CT. Prior to arriving, we explored the surrounding area and… WOW; that entire town is an actual Norman Rockwell painting! Beautiful, multi-story colonial homes framed the wooded landscape and icy streams, as the close proximity of businesses and schools created a sense of community. If we are ever presented with the opportunity to move to Connecticut, we are jumping at the chance!

Once I stepped foot on the ESPN campus, I knew this wasn’t any normal television studio. At the time, I had been an Associate Producer at CNN in Atlanta since 2011, so I (thought I) was familiar with how a TV station operates; ESPN blew my expectations out of the water! Full disclosure: Due to their technological advances in the studios (such as iPads instead of paper scripts for instant script changes), pictures aren’t allowed, but I did sneak one in the SportsCenter studio!

As veteran Associate Producer Leo Fournier guided me from the studios to the control rooms, I became more and more impressed with all of the building’s technological advances. Since ESPN is part of the Disney family, the campus was designed by the Walt Disney Imagineering Team. One of the most impressive feats the Imagineering Team has developed is how the grounds are thawed after it snows.

As I mentioned in the previous post, a thick layer of ice and snow was covering the streets and sidewalks following a pop-up snow storm. However, the ESPN campus appeared virtually untouched. This was due to a heating system the engineers placed beneath the asphalt and landscaping. Whenever the area experiences a heavy snowfall, this heating system melts the ice and snow from underground, which then routes the water into their specially-located drainage system. From there, the water is filtered and used to supply water to the toilets and fire sprinklers. It was amazing!

ESPN also ensures that their parental employees can spend time with their children. Across the street from the campus, there was previously a Gold’s Gym. However, once the location went out of business, the team at ESPN bought the building, converted the interior, and made the structure a 24-hour childcare center for newborns through pre-teens. With this amenity in place, parents can visit their children during their lunch break and know that they are only a few feet away if their kids need a quick hug from mom & dad.

Now, I won’t go into all of the technological specialties this campus has, out of respect for the development of their proprietary information, but one of my favorite features of the building – which everyone can see upon entering the campus – is the SportsCenter tower. On these large towers (which had to be 20 – 30 feet tall), you see clips from every SportsCenter commercial whizzing by. However, once you touch the interactive tower, it allows you to watch any of the SportCenter commercials you want; simply choose the sport, celebrity, anchor or year and all the options come up with seconds! I have to admit, I think I spent more time here than I should have. My personal favorites are Arnold Palmer and The Swedish Chef! Remember, “We are men, wearing makeup,talking about sports. This is SportsCenter.” Rest in peace, Stuart Scott & Arnold Palmer.

There was one other feature of the campus that impressed me, but it wasn’t part of the architecture. As Leo and I toured the campus, I lost my driver’s license somewhere along the way (which wasn’t a great feeling due to the fact I was scheduled to be wheels up on my way to Europe the next day). As opposed to using my passport for everything, I decided to tell Leo, who made a quick call on the radio. Within 10 seconds, the lady at the front security desk replied “Oh yeah! We found it near the control rooms 15 minutes ago! We have it waiting here for her!” I was so impressed with not only how quickly they found my ID and got it to security, but how friendly they all were! It was definitely a wonderful lesson in great customer service.

After I retrieved my ID (and the female security guard invited Joel & I to brunch upon our return to the states), we bid farewell to the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Following a quick stop at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, we jumped back on the road with our next stop being the self-proclaimed Capital of the World, New York City!

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