The History of NBA City at Universal Orlando and the NBA Experience at Disney Springs

Amusement Park History

NBA City Restaurant Universal Citywalk Orlando Florida

For roughly twenty years, there was a significant NBA presence in theme parks throughout Orlando, giving fans of the basketball league a place to enjoy one of their passions in some of the most popular tourist destinations on earth.

This began in 1999 with the opening of the NBA City Restaurant in Universal Studios Escape, now known as Universal Orlando Resort. Located outside of the then-new Islands of Adventure theme park, this was one of the hottest spots for a restaurant located just outside of a brand new park.

While Universal was not the most popular resort throughout the 2000s, it also operated throughout the 2010s as Universal exploded in popularity with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, being able to be a part of a rising theme park resort.

But in 2015 the lease for the restaurant would not be renewed and NBA City would close to be replaced by Toothsome Chocolate Factory and Savory Feast Emporium, a custom restaurant built in the same location.

This would not be the final appearance of the NBA in Orlando theme parks.

Disney Quest Orlando Florida Chandelier

In 2017, Disney Quest, a massive indoor arcade and theme park experience located in Disney Springs in Walt Disney World would close and would be demolished.

NBA Experience Disney Springs Promotional Photo
Copyright Disney

In its place, a newly reimagined theme park style experience would open based on the NBA. The Disney Springs NBA Experience would open in August 2019 and would receive mixed to negative reviews. Many reviews negatively compared it to Disney Quest, as it charged a high admission price for relatively few games, and what games were there were not the best.

This new experience was not a large success, and it continued to operate until all of Walt Disney World closed as a result of the COVID19 pandemic in March 2020, when it would temporarily close alongside all of the resort and its staff, like many cast members, would be laid off.

It would not reopen following the closure initially due to the interactivity of the experience which was deemed unsafe during the early months of the pandemic. But as most experiences began to reopen it remained closed.

Eventually, in August of 2021, it would be announced that the experience would not reopen, although a replacement is currently unknown. 

Neither location ended up being the success the theme parks wanted, and the NBA currently does not have a presence in Disney or Universal theme parks, joining ESPN Zone as a failed sports experience in a theme park shopping district.