With the NBA Experience long closed at this point, what could be next for the space? Given Disney’s immersive storytelling experience, escape rooms seem like the way to go! Here’s why the former NBA Experience space could be Orlando’s next great escape room.
Disney Springs, formally known as Downtown Disney, is the home of many immersive attractions and experiences for park-goers and locals alike. From 1998-2017 Disney Quest was one of these experiences. Disney Quest opened in Orlando in 1998, with a sister location in Chicago opening a year later. It was developed by the short-lived Disney Regional Entertainment division that Imagineered the arcade-based Disney Quest alongside the Chuck-E-Cheese-inspired Club Disney.
The large building was the home of a large interactive arcade with multiple floors containing virtual reality experiences, traditional arcade games, and Disney Dining. Fans entering the windowless building would be instantly immersed, with a beautiful entrance hall surrounded by busts of famous Disney icons. They would then make there way to an elevator where the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin would appear to transport guests above to Disney Quest, opening up to the large multi-level attraction. It was a perfect attraction for expansion, with theming worthy of Disney Parks, attractions that could be cloned for other locations, and enough variety in games for Disney fans of all ages.
The rapid evolution of gaming technology as well as neglect to update attractions by the Disney Company lead to the Chicago location closing shortly after its opening in 2001. Soon after that Disney Regional Entertainment was dissolved, upon the closure of many ESPN Zone locations. The Orlando Disney Quest was left open until 2017 when the building lay vacant for 2 years. And in 2019, The NBA Experience opened in its place. This was an interesting choice, as the ESPN Club on Disney’s Boardwalk in Orlando as well as the ESPN World of Sports (hosts of the Disney Channel Games), remained open. It seemed to be a very grandiose rehash of what Disney park-goers were already able to experience, and that catered specifically to one sport rather than several. And it was an unsuccessful venture, closing permanently in 2021.
The tragic fate of the promising Disney Quest, as well as its lackluster replacement, left a vacancy in the hearts of Disney fans and a literal vacancy in the building that once held them.
Escape Rooms are popular attractions that have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. Escape rooms offer a fun escape game group activity for friends, exciting date night for couples, small adventure for families, or team-building exercise for coworkers. In 2022, it was announced that rumors had arisen of Universal Studios developing interactive Escape Rooms based on the hit Jurassic Park and Back to the Future film franchises. These escape rooms would be located at the Disney Springs equivalent, CityWalk in Orlando. This led to Disney fans wishing there could be official Disney Escape Rooms using some of Disney’s many film franchises as themes.
For those who do not have any escape room locations near them, or whose local escape rooms have a basic setup, the idea of highly immersive escape rooms may be a foreign concept. Many escape rooms consist of a single room with simple puzzles and some set dressing. However, there are many escape rooms in which experiences include interactive screens among extremely convincing sets, real actors in costume or impressive animatronics, and multi-chambered escape rooms with puzzles opening up hidden doors and secret passages.
The former home of Disney Quest is certainly large enough for an advanced escape room like this. Around the world, there are many escape rooms that unofficially pay homage to Disney films, based on the public domain titles which the films adapted. So the question remains, what would the best escape rooms for Disney to officially develop with their vast catalog?
Indiana Jones Adventure: The Temple of the Forbidden Eye is a popular attraction in Disneyland that takes guests on an adventure as the famous archaeological professor in a thrilling ride through a temple of dangers. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios is a show that allows guests to sit and view the magic of movie-making with actors demonstrating the stunts among set pieces from Raiders of the Lost Ark. But what if Disney World had an attraction that enabled guests to step inside of an ancient temple, solving puzzles and avoiding traps, in order to discover sacred treasures?
An escape room based on the existing Indiana Jones films, or perhaps an imagined entirely original adventure would make for a very exciting experience. This escape room could combine elements of an obstacle course as well as an escape room, allowing adventurers to attempt a dangerous feat above rivers of simulated lava, or swing across the illusion of a chasm on jungle vines. The possibility is truly limitless.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean opened in Disneyland in 1967, and was expanded on opening day in Disney World in 1971. They have been beloved attractions since their beginning, with refurbishments happening continuously to maintain the ride’s showpieces and effects. The release of The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, began a film franchise in 2003 that would span more than a decade. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure is an attraction that opened in 2016, before the release of the final Pirates film, in Shanghai Disneyland in China. The ride was very distinctive from its predecessors, incorporating characters from the film franchise in screen effects as well as animotronics.
The undersea adventure of Battle for the Sunken Treasure offers the perfect format for an escape room, putting fans on a sunken pirate ship, and attempting to escape the claws of Davy Jones. With the ultimate goal being to find the treasure and assist Jack Sparrow himself, guests could solve riddles, make deals for their soul, and even set of cannons all under the sea. Imagine being able to walk among the wreckage of ships that have succumbed to the kraken, or experience the harrowing song of Jones’ organ up close and personal, and run away with bags of gold and jewels before you are doomed to the depths.
The Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion opened in Disneyland in 1969 and opened with the park in ‘s in 1971. Since then it has undergone many changes throughout the years, with featured characters and effects changing with refurbishments. A horror comedy film based on the ride starring Mulan‘s Eddie Murphy was made in 2003, Muppets Haunted Mansion was released exclusively to Disney+ in 2021, and a new and more serious retelling will come in 2023. It has always been a beloved Disney attraction for its gothic atmosphere, happy haunts, and many iconic scenes.
Many fans would consider it a dream come true to be able to walk in famous rooms of The Haunted Mansion. From the sinking entrance hall, to Madame Leota’s fortune-telling room, to the attic of the famous bride. The goal of this escape room would be to obtain an official “Death Certificate” a feature of the ride which used to be a fan secret that had to be disbanded upon the advent of the internet. Rather than escape the haunted mansion, after facing man ghosts guests would be able to become an official happy haunt them-self.
These were just my top picks for official Disney escape rooms that could find a home at the former NBA Experience. Which of these escape rooms would you most like to experience? Is there a film franchise that you would want to see represented here? Let us know.