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ESPN Launching into New Era with Southington Welcome Center, Studio Expansion

The “Worldwide Leader in Sports” unveiled their new welcome center on ESPN Drive, the old town line road, marking its expansion into Southington with something other than a satellite for the first time.

A look at the entrance to the new studio and welcome center, complete with "Welcome Southington" signs. (Credit: Jason Vallee)
A look at the entrance to the new studio and welcome center, complete with "Welcome Southington" signs. (Credit: Jason Vallee)
In the 1970s as ESPN was looking for a place to build there small studio space and launch a network, Southington residents watched as Bristol won executives over and reaped the benefits of being home to an eventual media powerhouse.

The town no longer is considered a runner-up.

ESPN celebrated the official opening of their new Welcome Center on Wednesday, unveiling the first building entirely in Southington and providing a sneak peak of a brand new studio that will help bring the television giant into the future.

“You look at the land today and many might remember the White Birch Inn that once stood here, a watering hole for our early employees,” said Mike Soltys, vice president of corporate communications for ESPN. “Today, the company has expanded to include more 2,300 jobs and has invested hundreds of millions to developing in this community.”

And ESPN isn’t going anywhere.

Ed Durso, executive vice president of administration at ESPN, said the company is committed to remaining in Connecticut and is looking forward to future expansion further into Southington. ESPN currently has more than 1 million square feet of space, thousands of jobs and interchangeable studios that serve many purposes.

Since 1998, ESPN Plaza has reached across the Southington line, now totaling 36 acres in town. The company set it’s roots in Bristol in 1978 and hasn’t looked back since. ESPN owns more than 50 outlets including seven U.S. television networks, ESPN International, ESPN radio, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine and more.

The continued development of ESPN into Southington is a win for the town, which once was a finalist when ESPN was looking for a home. More importantly, Southington officials said, their commitment will provide major and long-lasting economic impact in the community.

“This is something that was certainly worth the wait,” said Southington Economic Development Director Louis Perillo III said. “We are thrilled ESPN is working it’s way into Southington. For as much as they provide the communities in Southington and Bristol, they do even more for the state.”

Perillo noted that ESPN’s expansion has helped spark economic activity in the area by contributing to the redevelopment of Queen Street where ShopRite Plaza is now filled, along with the development of new properties including Homewood Suites along West Street.

These contributions will only serve to add to Southington’s grand list, helping to decrease taxes and improve services in Southington, he said.

Durso said he is looking forward to what the future may hold.

“This growth and expansion is something ESPN is proud of,” said Ed Durso, executive vice president of administration at ESPN. “It will have a significant impact for Southington, with over 250 residents now employed, but our signature is not the economic impact we make. It is the amount we give back to the community.”

“Southington has played an important role in our success and we intend to continue to build, work in the community and give back to the towns that have supported our growth and success,” he said.

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