Sports fans react to ESPN Zone's closure

June 8, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It's a sports Mecca on one Chicago sports biggest nights.

"Go Blackhawks! Hopefully they put the win to W - so we don't have to worry about Game 7. ESPN Zone is an awesome, fun place to go to watch the game eat great food," said Tim Benham, Blackhawks fan.

"It should be packed tonight but in the future, it's gone, it's going to be kind of sad," said Derek Murray, sports fan.

The ESPN ZONE, which has been in Chicago 11 years, will close Tuesday night.

"I've watched some Bear games here, not so much the hockey games. Still, it will be truly missed," said Clarence Pride, Blackhawks fan.

It's the end of an era for sports fans and 300 employees at the Chicago spot. The Walt Disney Company, which also owns ABC7, is shutting down all of its ESPN Zone outlets except for those tied to Disney properties. ESPN Zones will also close in Las Vegas, New York, Baltimore and D.C. Two will remain open: one in Los Angeles, the other in Anaheim.

Chicago sports fans think they know why.

"It's more of a touristy place than a Chicago sports bar in my opinion," asid Benham.

"We got 23 14-year-olds with us and a big draw was coming here," said Mike VanDenEynde, Ohio tourist.

"Everybody knows about it. It's the ESPN Zone," said Chris Vargo, Detroit tourist.

But the Zone isn't alone. The Chicago Place mall on Michigan Avenue closed down in April. And experts say, overall, retail businesses and restaurants are hurting because of the economy.

"Some get through it, some don't. And we're still seeing the effect of that recession," said Peter Gill, Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

But Gill adds, that overall, business should bounce back. At Block 37, where there are still vacancies, shoppers understand the pinch.

"For me, it's convenient. As far as having the money to spend, it's a little tight right now," said Gwen Fletcher, shopper.

And tight can mean tough times, as the Zone leaves Chicago.

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