Jun 17, 2015 - Things to Do

Koalas, helmets, and screens: A look behind the scenes at ESPN Charlotte

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Each year, thousands of hours of ESPN programming (yes, that ESPN) originates right here in Charlotte.

In Ballantyne, to be exact.

Ballantyne naysayers repent, the scale of this phenomenon is enormous and mind boggling and elevates suburban credibility. What’s more unbelievable is that if you ask the average Charlottean, they will have no idea about the magnitude of TV production that happens here.

ESPN-ers in Charlotte are the undercover operatives of sports communications.

Ted and I had the opportunity to visit where all this TV magic happens and had a hard time keeping ourselves pulled together as we chatted with highly talented people and toured shiny, impressive studios. We wanted to push all the buttons, ask all the questions, and try on all the helmets. Gracie Blackburn (Communications Manager for ESPN’s College Networks) gave us a coveted look behind the scenes and was kind enough to allow us to loiter for longer than was probably appropriate.

Quick Facts

  • ESPN started here in 1997, when they bought locally based Creative Sports and California-based Ohlmeyer Communications Company (OCC) Sports, and formed ESPN Regional Television (ERT).
  • The ESPN/SEC Network Ballantyne complex is approximately 37,000 square feet.
  • Charlotte is now the hub for ESPNU, the SEC Network, and ESPN Events, and employs approximately 200 people.
  • The scope of the ESPN talent here is vast, and includes everyone from show hosts and announcers to producers, directors, editors and management.
  • Public tours are not available, so don’t even think about it.
  • What’s up with the koala? We’ll let you know in the next ESPN article, which will feature more details about operations. For now, throw on your college t-shirt, turn on your fight song, and enjoy this photo tour.
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