I was fortunate enough to have one of my greatest friends come see me during Marathon Weekend. So, to make sure my BF got a prime viewing location at the finish line, I purchased the Gold ChEAR Squad package. It was $85 but it included reserved seating at the finish line. Since we had a little experience from the prior year, we knew that if we didn’t have ChEAR Squad, there was no way to see me crossing the finish line. Therefore, the expense was completely worth it.
I picked up our ChEAR Squad package at the Health and Fitness Expo. The package included a cotton, ChEAR Squad t-shirt, some clappers, and a waterproof stadium blanket. Additionally, it included reserved seating in the grandstands at the finish line as well as some reserved viewing locations in Magic Kingdom during the half and the full (we purchased the package that was for Goofy/Dopey; packages were also available for the half only and the full only). There was also complimentary beverages in the reserved seating area (sodas, water, coffee, etc.). The WDW Program 2014 detailed the locations of preferred viewing locations on the course.
The ChEAR Squad participant is given an armband to wear that identifies them so they can get in the appropriate reserved areas. The Gold package armbands were…gold.
My cheer-tator didn’t get to make it on half marathon day so we didn’t get the full experience of the Goofy/Dopey gold package. And, since I didn’t personally experience the ChEAR Squad package, I’m giving you the opinion of my cheer-tator.
I arrived on marathon day well after the start of the race (sorry, I just couldn’t get up that early). I parked in EPCOT (I had a parking pass from the hotel). The area was pretty well marked so I could find where I needed to go. Also, I had been here last year (without ChEAR Squad) so I knew the general direction I needed to head. I found my way to the grandstands; surprisingly rather empty; and found a good spot. B and I had been texting so I would know about the time she would be heading towards the finish line.
I had a good bit of time to wait but there was a lot going on with runners crossing the finish line. The announcers were calling names and welcoming runners to the finish line and there was a lot of cheering all around. I walked back down to get something to drink (since it was included in the $85 we spent I figured I should take advantage of it) and then quickly got back to my spot.
The grandstands for ChEAR Squad are positioned just before the finish line. This is perfect for actually watching your runner cross the finish line. You can watch your athlete run the last 50-yards or so leading to the finish line and then cross the finish line. After the runner crosses the finish line, there is a lengthy (so I’m told) runner’s chute where they get water, ice, medals, and all sorts of things before they can meet their family and friends in the reunion area. If you’re sitting in the general grandstand seating, you get the view of the “backside” of the finish line. You get to see runner’s after they cross and are walking through the first part of the runner’s chute. And, in this area, the finish line banner actually blocks most of your view of the runners approaching the finish line so you can’t really see any runners until after they’ve actually crossed. This sucks as a spectator.
I’m glad we dropped the money on the gold package. I think it was expensive (mostly because we didn’t use it both days and I wasn’t early enough to make it to viewing in the Magic Kingdom). The stadium blanket was really nice. This is something we can actually keep and use for a long time. It is very soft and warm on the blanket side and the waterproof side is good material. I didn’t need it for this event as it didn’t rain and the weather was cool but comfortable but it will certainly come in handy at some point, I’m sure. The clappers weren’t my thing but they were cute. I think even the silver package got them because there were a lot of people with them and I think they’re a little annoying. The t-shirt was pretty plain and not something I would or will wear. In fact, it is very likely to become a yard work t-shirt. The reserved seating was GREAT. I had plenty of space as it never got crowded and I had a great view; and got some video; of my runner approaching and crossing the finish line. The complimentary drinks were nice too. I had a couple of waters and grabbed a couple of drinks when I left to meet B in the family reunion area also. She really appreciated the Coke I brought her.
We would definitely buy the ChEAR Squad gold package again but we would plan a little better. Since we only used the package for the full, we didn’t get the full value. That said, it was worth the expense for the great view of the finish line.