ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The Scripps National Spelling Bee will return this year, and the final rounds will be held July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, organizers announced Monday.

What You Need To Know

  • The Scripps National Spelling Bee will return this year

  • The finals will be held July 8 at ESPN Wide World of Sports

  • Last year's competition was canceled because of the COVID pandemic

  • The number of finalists will be limited to 10-12 to ensure safety

The finals, featuring 10-12 accomplished spellers, will be broadcast live in primetime on ESPN2.

Last year’s National Spelling Bee was canceled because of safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10 to 12 finalists who will travel to the Orlando area will have earned the right to compete in the finals by advancing through three levels of competition: the preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal segments.

In past years, those three rounds were held over one week – Bee Week. This year, the preliminaries, quarterfinals and semifinals will be held virtually in the weeks leading up to the July 8 finals and will be broadcast live on ESPN platforms. The semifinals are scheduled for June 27, and dates for the earlier virtual rounds of the competition will be announced this spring.

“As the world continues to adapt to an ongoing pandemic, Scripps is committed to reimagining the beloved competition in a way that safely allows our exceptional spellers to continue this iconic tradition on the national stage,” Adam Symson, president and chief executive officer of The E.W. Scripps Company, said in a statement.

The decision to limit the in-person portion of the competition to no more than 12 spellers was try to protect the health and safety of participants, their families, and everyone involved in the event’s production as the country continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said. Disney will follow protocols based on guidance from health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for social-distancing and masking.

ESPN Wide World of Sports has experience successfully playing host to major events during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Basketball Association completed its 2019-20 season there after the pandemic temporarily halted it. Wide World of Sports also played host to a Major League Soccer tournament last year and currently is where the NBA’s G League is playing its games this season.

The Bee’s RSVBee invitational program that was available for spellers in highly competitive or unsponsored local markets during the 2018 and 2019 bees will again be on hiatus for 2021 because of the programming adaptations of this year’s event, organizers said.