The New Field of eSports Stadiums


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Announced this week: A $50 million esports and entertainment arena will rise in the heart of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex with a projected opening date set for early 2021. Adjacent to Xfinity Live!, a dining and entertainment district, the arena, being built by Comcast Spectator and the Cordish Companies, will seat up to 3,500. 

"This is the first new-construction, purpose-built sports arena in the country," said Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. "For us as a city, it is very exciting to be at the forefront of what is happening in sports globally. This is going to be one of the finest esports venues in the world.

The city's facility aims to tap into the burgeoning market from competitive video-gaming. Global esports revenues are predicted to reach $1.1 billion this year, up 27 percent since last year, according to Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm. As a result, esports stadiums are popping up across the country, a plus for meeting professionals as these venues also can be used for meetings, conferences and special events. Esports Arena Orange County appeared in Santa Ana, Calif., in 2015 with 15,000 square feet and the ability to accommodate approximately 1,000 people. A second California location, Esports Arena Oakland, opened in 2018 and offers 16,000 square feet and seats up to 1,000.

Comcast Spectacor expects to host about 120 esports events a year in the Philadelphia's Fusion Arena, as well as TED Talks, concerts and meetings. The arena will be home to the Philadelphia Fusion, the area's professional sports-gaming team, and will feature more than 2,000 square feet of LED screens, training facilities and private rooms so players can stream video. "That size, 3,500 seats, is a great fit and will be a unique offering in the market as it relates to meetings," Needle added. 

Populous, the Kansas City, Mo.-based architecture firm, is designing the arena; the company also is the brains behind Yankee Stadium, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and the main stadium for the London Olympics. Populous also took on the job of repurposing the Arlington (Texas) Convention Center into an esports facility last year.

"Fusion Arena represents a watershed moment for the competitive gaming market," said Populous senior principal Brian Mirakian. "We're taking our 35 years of designing iconic experiences for traditional sports, settings like Yankee Stadium, and applying those same principles of design to the virtual world of gaming."

The arena will be within walking distance of the 69,176-seat Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles; the 43,000-seat Citizens Bank Park, home of the MLB's Philadelphia Phillies; and the 19,500-seat Wells Fargo Center, home of hockey's Philadelphia Flyers and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, which is in the midst of a $250 million renovation that will include new seats in the lower level, new dining areas and more than 15,000 square feet of LED video technology. 

Other video-gaming venues around the country include Esports Arena Las Vegas, which opened inside the Luxor Hotel & Casino with a modular design featuring a two-story LED video wall, telescopic seating and a world-class production facility. The multilevel, 30,000-square-foot arena can seat approximately 1,000. 

Last November, the aforementioned Esports Stadium Arlington debuted, carved out of the Arlington Convention Center after an infusion of $10 million for the work. Said to be the largest dedicated sports facility in North America, Arlington's facility can seat up to 2,500 and also offers a production studio. With more than 90,000 square feet of event space and cutting-edge custom LED setups, the stadium is still available for conventions.