The $40 million Fusion Arena, Philadelphia, US, will be one of the first purpose-built esports stadiums in the Western Hemisphere when it opens in 2021. It certainly won’t be the last.
Though there have been many locations turned into esports arenas, or where dedicated esports spaces have been added, the Fusion Arena could well be America’s first stadium to be built from the ground-up and completely designed for gaming.
In contrast to the largest esports market, the US, China already has purpose-built esports locations. China is currently the third-largest market for esports, and South Korea the second. However, China is predicted to overtake South Korea for esports popularity this year.
China’s “esports town” in Hangzhou opened in 2018 after a $2.2 billion investment. It boasts 14 different build projects including a 10,000-seat arena, an esports education academy, and an esports health center.
Brian Mirakian is senior principal at architecture firm Populous and lead designer of the Fusion Arena commissioned by owners Comcast Spectacor and Cordish Companies. As per Urban Land, He says:
“What we see in the future is these esports venues will be the center of a new style of entertainment district.”
Mirakian expects other tenants of such districts to include software laboratories and sports betting houses.
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David Malone, associate editor of Building Design and Construction magazine recently wrote:
“For a sport growing as fast as esports, retrofitting old convention centers is only viable for so long. After all, you don’t see NFL or MLB teams trying to carve out space from an old warehouse or convention center for their new stadiums.”
He expects more purpose built esports stadiums to emerge differing wildly from the construct of conventional sports venues and says:
“These arenas of the future will better integrate the experiences of tiered seating areas with the concourse spaces in order to allow fans to follow the action on the main stage while also engaging in auxiliary activities. This means a new type of seating bowl is not only beneficial, but necessary to the success of these stadiums.”
Malone adds that “stages, seating, and digital screens must all be able to seamlessly change and adapt” to different events. And, that technology integration is vital where digital experience and physical space are combined. He says esports stadium seating will have USB ports and virtual and mixed reality capabilities where digital avatars can be linked. Malone cites a report by HOK and SAP titled “Developing the Esports Arenas of the Future,” which predicts:
“The ability to recreate the arena virtually through virtual- or augmented-reality experiences will also be key, with venues creating digital replicas or ‘digital twins’ of esports arenas.”
Malone details some of the finer points of the Fusion Arena. The build will see seating for 3,500, a training facility, a broadcast studio and team offices. It will also have a 6,000 square foot public entry way, premium boxes, exclusive seats and numerous LED screens. Urban Land says the Fusion Arena’s “opera box-like” pods will be where “six to eight fans can gather around a separate computer screen to watch the action from different camera shots, tweet about it, or play their own games.”
Some esports arena development is driven by Overwatch League’s need for its teams to be based in the cities they represent rather than competing out of the Blizzard Arena. The 20 teams are now finding, or developing, their own spaces in their home cities.
Overwatch team Philadelphia Fusion is owned by Comcast Spectacor, also owners of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Hence the Fusion Arena’s development by big budget owners Comcast.
Riot Games has its own esports arena in Los Angeles. Twitch will be sponsoring a branded lounge in the Las Vegas Raiders’ new Allegiant Stadium. Allied Esports and Simon Property Group are planning to build esports arenas in malls and Allied already has the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas. There is also the Fortress Esports Arena near Orlando and the Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas.
Canada’s first purpose built esports arena, The Gaming Stadium, opened in Vancouver this year.
Not only is Philadelphia a burgeoning destination for esports, the region has seen massive expansion of its gambling and sports betting industry. In fact, Cordish Companies will be opening its first casino in Philadelphia in 2020 as well as playing its part in the Fusion Arena’s development and having future plans for the adjoining Sports Complex district. Philadelphia too is likely to be early to witness the growing convergence of the gaming and gambling industries.
Image courtesy of Philadelphia Fusion / Populous