We end 2018 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Arena Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #9: eSports arenas hit the marketplace.
Every conceivable event has been held at some point in an arena—even NFL championships. But 2018 saw the emergence of a unique experience in the venues world: eSports arenas hit the marketplace.
It seems a little counterintuitive that a sport largely played in the cloud would require a specialized arena, but these days eSports is more than just the gamers in action: it’s turned into a communal activity, a Twitch gathering in real life. And as eSports gamers are increasingly treated the same as “traditional” athletes, eSports has turned into big bucks, attracting investment from seemingly every part of the sports world, including NBA, MLB and Premier League owners.
Besides spaces in traditional sporting venues being turned into eSports venues, dedicated eSports arenas hit the scene in 2018. Billed as the largest dedicated eSports facility in North America, Esports Stadium Arlington is notable in several respects. It spans 100,000 square feet within the Arlington Convention Center and can be planned to accommodate a range of 250 to 2,500 spectators. The venue is near two major league sports venues, including the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park in Arlington and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
Similarly, we saw new eSports arenas open in Las Vegas, Washington, DC, Ohio State University and Full Sail University, with another planned in Houston.
What makes an eSports arena different from a general-use arena? Technology. Lots of high-speed networking and flashy high-def displays both inside and out drive the experience. Flexible spaces for the competitors: not every eSport is run in the same manner. For spectators, social spaces as well as some traditional seating areas are the norm, as well as concession points of sale aimed toward the eSports crowd (less booze, more energy drinks). Lots of dedicated spaces for production teams is needed as well. And, of course, you need dedicated high-end spaces for sponsors and VIPs.
Whether the current level of eSports arenas will serve the growing industry remains to be seen. But as a general proposition, eSports is driving a lot of investment in the tech world—and those teams must play somewhere.
Here’s our Top Ten of 2018 to date: