Opinion: Major Dedicated Esports Arenas Aren't Happening, Yet

by Kevin Knocke

With the recent announcements about Washington, D.C. starting to sponsor NRG Esports and plans to develop a dedicated $65 million esports arena, the arms race for dedicated esports arenas may be kicking off.

However, there actually needs to be dedicated, local events to fill them.

Alright, the title seems a bit self explanatory and simple, but bear a few things in mind:

  1. Esports is, by its very nature, incredibly decentralized. That's why, despite impending circuits like the Overwatch League, up until now esports has resisted big in person events that consistently happen in one location.

    Currently, ESL and other esports circuits typically either run a series of stadium events around the world OR events are held in a small studio in a single locations (e.g. the NA LCS). Up until now, there's not been a single esports production that could sustain consistent local attendance at a major multi-thousand seat arena.

    LCS seats a couple hundred at most, and dedicated esports arenas up until now have been around that size.
  2. As of yet, there are no locale based esports events that have traditional sports-style home and away games. Everything is done through online matches, neutral location events, or big international circuits.

    Necessarily then, an arena dedicated for esports would have to be supplemented by hosting events outside of local teams competing. Washington DC may be making a move in this direction now, but historically has not exactly been a hotbed of esports activity.

The above seems to suggest that this $65 million "esports arena" isn't really a 100% 24/7 dedicated esports space, but rather a high tech civic auditorium for the city that is also explicitly configurable for esports events.

And that's not a bad thing! Esports is in a spot that even having consideration in a high tech space for broadcasting matches is a big deal. It's just not likely that this is going to have flags of NRG Overwatch player Seagull draping the sides of the arena constantly.

Esports will eventually get there, and announcements like this are exciting, just don't count on a city breaking ground on a major public esports arena any time soon.

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