Considering it’s an enterprise that exists largely in a simulated environment, one might have hoped that a stadium for esports would be a little more digital. You know, like Tron. Neuromancer. That Ready Player One movie about to be released.
But while you can run and jump and fly endlessly in the competitive video games set to make esports a $1 billion industry, we remain tethered to the real world and all the fleshy limitations of the human body. The first esports stadiums of the 21st century will be built out of concrete and steel.
In this case, much of the cement’s already been poured. The city of Arlington announced today that its convention center will be transformed into what officials there are calling “the largest and most flexible esports stadium in the country.” The city, Esports Venues LLC, and the architecture firm Populous, which is behind a number of IRL sports stadiums, are putting about $10 million into the extensive renovations. The Esports Stadium Arlington, corporate-sponsored name change potentially pending, is expected to open this fall.
When finished, the renovation and expansion will result in a stadium that measures about 100,000 square feet, with a capacity for 1,000 spectators. This includes a competition space, a retail area, and a broadcast studio. Esports Venues has a 10-year lease for the venue, with a 10-year renewal option. NGAGE Esports, part of the Infinite Esports & Entertainment company backed by Texas Rangers co-owner Neil Leibman, will manage the place.
Were walking a thing that Arlington actively encouraged, the new esports stadium would be in walking distance of Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium. It’s the latest sign that Arlington is determined to become the nexus of North Texas sports, and that investors who couldn’t tell you a Mario from a Zelda sense there’s a lot of money to be made in video games. Jerry Jones bought an esports franchise last year. Dallas oilman Kenneth Hersh spent a reported $35 million on one of his own.
The growth of esports in North Texas has not been without what could politely be called growing pains. A star player for the Jack in the Box-sponsored team the Dallas Fuel, which competes in a league for the popular game Overwatch, was booted off the team earlier this week for his habit of using homophobic language while live-streaming, along with other behavior that, at best, was extremely obnoxious.
As for the stadium, if you’re wondering what it will look like, we’ve got renderings. Again, don’t think Tron. Think convention center with lots of chairs and big TV screens. Also statues of monsters.