Will fans of esports will soon be traveling in droves to the east coast of the United States to see their favorite teams in action? It’s possible! Earlier this week, plans for a new esports arena, touted as the largest such complex in the Western hemisphere, were unveiled by Comcast Spectator and The Cordish Companies, a real estate developer. With the experience of marketing professional sports teams and live events under its belt, Comcast Spectacor seems primed and ready to give esports this permanent and dedicated fixture. The Fusion Arena, which will be built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will serve as the primary showcase for the Philadelphia Fusion, the city’s Overwatch League. The arena’s developers note that the space will also serve as a “premiere destination for competitive gaming events,…[and] will also host a variety of live entertainment programming and experiences.” With several thousand square feet of entertainment space, including seating for 3,500 gaming spectators, the Fusion Arena represents a significant step forward for esports in the U. S. and may further cement esports’ place within mainstream culture.
When this story popped up on my local news, I have to admit that I almost choked on my raisin bran. An esports-only arena? Like, just for gaming? In Philadelphia?? Right next to all sports stadiums?! Skeptically, I immediately turned to the Internet to look up this wacky story. Lo and behold, it’s true. And I must say, the plan for the arena looks pretty inspiring. No opening date has been scheduled for the Fusion Arena, but local news outlets are reporting that Fusion fans could see their local team playing at home some time in 2020.
Even if you’re not a fan, per se, it’s exciting to consider how far esports have come in just the last decade. Did I ever think that I’d be watching various esports tournaments on my local TV channels a la ye olde Wide World of Sports? Nope! Did I ever think that I’d seen esports merchandise available in my local department store alongside jerseys from professional football and baseball teams? Nope! Did I ever imagine a time when a video game player could truly make a living off of becoming the best player around? Well, you get the idea. It’s old news at this point; esports is far from a bandwagon pursuit. Yes, it’s still young and riddled with issues, and it will likely experience the ups and downs that come with professional sports, but it’s good to see that “people with money” are willing to invest in gaming. In this case, Comcast is willing to invest in a home team, so to speak, and no doubt hopes to build off of what it is that makes gaming special. For now, I’m willing to cast aside doubt and hope that this ventures finds nothing but success.