The US has a lot of sports arenas, and now it's about to get its first esports arena. Comcast Spectator is building the nation's first video gaming arena in Philadelphia, Philly.com reports. The arena will be home to the Comcast-owned Philadelphia Fusion, a professional esports franchise competing in the Overwatch League, but is also planned to be a hub for other gaming events. Esports, in which players compete in video games before an audience, involves games from a range of genres including fighting, first-person shooters, and many others. The $50 million, 60,000-square-foot, 3,500-seat arena will be part of the 47-acre South Philadelphia Sports Complex, which houses Lincoln Financial Field (football stadium), Wells Fargo Center (arena used for hockey, basketball, and more), Citizens Bank Park (baseball stadium), and Xfinity Live! (retail and entertainment center).
"This will be the first ground-up [esports] facility in the Western hemisphere," Spectacor Chief Business Officer Joe Marsh says, per NBC Philadelphia. Esports are surging in popularity, and Nate Nanzer, commissioner of the Overwatch League, says this first-of-its-kind arena "is a huge step for esports. This is something we will see pop up all over the world." The league has 20 teams from around the world; its competitions can be viewed on ABC and ESPN or streamed on Twitch. Comcast Spectator plans to hold about 120 events per year in the new arena, but not just esports: TED Talks, electronic dance music shows, and K-pop concerts are other ideas. (K-pop, a South Korean genre of music, is popular with fans of the Philadelphia Fusion.) It will also house an esports training facility. Construction will start this summer, CBS Philadelphia reports; the expected opening date is early 2021. (Is this the future of gaming?)