Indoor Arenas / Facilities

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New Report Provides Template for Building the Perfect Esports Arena

7 Aug, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

In the arms race to build the best inventory of sports venues, cities with purpose-built esports facilities are marketing themselves as having an edge. So it’s not surprising that someone has developed a template – or at least the prototype of one – for an esports-specific arena.

According to a new report by design and architecture firm HOK and software company SAP, esports-specific venues have unique design/build specifications. Ultimately, they need to blend online connectivity with a physical space that optimizes the viewer experience.

“Purpose-built venues have historically had a significant impact in establishing a sport in a culture and community,” said Nuno Guerreiro, architect at HOK and co-author of the report, in a release. “Because of the length of these events and technological requirements, esports have a unique audience seeking more connected, hands-on experiences. Architects and designers have an opportunity to rethink every aspect of the traditional sports and entertainment environment—from a building’s location and form down to the seat.”

While many people still consume esports online, the uptick in construction of specific arenas tells us that is changing. It also bodes well for the sports tourism industry which can avail itself of a new sector – one that presently offers an almost unlimited revenue stream.

But, caution designers, if an esports arena is going to provide a worthwhile experience, it needs to have the following features, according to the report:

  • A non-traditional seating bowl
  • An immersive environment
  • Reimagined geometries and spatial organization
    More intimacy
  • A blending of technology with the built environment
  • Hospitality-driven experiences

The report also notes, “The blending of technology with the built environment is especially important, as esports viewers tend to be younger, tech-savvy individuals who are not willing to completely forgo the digital experience esports offers to physically attend an event. Seats that have connectivity for VR headsets and the ability for a digital avatar to sit within the physical bowl of an arena are just some features the design firm is exploring.

It is predicted that over 450 million people will view an eSports event in 2019, and more are coming in – including those in institutions of higher learning. The University of Akron cut 80 longstanding degree programs– about 20 percent of its offerings – in favor of expanding esports. It is also building an arena.

The National Association of Collegiate Esportsis hosting its annual convention at Harrisburg University this week– Harrisburg is a powerhouse among esports teams. And while the NCAA has tabled the idea of trying to govern esports (it really is ill-prepared to understand the sport as a whole), programs are growing exponentially across the nation at the club level.

In addition to those cities that have added, are adding – or are considering adding – standalone esports arenas, many are taking the less expensive route to hosting by retrofitting convention center connectivity in order to host. Other unique venues include movie theaters and shopping malls. Most recently, the Fortnite World Cup Finals took place on the grounds used for the US Open tennis championships.

To download the paper free from HOK, go here.

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