Philly gamers, rejoice: The first ground-up, purpose-built esports arena in the country will see the light of day in South Philly come 2021.
Fusion Arena, future home to Philly’s official Overwatch team, is a $50 million project from Comcast Spectacor and real estate firm The Cordish Companies. Upon completion in 2021, the hub will be a 3,500-seat arena dedicated to esports and entertainment, located near Xfinity Live! in the Philadelphia Sports Complex.
“We’re thrilled to introduce a venue like no other as we move forward with the next phase of development within the Philadelphia Sports Complex,” said Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott. “Fusion Arena gives esports fans a best-in-class venue to call home and be proud of. Beyond competitive gaming, it’s a stunning facility that will host a wide array of events.”
The gaming hive will feature 60,000 square feet of new construction, a 6,000-square-foot public entry section and 2,000 square feet of “interactive media surface” hovering above visitor’s heads. Another 10,000 square feet of space inside the arena will be dedicated to a training facility, broadcast studio and team offices.
The flashy esports hub is designed by Populous, a global architecture firm headquartered in Kansas City, Kan., responsible for over 1,300 stadiums in 34 countries around the world: Think the gasp-worthy ANZ Stadium in Sydney or the Tottenham Hotspur in London.
Inside the projected hub, the Philadelphia Fusion will finally be able to play its Overwatch matches with home field advantage. Since it launched last year, the Fusion — as well as the other 19 teams in the league — have been playing most matches in Burbank, Calif.-based Blizzard Arena.
Here’s a look at what the hub will look like:
Upon completion, the South Philly hub will have the distinction of being the first in the country — in the Western Hemisphere, Comcast Spectacor says — to be built from the ground up specifically as an esports hub. But bear in mind, there are already other esports hubs in the country — the smaller Blizzard Arena, for example, which seats around 450 in Burbank, Calif. However, the Blizzard Arena wasn’t built for this purpose: It was originally a TV studio, home of The Tonight Show.
In Santa Ana, Calif., a membership-based hub called eSports Arena, founded in 2015, seats around 1,400. There, founders leased and retooled an existing building to set up what seems to be the first esports venue of its class. And in Arlington, Texas, a 100,000-square-foot gaming hub will open in the fall, but it will be a retrofit of the existing Arlington Convention Center.
Until grand opening, the Philadelphia Fusion will have to find a local home for its 2020 season matches, as the Overwatch League will take the gaming action back to each team’s hometown. Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Fusion, said the team is in the final stages of securing Philly-area venues for the upcoming season, including a few that will take place in Atlantic City, N.J.