Alongside the announcement of Toronto’s new downtown esports arena due in 2025, many esports organizations are preparing for the return of live audiences in the years to come. Cities like Philadelphia have also announced their stadiums to house Overwatch League team’s alongside their traditional sports complexes. A city that has quickly jumped the gun, however, and will have a full-fledged esports stadium in 2021 is Hangzhou.
Esports in Hangzhou
This week, the city announced that their soon-to-be-finished esports stadium, Xiacheng District Esports Stadium, will be a host stadium of the 19th Asian Games. The stadium is an 80,000 square meter facility surrounded by an ecological park. The arena in itself can seat just over 4,000 attendees. The stadium is reported to be about sixty percent done, according to The Esports Observer. The building is slated to be finished by October 31, 2021. With this, Hangzhou will have an entire year to season the state-of-the-art facility for the 2022 Asian Games.
How The Spark May Fit In
A part of this seasoning process may involve the Hangzhou Spark. While Bilibili is not inherently connected to this new stadium, this new esports-specific stadium does hold a lot of merit for the future of the OWL’s goals. When the Overwatch League announced league-wide Homestand events for the 2020 season, the Spark chose to hold their Homestands at the Hangzhou Grand Theatre and the Wuzhen Grand Theatre. Both of these venues hold a capacity of about 1,600 to 1,200 respectively. Now with the Xiacheng District Esports Stadium, Hangzhou could host a similar amount of fans as other under-construction OWL arenas. The Fusion Arena will hold up to 3,500 in Philadelphia, according to NBC Sports, while the Defiant’s facility will have about 7,000 seats. The Xiacheng District Esports Stadium fits the bill perfectly for the 2022 home of the Hangzhou Spark.
In terms of the 2022 Asian Games, the Olympic Council of Asia approved esports as an official medal event on December 16, 2020. This sporting event will include six different games. During the evaluation period of esports for the Asian Games in 2018, the organizers used games like League of Legends, StarCraft II and Pro Evolution Soccer. Perhaps Overwatch will be considered for 2022 as the Spark are ever-present in the city.
Why Arenas Are Worth Investing In For The OWL
Other esports leagues like the LCS and LEC hold in-house games at a single location. The OWL, however, strives for city-based locations. Since the announcement of league-wide Homestand events, teams have had communication with smaller facilities like theatres and concert venues. But now venues like the Fusion Arena and Xiacheng District Esports Stadium change the status quo. Rather than finding places that may host them for a single weekend, teams are investing in landing spots first-hand. These investments also show that organizations are steadily finding support from city officials to be literally included in a city’s architectural space.
It would be a massive boon to the integrity of the OWL if the Spark can secure Xiacheng as their new home. The Overwatch League has consistently pushed the idea of the first international-wide, city-based sports league since its inception. The announcements of specific cities committing to that cause are positive reinforcement for league officials. From this point, it may all just be a domino effect as more OWL cities may invest in esport stadiums.
Featured Image Courtesy of The Esports Observer.
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