With the 2020 season of Overwatch League running on exclusively Homestands, fans will have to say goodbye to the Blizzard Arena for now. However, many would be remiss to up and forget about it entirely. The Blizzard Arena was an amazing sight when it was introduced – something of a marvel and definitely the first of its kind. An entire stadium built specifically for a single esport and running regular season games? Many were skeptical that it would be pulled off well, but it did so in spades.
During the inaugural season, Blizzard clearly was trying to make this a unique experience but with familiar processes like traditional sports. First, the arena had the typical safety features where a metal detector would be used for each entrant, very standard for an event like this. However, once scanned, people would wait in line for hours before the doors opened. Nothing usually happened before the event, and it felt like an opportunity to engage fans before the games started was sorely missed.
Once inside, the experience was very much what a Blizzard event feels like. The first thing that someone sees is the merchandise store, where jerseys and other gear of the teams playing that day are shown.
However, during the first season, it was a bit of an odd way to order. Instead of simply grabbing something that fans wanted, they would have to instead receive a paper with all the merchandise on it, fill out what they wanted and give it to the register who would then ask someone to go retrieve the merchandise for them. It was a bit of an odd system, and when multiple people were waiting in line, it made things slow and sometimes frustrating when fans were ordering things in between games or at half time and the games had restarted by the time they got back.
In the second season, Blizzard really upped the ante. Now, waiting in line was not necessarily boring. Teams would more regularly have representatives outside of the arena with either something representing their team, like London Spitfire handing out free tea and cookies, or simply having something that had their logo on it, like the Houston Outlaws had a photo op banner with their name. Essentially, teams were engaging with fans before the games even started, getting them hyped and resulting in a better experience for the fans.
Additionally, the arena did an extremely good job in terms of adding things to make the experience special. For example, the arena added the ability to order food from the seats and simply pick it up when it was done. The food was also sourced from local restaurants that were paid well for doing work with Blizzard, resulting in growth of businesses in the local area.
The Blizzard Arena will be sorely missed, but with Homestands replacing them, the hype will not be lost. Fans will simply miss hearing the famous, “Welcome to the Blizzard Arena” from Chris Puckett and will have to look back on all the great memories that happened in the original esports arena in Burbank.
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