NEPA Scene Staff

Philadelphia building $50 million video gaming venue, first esports arena in U.S.

Philadelphia building $50 million video gaming venue, first esports arena in U.S.
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

From a press release:

Video games just leveled up in Philly. Today, Comcast Spectacor and The Cordish Companies announced plans for a $50 million, next-generation esports and entertainment venue in the heart of the Philadelphia Sports Complex.

Adjacent to Xfinity Live!, the first-of-its-kind venue will seat up to 3,500 guests and stand as the largest new-construction, purpose-built esports arena in the Western Hemisphere. Its primary tenant, the Philadelphia Fusion esports franchise, is one of 20 international teams competing in the Overwatch League.

League commissioner Nate Nanzer said there has never been a special-purpose esports arena “built anywhere. This is a huge step for esports. This is something we will see pop up all over the world.”

The trailblazing project is a testament to the surging popularity of esports, in which highly skilled gamers compete with each other for titles or prize money before large crowds. The Overwatch League replicates the legacy professional sports model with 20 city-based franchises in China, South Korea, Canada, France, England, and the U.S., catering to local fans.

In addition to serving as a premiere destination and major East Coast hub for competitive gaming events, Fusion Arena will also host a variety of live entertainment programming and experiences.

“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 Dave Scott, chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor. “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.”

“It is a tremendous honor for The Cordish Companies to grow its partnership with Comcast Spectacor and bring a state-of-the-art, world-class esports and entertainment venue to the heart of the Philadelphia Sports Complex,” said Blake Cordish, principal of The Cordish Companies. “Fusion Arena will set the gold standard for competitive gaming and debut on one of the country’s most exciting platforms of sports and entertainment amid Philadelphia’s professional sports teams. Today’s announcement marks an exciting moment for the Comcast Spectacor-Cordish partnership as the next phase of Xfinity Live! continues to unfold.”

Designed by Populous, an architecture firm with deep experience in the fast-growing esports space, Fusion Arena will boast 60,000 square feet of new construction, featuring a stunning and futuristic design throughout.

Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Flyers, plans to break ground this summer on part of the 47-acre stadium complex site it leases in South Philadelphia. The new arena will be built next to Xfinity Live!, within walking distance of Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park, and the Wells Fargo Center.

“Fusion Arena represents a watershed moment for the competitive gaming market,” said Populous Senior Principal Brian Mirakian. “We’re taking our 35 years of designing iconic experiences for traditional sports – settings like Yankee Stadium – and applying those same principles of design to the virtual world of gaming.”

Eliciting the venue’s first wow is the arena’s exterior, a sleek and dynamic skin that draws inspiration from the hardware powering esports’ meteoric rise around the globe. The incorporation of industrial materials throughout Fusion Arena’s design pays tribute to Philadelphia’s heritage as the “workshop of the world.” A captivating 6,000-square-foot public entry will greet guests as they enter the space and includes 2,000 square feet of interactive media surface hovering 30 feet above them.

The technologically advanced arena will offer unique seating experiences, including two balcony bars, club seats with USB ports, flexible loge boxes, and exclusive suites. Additionally, nearly 10,000 square feet will be dedicated to a training facility, broadcast studio, and team offices. The training facility in particular separates the Fusion from the pack, offering unrivaled experiences and development opportunities for players.

“We are thrilled to bring this ambitious idea to life and celebrate the arrival of Fusion Arena with gaming enthusiasts throughout the region and beyond,” said Joe Marsh, chief business officer of Spectacor Gaming and the Philadelphia Fusion. “This project places esports alongside all the major traditional sports that call South Philadelphia home.”

Overwatch League competitions – with six gamers battling six others in a survival game – are viewed over the Twitch streaming service and televised on ABC and ESPN. Activision Blizzard, which owns the “Overwatch” game, says that 40 million people play globally, including 400,000 in the Philadelphia television market ranging from Delaware and the Jersey Shore to Harrisburg.

Fusion itself has almost 100,000 Twitter followers and one of its popular players, Gael Gouzerch, or @poko, boasts 40,600.

Esports no longer carries “the stigma of you in your basement,” said Phil Weinberg, general counsel at Comcast Spectacor. Tucker Roberts, the son of Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts, is president of Spectacor Gaming and the Fusion.

“The East Coast does not have a hub for gaming,” said Joe Marsh, chief business officer for Spectacor Gaming and the Fusion, adding that “on the gaming side, we think we will keep the building lit up most of the year.”

Comcast Spectacor expects to hold about 120 events a year in the new arena, with other gigs ranging from TED Talks to electronic dance music and K-pop concerts. K-pop is a music genre from South Korea that is popular with Fusion fans, Comcast Spectacor officials noted. The Fusion Arena is looking to sell naming rights to the venue.

Like other teams in the Overwatch League, the Fusion are playing this year at Johnny Carson’s former studio in Burbank, California, now called Blizzard Arena. Ticket prices for the Fusion Arena have not been determined, and about 15 percent of the Fusion Arena has been designed with premium-priced luxury seating and suites, officials said.

Next year, the Fusion team will relocate from California to Philadelphia and compete in temporary venues for a year. Those locations could be the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia and Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The Fusion Arena is expected to open in early 2021.

The Overwatch League regular season began in February and extends through August, with playoffs and championship games in September. The Fusion on Friday were in third place, with a 5-2 record.

Details for Fusion Arena arrive as the Wells Fargo Center is in the midst of “Transformation 2020,” an extensive multi-year $250 million renovation initiative. Fusion Arena adds $50 million of new development within Philadelphia’s Sports Complex, complementing a transformed Wells Fargo Center, Lincoln Financial Field, and Citizens Bank Park.

Fusion Arena is the second of several announcements surrounding Comcast Spectacor and The Cordish Companies’ real estate development within the Philadelphia Sports Complex, adjacent to Xfinity Live!. In February, the partnership announced plans for Pattison Place, an $80 million, new construction Class-A office tower.

Since opening in 2012, Xfinity Live! has been a prominent dining, entertainment, and hospitality anchor for the region, dramatically changing the fan experience for Flyers, Eagles, Phillies, and 76ers fans, as well as out-of-town guests. Welcoming millions of visitors a year, Xfinity Live! has energized the Philadelphia Sports Complex via year-round events and experiences, including concerts, festivals, family fun days, community functions, charity events, and watch parties.