Home to the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys, the Lone Star State is known for its big sports stadiums and hard-core fans. However, over the last couple of years, there has been an emergence of esports organisations, tournaments and now venues making it their home.
Housed in Arlington is a newly built 100,000 sq ft esports stadium. The venue, which cost $10 million (£7.89m) to build, can accommodate up to 2,000 fans. It also includes a VIP area, training rooms, players’ lounge, and even a built-in 85 feet-long LED. To mark its opening in November 2018, the Esports Stadium hosted the FACEIT ECS Season 6 Finals which saw a $750,000 prize pool up for grabs.
We spoke to the President at Esports Stadium Arlington, Jonathon Oudthone, to hear about his involvement behind-the-scenes, the reaction from the Arlington community and plans for the stadium’s future.
Esports Insider: Can you talk us through your background in esports and what it was like being involved in the process of bringing The Esports Stadium Arlington from an idea to reality?
Jonathon Oudthone: I’ve always been a fan of esports, even before I actually knew that the term existed. In the early 2000’s I would compete online in Starcraft Broodwar while watching players like Yellow and Boxer go at it until the early hours of the morning. It wasn’t until 2009 with the release of Street Fighter IV that I discovered a real passion for the esports community. I started out as a semi-professional player and soon found myself focusing more on the event management and broadcast production side of events. After years of working in the trenches, I finally landed opportunities working on the broadcast for large fighting game events such as Evolution Championships, Combo Breaker and CEO. It was through events like these that I built connections and developed my skills and knowledge of esports.
I eventually found myself in front of the City of Arlington by connection of one of my investors and business partners, Neil Liebman. They had been tossing the idea of getting involved with esports for awhile and felt now was a perfect time. We began looking at their convention centre, which, was an underutilised space with great bones and would have been perfect for an esports facility. The first conversation happened in early January, then by July, we had finalised our budget and began construction, and by late November, we opened our doors. Needless to say, it was a fast timeline, but working with the City and Populous made it an easy process.
ESI: The Esports Stadium Arlington boasts of being the largest esports complex in North America, can you talk us through why you wanted to create such a large scale venue?
JO: The entire idea of our facility was built around alleviating many of the pain points with building out an esports event in a convention centre, sports stadium or hotel ballroom. Simply put, many venues lack the necessary infrastructure and technologies that an esports event requires to function. When designing our space, we touched base on every topic from team hospitality and broadcast production to the local gaming community and the live in-house digital experience.
Taking all of these matters into account, we ended up needing quite a bit of space. Every inch and corner was purpose-built to suit the unique needs and demands of an esports event. It also didn’t hurt to stay true to the famous state slogan of ‘’everything is big in Texas’’.
ESI With esports venues being a relatively new concept, what design and logistically decisions did you make to ensure the stadium was fit for purpose?
JO: We took a lot of things into account when designing this facility for the purpose of esports. Including LED screen size and positioning, the width of player desks, networking infrastructure, types of cameras and lenses, vantage points for audience members.
The size of player locker rooms and esports specific production suites such as an observer room were all custom-designed to adhere to esports standards. Some of these decisions were redesigned last minute to take into account changes in standards that players or organisers required with a constantly evolving landscape.
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