A dedicated esports facility will open in downtown Santa Ana this summer in response to what organizers say it will become the “most popular sport of the 21st century.”
eSports Arena will feature around 200 video game stations for players to use in daily video game competitions, according to CEO and co-founder Paul Ward. The stations will be modular so they can be easily moved and stowed away when the auditorium seats are relocated for what will essentially be large joint viewing parties for both amateur and professional players.
“It’s kind of an interesting cultural shift that a lot of people aren’t just engaged in with a video game from a player’s perspective,” Ward said. “It’s part of a way of life. They love to watch really good people play this game.
Audiences can watch a live broadcast of a professional competition or event, or a live competition taking place on stage. Ward said he hopes they can accommodate around 1,000 participants, but that they are still going through the clearance process with the City of Santa Ana to determine their official maximum capacity.
Additionally, the eSports Arena will partner with TwitchTV, an online video platform that focuses on live streaming video game content, to stream unique digital material on the Twitch platform.
Ward, 26, is a military intelligence officer in the Army Reserves who has played video games for most of his life. He and COO and co-founder Tyler Endres were roommates during their four years at Azusa Pacific University. Together, they organized several video game tournaments on campus, played competitively and realized the esports opportunity.
Ward pointed to the huge, sometimes unnoticed, growth of the online gambling industry. Tickets for last year’s third League of Legends World Championship, held at the Staple Center, sold out in less than an hour. More than 13,000 people gathered in the center to watch two teams from Asia spend 90 minutes competing in the video game.
“Over the past few years we have seen this explosion in the number of online viewers of esports events and that has prompted us to start this business,” he said.
The founders have been working on the creation of eSports Arena for two years and hope to respond to all gaming communities. They also plan to lease their space and equipment to individuals and groups in the esports industry.
The exact launch date has not yet been determined. Membership fees haven’t been finalized either, but Ward said the monthly fee will be less than $ 15. Hourly charges will also be available.
eSports Arena will offer beta testing for players who want to try out the facilities for free. Visit esportsarena.com for more details.
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