Fusion Arena marks the dawn of a new sports era

Long dismissed as a "fake sport," the eSports industry will christen a new, state-of-the-art arena in 2021.

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Andrew Shinkle '22

The Fusion Arena will be constructed where Parking Lot F of the Wells Fargo Center currently lies.

If you told any person in the 80s and 90s that you wanted to watch someone play video games, they would likely want to refer you to a mental hospital.

  The late Ralph Baer, the inventor of video games, probably never thought people would want to do such a thing. But, in 2021, a groundbreaking architectural marvel will open in the heart of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex for that very purpose.

  For the past decade, the booming industry of eSports, where video games are played professionally, has experienced a torrid increase in popularity. By the end of 2019, the global revenue for eSports is expected to reach over $1 billion. It’s safe to say that the industry is here to stay, for the foreseeable future.

  When you think of Philadelphia sports, thoughts of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, 76ers, and Union likely fill your mind. Although not yet on par with those sporting juggernauts, the Philadelphia Fusion are not to be overlooked. In 2021, the team will move into a $50-million, state-of-the-art stadium designed specifically for eSports competitions, currently under the working name of Fusion Arena.

  Sophomore and Overwatch enthusiast Edmund Lu expressed his excitement for the new project.

  “I think that it’s really exciting, because we are actually able to go to an eSports arena that’s close to us, and we can feel more related to the game,” he said.

  Overwatch, Blizzard Entertainment’s 2016 first-person shooter game, has a massive following among gamers everywhere. Consequently, the game has its own professional league, the Overwatch League. Back in 2017, the Fusion were one of the league’s twelve founding members.

  Although each team plays their matches in front of a live crowd, almost all of their fans are spectators from the privacy of computer or television screens. At the 2019 Overwatch League Grand Finals, which took place on September 29th, just over 11,000 spectators gathered inside the Wells Fargo Center to witness the San Francisco Shock’s resounding victory. A much larger average of 1.12 million people viewed the event online or on television.

  This begs the question; does eSports really need its own dedicated stadiums? Sophomore Mikey Callan offered his opinion on the matter.

  “It’s similar to a football game; you can watch it at home on your TV, and you can also go to them personally at the stadium,” he said.

  With two balcony bars, seats fitted with USB ports, suites and boxes available, the Fusion Arena will surely offer experiences for eSports viewing that your phone or television cannot supply.

  As the era of online eSports marches onward, the upcoming Fusion Arena only looks to build upon the sizable success of the booming industry. Having a definitive, physical presence right in the center of Philadelphia’s finest sports teams will help foster a cultural identity for the growing popularity of the Philadelphia Fusion.

  “The new stadium is a good way to show that eSports is becoming more and more relevant to everyone in America, and all around the world,” Callan said.