Philadelphia Fusion to open local esports arena, CFO discusses plans

Jessica C. March 25, 2019

The Philadelphia Fusion is the first team to announce a new dedicated sports arena for its Overwatch League team.

The arena is set to be completed in January 2021, with construction starting in September of this year. Construction should end around December 2020 to prepare the facility for the fourth season of Overwatch League in February 2021.

In the meantime, the team will compete at an existing location in the Philadelphia market for the 2020 season. There is a possibility that there will be multiple arenas used over the course of the 2020 OWL season.

In an exclusive interview with WIN, Fusion CFO Joe Marsh mentioned that he and franchise owner Tucker Roberts have been working on a location for about a year.

“We took a bus tour of the city, and used watch parties to test out locations,” Marsh said.

It wasn’t until Comcast CEO Dave Scott suggested building the arena in southern Philadelphia that plans to construct the space began in earnest.

The location will be south of the Xfinity! Live bar  between the city’s three current sports venues: Lincoln Financial Field, Citizen Bank Park, and the Wells Fargo Center. Marsh and Roberts looked at a number of potential venues before settling on the final spot. Parking and ease of transportation were among the biggest issues considered at the sites they toured.

The meeting to secure possible venues for the 2020 season is being held on March 28. Fans can expect to hear about the location of those matches by the end of the summer. These venues will be smaller, holding 1,000-1,200 spectators. Because of the potential for multiple venues, it is yet to be determined whether season tickets will be made available for the team’s first season at home.

The arena itself will be a state of the art facility built with esports specifically in mind. There will be 700 floor seats right in front of the action, 2,300 general admission seats, premium seating, and club seats that include USB ports that give access to high speed internet. Marsh also mentioned that the arena’s wifi reception will be better than at other sports venues due to the nature of the broadcast requirements of the Overwatch League.

One unique section of the arena, the loge boxes, will be for 10 fans and will include a screen that allows fans to select a specific player they’d like to view, similar to the All-Access Pass on Twitch. In these booths there will also be tableside service for food and drink.

Another unique feature is the more than 2,000 feet of LED screens that will be plastered across the arena, all in high definition, so that attending fans can more easily see all of the action.

Season tickets for the 2021 season will be available for purchase and will include group ticket options. No prices for these tickets are yet determined.  Watch parties, which in the past were held at local venues, will be held locally at the arena for away games.

For the team, there will be a training area, streaming booths for players, review stations for reviewing video footage, a coaching space, and a meet and greet area. Because the team will call Philadelphia home, it’s yet to be determined whether the squad will be living together in the same house as they currently do in Los Angeles.

The new arena will also include different ways for fans to buy merchandise. What Marsh has in mind here isn’t traditional merchandise stands, but rather something more automated.

“We want to explore what kind of tech we can do there,” Marsh said.

Similarly, Fusion staff have thought about food items to be sold. Marsh stated that the team wanted to emphasize food from the area many of the Fusion players are from, Korea.

While not all residents in Philadelphia know about Overwatch League or even esports in general, the Fusion staff plan to give back to their community in the form of charity. The Fusion have participated in charity previously when they took part in a streaming event supporting the Ed Snyder Youth Hockey Foundation shortly after the conclusion of the inaugural OWL season.

With competitive gaming growing over the years and becoming more mainstream, the popularity of the league is expected to increase both broadly and locally in Philadelphia.

“Last year at Barclays you saw over 22,000 people watching in person, 99 million people watched the League of Legends World Championship last year … it isn’t going anywhere,” Marsh said.

The esports industry is projected to earn over one billion dollars over the next two years according to a report by Newzoo.

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