Arlington, home to the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park, is now the epicenter of a different kind of sporting. Esports Stadium Arlington, the largest virtual gaming center in the United States, opens its doors on Saturday and will host its first competition over Thanksgiving weekend.
The City of Arlington put $10 million into turning half of its convention center into the state-of-the-art video game arena, which boasts an 85-foot LED screen and can hold up to 2,500 audience members. (Of course, thousands more will be streaming online.)
The 100,000-square-foot space offers daily pay-to-play PC, console, and VR gaming, as well as weekly and monthly tournaments and meet-ups. It will periodically host major competitions. Dallas-based company NGAGE Esports will book and manage events at the stadium, having signed a 10-year lease with the city.
This weekend, Esports Stadium Arlington makes its debut with the grand finals of Esports Championship Series Season Six, a global competition of the video game Counterstrike. The series’ top prize is a cool $3 million.
It may seem like a wild gamble for the city of Arlington, but the esports industry is becoming increasingly popular and lucrative. New data from Newzoo predict that revenues will hit $905 million by the end of the year, and that the industry will pass the billion-dollar mark in 2019. While much of the viewership is based in China, the popularity of esports is also growing rapidly among younger Americans, and could eventually rival that of conventional sports.
A 2018 Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell pollfound that 58 percent of 14-to-21-year-olds have watched live or recorded videos of competitive gaming. The same poll found that 38 percent of young Americans identified as fans of esports; 40 percent identified as fans of the NFL.