As of now, Esports Stadium Arlington is the largest dedicated esports venue in North America. Located in Arlington, Texas, the venue weighs in at over 100,000 square feet, composed of a large-scale competition space, production studios, training areas for players, and a public gaming center. This $10 million venue can host up to 2,500 esports fans at once but can be scaled down to crowds as small as 250. I was lucky enough to get a first look early on Monday morning.
The morning began with speeches from Jeff Williams, Mayor of Arlington, and representatives from Populus Architecture and NGAGE Esports, who contributed to the development of the venue. The excitement in the air was tangible, no doubt enhanced by the free coffee graciously supplied by the venue. It was very clear that everyone involved was quite proud of what they have built.
“While my gaming days are behind me, I do remember being completely consumed by Doom when it came out,” said Mayor Williams. ” I know the gaming community across the globe is going to fall in love with this stadium and with Arlington. We’re ready for the biggest tournaments in the esports industry to call Arlington home.”
Location, location, location…
This brand new venue was given prime real estate. Esports Stadium Arlington is located just down the road from Globe Life Park, home to Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers. AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is also just a few blocks away. These two venues have hosted everything from the World Series to the Academy of Country Music Awards. With events like these under its belt, Arlington has proven it has the infrastructure necessary to support even the largest events in esports.
Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport, which is the fourth busiest airport in the world, is less than 20 minutes away from the venue. Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams claims this makes the stadium “the most accessible esports venue in the world.” However, any Dallas native will tell you that this travel time can easily double in rush hour. Regardless, it’s impossible to ignore the positive influence such a large airport has on the area. In conjunction with all the nearby hotels and restaurants, Esports Stadium Arlington should be incredibly easy for players and spectators to travel to. Personally, I foresee myself spending plenty of time here in the future.
Open to the public
With the conclusion of the speeches, we moved down the hall for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The ribbon stood no chance against the squadron of scissor-wielding public servants that descended upon it. With the textile guardian in shreds, Esports Stadium Arlington was officially open!
We stepped over the remains of the silky gatekeeper and into the “Gamer Gallery.” This area opened up into a larger room that was full of desks and weird hexagonal pods. One wall was constructed completely out of windows that drenched the space in the light of the morning sun. There were three large desks on the far ends of the room adorned with gaming PCs and a myriad of consoles. The middle of the space was occupied by the six-sided pods. Each pod contained six more PC gaming stations, covered in color-changing LEDs. Our guide told us this area would be open to public use every day starting at noon until 2 am.
The main stage
The doors to the main esports venue loomed on one end of the Gamer Gallery. After much anticipation, we were finally told that it was time to see the main stage area. The doors opened, and we excitedly filed into the massive open space. Inside we were greeted by an enormous stage, an 85-foot-long LED screen suspended just above it. The casters desk and television cameras flanked each side of the stage. A sea of folding chairs filled up the remaining space. We tasked with finding a seat for ourselves.
Shortly after we got situated, an announcer came on stage and informed us that we would be treated to some Rocket League today. Our competitors would be none other than representatives from the City of Arlington and NGAGE Esports. I walked around during the match to put the venue through its paces from different seats around the venue. The sound filled the space nicely, and the screen made the gameplay easily visible from all but the farthest seats.
The match obviously wasn’t on par with the high-skill gameplay that will be held on this stage in the future but was an entertaining taste of what’s to come. In the end, the mayor and city manager lost to the two representatives from NGAGE. This is probably a good thing, as I would have some questions if our elected officials beat executives from a gaming-based company.
With the conclusion of the exhibition Rocket League match, we were invited into the backstage area. After being led through some meandering hallways, we were led into the players’ area. One half of this area consisted of five practice rooms, each with five PC setups. The other side of the hall had two Green Rooms and a Player Lounge.
The lounge was fully decked out with a mini-arcade, a large TV, and healthy food ready to be served. There was even a massage table, staffed by an onsite massage therapist. Arlington clearly spared no expense for its players here.
After playing with the replica Gjallarhorn that laid on the couch, I briefly considered becoming a competitor just so I could hang out in this lounge. Then I remembered that I’m mediocre at best. Perhaps I can befriend someone with actual skill and have them sneak me in. Our tour concluded here. I left the venue with the thought that I’d just witnessed the beginning of something beautiful — and free massages.
Suffice to say, Esports Stadium Arlington has a bright future ahead of it.