March 25, 2019

A place to play: Cordish plans $50M esports arena in Philadelphia

The Cordish Cos. and Philadelphia sports and entertainment company Comcast Spectacor are unveiling plans today for a $50 million esports arena to be constructed next to the Xfinity Live dining and entertainment complex in South Philadelphia.

The arena’s primary tenant will be the Comcast Spectacor-owned Philadelphia Fusion esports franchise, one of 20 international teams competing in the Overwatch League. 

The companies said their 3,500-seat arena, at 60,000 square feet, will be the "largest new-construction esports arena in the Western Hemisphere." 

"The Fusion will be the anchor tenant, but the arena will also be available for small concerts, corporate events, comedy shows and TED talks," said Joe Marsh, chief business officer of Spectacor Gaming and the Philadelphia Fusion. 

The Fusion — which features players from nine countries — reached last year’s Overwatch League’s Grand Finals, which was won by the London Spitfire. 

“Fusion Arena will give esports fans a best-in-class venue to call home and be proud of,” said Dave Scott, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor. Blake Cordish, principal of Baltimore's The Cordish Cos. said Fusion Arena will “set the gold standard” for competitive gaming.

Marsh said the Fusion Arena won't be ready until the 2021 Overwatch season. The team will play at a temporary location in South Philadelphia until then. The exact location will be announced at a later date.

When searching for a site for the arena, Marsh said, they looked all around Philadelphia, including sites in University City and Northern Liberties. University City was their first choice, but no land was available for new construction. "We didn't want to retrofit," he said.

That lead to discussions between Comcast-Spectacor and Cordish about making the arena part of their sports complex expansion project.

Construction of the Fusion Arena — designed by Populous, a Kansas City-based architectural firm that specializes in sports facilities — is set to begin this summer.

“Fusion Arena represents a watershed moment for the competitive gaming market,” said Populous Senior Principal Brian Mirakian. “We’re taking our 35 years of designing iconic experiences for traditional sports — settings like Yankee Stadium — and applying those same principles of design to the virtual world of gaming.”

Among its features will be the arena’s exterior described as having a “sleek and dynamic skin that draws inspiration from the hardware powering esports’ rise.” The venue will also incorporate industrial materials throughout to pay tribute to Philadelphia’s manufacturing heritage. Other highlights include a 6,000-square-foot public entry area that will include 2,000 square feet of interactive media surface hovering 30 feet above visitors. 

Marsh said other highlights include a massive LED screen wall where fans will see the action. "That will be a show-stopper," he said. The arena will also have a separate training area. "It will be a place for the players to call their own," Marsh said. "It will have a lounge area, video rooms, and streaming rooms where they can connect with their fans."

The arena will have unique seating experiences including two balcony bars, club seats with USB ports, flexible loge boxes and exclusive suites. It will also house a broadcast studio.

Marsh said Comcast Spectacor plans to seek naming rights partners for the arena and the training center.

Fusion Arena marks the second announcement regarding Comcast Spectacor and The Cordish Companies’ real estate development within the Philadelphia sports complex. In February, the partnership announced plans for Pattison Place, an $80 million office tower at the site.

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