This sleek spaceship render is a planned esports arena in Toronto

Feb 17, 2021 | Commercial, Events

A 7,000-seat building for hosting concerts and Overwatch matches

If all goes according to plan, in a few years, Toronto’s esports teams will have a futuristic new home. Today, Overactive Media — the ownership group behind the Toronto Defiant of the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League’s Toronto Ultra — announced plans for a new 7,000-seat venue in the city, which is designed to host both competitive gaming matches and other events like concerts. The venue is expected to cost around $500 million to build and open in 2025.

The new arena will be located at Exhibition Place in Toronto, which is also home to BMO Field, where soccer club Toronto FC plays. It’s being designed by Populous, the prolific architecture firm behind recent projects like Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “The design of the theatre was neither conceived as a sports arena nor an opera house, rather, a new typology that straddles the two: a state-of-the-art performance venue,” Populous lead designer Jonathan Mallie said in a statement. “The theatre architecture creates a merger of the old and the new.”

The planned venue is far from the first esports arena — among other existing venues, the Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Fusion are also planning a smaller-scale home base — but it does point to an ongoing trend. Organizations and leagues are searching for new ways to make money, diversifying their efforts beyond just professional teams, typically through avenues like apparel and content.

But a venue like this represents something more ambitious. While esports teams will be the anchor, much like a traditional sports arena, the goal is to keep the building packed on a nightly basis. Overactive says it plans to host more than 200 events a year, and, aside from esports and concerts, that is expected to include “major city-wide conventions, corporate events and product launches, and awards shows.” Meanwhile, the company also says that it is “already in active discussions to attract some of the biggest esport events in the world.”