ESports Arena Founder Paul Ward Details North American Plans

The Orange County eSports Arena is just the beginning of the company’s plans to turn eSports into a national pastime.

The Orange County eSports Arena is just the beginning of the company’s plans to turn eSports into a national pastime.
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Esports Arena will open North America’s first dedicated eSports facility in downtown Orange County, California this spring. The 13,500 square foot facility will capitalize on the growing popularity of eSports like Riot Games’ League of Legends, Valve’s Dota 2 and Blizzard’s StarCraft II.

ESports Arena’s unique modular facility allows for small to large-scale highly produced eSports and entertainment events. The facility will also host daily video game competition, produce unique digital content, and rent space/equipment to the eSports/interactive entertainment industry at a fraction of the cost of traditional venues.

For the past three years, eSports Arena has been orchestrating a nationwide network of facilities. By the end of 2014, three additional arenas will be open. These arenas will be fusing lifestyle brands, music, and art with the eSports demographic. Paul Ward, founder and CEO of eSports Arena, explains how his company hopes to propel the world of eSports into mainstream entertainment in this exclusive interview.

How have you seen eSports grow in the US over the past few years?

The growth of online viewership and free to play games has surprised a lot of people. We’re most excited about the little known games that don’t start out with much traction, but are using eSports as a medium to grow. 

What impact has having big sponsors like Coke get involved in League of Legends played in allowing an arena like this to get funded?

People will be shocked by the level of major brands that will enter the eSports industry in 2014. Companies like Coke and Dr. Pepper have been key factors. For years people have overlooked eSports because of stigma and ignorance, but they can’t ignore the numbers any longer, and they don’t want to miss an opportunity. eSports Arena is seeing that firsthand.

Can you explain how you’ve created this arena specifically for eSports?

Our entire facility is designed to be modular, so we can easily transition from an open bracket setup to a final stage set up, for example. We can even have separate smaller events occurring simultaneously. Maximizing space is essential. Having dedicated equipment for these events solves a lot of problems and makes it accessible for the big guys as well as the little guys.

How will this arena be integrated into eSports leagues and competitions?

For current leagues and competitions, we are another venue option that will save them a lot of money and a lot of time. But what we are most excited about is facilitating and watching the growth of all the communities that can’t go to Staples Center, but still long for high production events on a regular basis. 

Traditionally we’ve seen MLG take over a huge convention center. Where do you see these arenas fitting within the current ecosystem?

We’re not squeezing in 20,000 people to eSports Arena, but we can still have large events on any title at any time. There is a disconnect between the top “eSports titles” that get the large events and everyone else. We provide a consistent and accessible platform for everyone.

What new opportunities do you see opening up with this OC arena?

We want eSports to get out of the convention centers and the awkward LAN centers. We have the opportunity and will prove to everyone that we can move eSports as a whole closer to mainstream entertainment. Like I mentioned before, 2014 will be a surprising year in terms of who you’ll see enter the eSports space. Having dedicated locations will be a major factor.  

Why did you choose the OC for the first arena?

Southern California is a great place for eSports. Apart from the fact that there is just a lot of eSports fans in the area, our downtown location is near the metro link so we can pull people in from LA and San Diego easily. We also have an airport right down the street. Our actual location is an awesome brick building built in 1922 that has just undergone complete infrastructure renovation (HVAC, power, etc.). The surrounding area has fantastic bars and restaurants, so people can actually have an overall positive experience that involves great eSports entertainment and events… every night.

Where will additional arenas be opening this year and how are you choosing these cities?

Unfortunately, we can’t say just yet. We have been working at this for a number of years and are basing our steps on data, market research, and firsthand experience. 

When will fans be able to see games in action at the arena?

We have hundreds of people already signed up to test out the Arena and work out the kinks (we’re still accepting sign-ups on our website) before we launch this spring. 

How are you integrating entertainment into these eSports events?

We have a great opportunity to incorporate music, art, and performances of any kind into eSports events. We don’t have the same time and logistical limitations as other venues. We can give the people what they want.

What role will livestreaming play in your plans?

We have a dedicated broadcast control room and studio designed specifically to stream our events. We’ll be creating highly produced content every single night.

How do you see arenas opening up opportunities for broadcast TV?

Being perfectly honest we aren’t looking toward traditional TV right now. We want to be where the eSports viewers are, and that’s on online video platforms like Twitch.

About the author

John Gaudiosi

John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site Gamerhub.tv.