Arlington

Forget the Super Bowl. Arlington says this esports event could attract 250,000

With reports saying the Super Bowl isn't likely to come back to Arlington anytime soon, the city is predicting esports could draw an even bigger crowd.

As the sport grows, city officials hope larger events can be held at Globe Life Field, the Rangers new home that will open in 2020, or AT&T Stadium.

The city is negotiating to move an event that officials believe could eventually bring 250,000 to Arlington with a week-long tournament. Deputy City Manager Jim Parajon said the early rounds could be held at the new esports stadium and then the finals could be held at one or both of the stadiums.

"They want to tie in the entire Entertainment District," Parajon said.

For those are skeptical, some esports events have already been held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday night, the City Council moved a step closer to renovating the Arlington Convention Center to become the biggest esports stadium in the country.

They passed a resolution to begin negotiations for a design-build contract with Populous to remake the convention center into a hub for the rapidly-growing sport. They also agreed to increase the capital budget by $10 million for the renovations to the convention center.

The city still has to hammer out a lease with Esports Venues Llc.. The city said in March the plan was for a 10-year lease that includes a 10-year renewal option. The cost of renovating the convention center "would be repaid through annual lease payments, event revenue, stadium naming rights revenue and other opportunities associated with catering to the esports industry," the city said in a press release.

In 2016, the global esports market was valued at $493 million. By 2019, it is expected to reach $1.1 billion, according to newzoo.com.

When the stadium was first announced in March, Ken Hersh, a minority owner in the Texas Rangers and a co-owner in Team Envy, an esports franchise, said it is similar to a traditional professional sports leagues.

"I see it exactly the same," Hersh said. "It's entertainment. It's engagement. It's excitement. The players have skills. They have an affinity for their team and there's competition."

From a business standpoint, Hersh said esports is exploding.

"It's growing 15 percent a year," Hersh said. "It's global. It's not dissimilar to the Premier League soccer teams. People may be fans of Man U but they've never been to Manchester."

Under the plan, esports would attract millennials ages 18-34 to Arlington for tournaments and smaller events who may not care about going to a Dallas Cowboys or a Texas Rangers game. City leaders hope some will stick around to visit Six Flags Over Texas or some other attraction.

It does not mean the convention center will be off-limits to conventions. Mayor Jeff Williams said the technological upgrades will allow convention groups to use the facility for their own purposes and would be perfect for events like TED Talks.

But city officials said the convention center will now be focused on esports and "infill" other events when no tournaments are taking place. Some events will likely to move to the Live by Loews Hotel that opens in 2019. It will be next door to Texas Live!, the entertainment venue that opens in August.



This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.



Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna
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