British Columbia

Next-level esports facility set to open in Richmond

Capitalizing on a growing base of people playing and watching competitive video games like Overwatch, Fortnite and Starcraft, the Gaming Stadium, a business catering to esports events, is taking over a former car dealership on No. 3 Road to build a showcase arena.

Gaming Stadium aims to develop pro gamers while offering community experience for players of all skill levels

A rendering of the proposed arena in Richmond, billed by the Gaming Stadium as the first dedicated esports facility in Canada made not just for competing in games, but for watching and training as well. (The Gaming Stadium)

Aspiring professional gamers in Richmond, B.C., will soon have a training facility to help take them to the next level.

Capitalizing on a growing base of people playing and watching competitive video games like Overwatch, Fortnite and Starcraft, the Gaming Stadium, a business catering to esports events, is taking over a former car dealership on No. 3 Road to build a showcase venue billed as the first of its kind in Canada.

The temporary facility, which is set to open in June, will feature seating for 110 spectators, concession stands, and a large stage and screen to watch players compete. 

"We're giving the local community the opportunity to have a place to come to play, compete, get that social aspect that you don't get when you're gaming at home, and then at the end of the day getting the opportunity to play on a big stage," said the Gaming Stadium's Spiro Khouri.

A permanent arena proposed for right next door is planning to accommodate commentators, livestreaming of competitions and up to 300 spectators.

The company is still working on permits for the permanent building, but says it plans to break ground in early 2020 and welcome gamers and spectators by early summer 2021.

The planned facility will include a training centre, where players can develop their skills. (The Gaming Stadium)

A place to level up

Esports has become a multi-million dollar business, with professional teams competing in gaming leagues for huge prize purses. 

The Gaming Stadium says it will have regular tournaments featuring prizes in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, providing a venue where aspiring professional gamers can make some extra money and a name for themselves.

"Our goal is to have the facility so people can come and play and practise more often to be able to take that next step in their career," said Khouri.

"In three to five years, we would love to have someone be on a pro team and say, you know, we started by competing at the Gaming Stadium. That would be like the dream for us."

The facility isn't exclusively for high-end players though. Khouri says they want to provide a casual, competitive environment were players of all skill levels can build their abilities, test themselves against local competition, and claim prize money or bragging rights.

Building community 

Khouri says the arena will be just as much about building community as anything else.

"We want people to be able to come in and get the experience, and meet our team, and see what we have to offer, to know that it's a safe, comfortable, warm, inviting environment."

UBC student Bobby Du, 20, is a competitive Hearthstone player who has high hopes of turning pro once he has finished university.

Du says the arena will provide an accessible venue for casual players to see if they want to pursue gaming competitively, and learn new skills. 

Just as a young basketball player learns by watching the NBA, so do gamers learn by watching top players, Du says.

Esports consultant Michael Medley, founder of the UBC Esports Association, says the stadium will bridge a gap in the esports community and provide a venue for gaming fans to congregate.

"Events are purely just an excuse to go out and see your buddy, spend time together, and, hey, if you get motivated to get chasing after your place in the tournament, that's cool, too."

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Cory Correia

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