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America's first dedicated esports arena to open this spring

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A new sports arena is poised to open in downtown Santa Ana, Orange County, Calif. this spring. The 13,500 square foot brick building, which also boasts a mezzanine area tallying 2,300 square feet, a stage measuring 1,000 square feet, and a capacity to host 1,000 people, will operate every day. 

And it will be used exclusively for esports events.

In a space previously occupied by “Ramona’s Banquet Hall” and a handful of small businesses, CEO Paul Ward and COO Tyler Endres hope to build the first of a “network” of facilities across North America “capable of producing national events on a daily basis.”

The arena, which Ward and Endres simply call the "eSports Arena," will follow in the footsteps of similar projects in South Korea, China, Ukraine, and Sweden.

Project planning began three years ago. The group first gained funding to substantively move forward in mid-2012.


Screengrab via eSports Arena/YouTube

“Our team is not independently wealthy so we had to go on the war path and sell esports to investors,” Ward told the Daily Dot. “While this process takes awhile it has served us well. Now we have big time people who believe in our business model and the industry.”

Ward declined to specify who the investors or staff behind the arena are, saying only that “selling esports to investors” was one of the project’s biggest hurdles. The other major obstacle was real estate in what they called an “all over the place” market.

The Santa Ana location, about 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles, has provoked serious skepticism from around the Internet. Will there be enough traffic to keep a business like this afloat?

“Southern California is a great place for esports with a healthy grassroots foundation,” Ward countered.”The demographics are ideal as well as the surrounding infrastructure.”

To help explain the company's vision, Ward detailed the seven-days-a-week plan they have in mind:

“On some weekends we'll be hosting larger scale esports events, on weeknights we will be hosting leagues, qualifiers, launch events, broadcasts, and various entertainment events,” Ward said.

“During weekdays and portions of weeknights we will operate as a competitive gaming center similar to a LAN center, so someone can come in and play a game or join an impromptu tournament, for example.”

San Diego and Los Angeles are accessible by public transit and multiple major airports are within driving distance.

Ward declined to specify any particular events in the planning but did say they’d be adding “feeder, amateur, and collegiate type leagues and events” for major titles with established leagues.

“For underserved communities we can really bring them to the next level of consistent highly produced events,” he said. “For the new games that are looking for traction and exposure we can offer them the most cost effective method of making their title into a bona-fide esport.”

By the end of 2014, the company is planning to have three new arenas across the continent.

Screengrab via eSports Arena/YouTube