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Volume 23 No. 28
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Construction of esports arena put on COVID halt

Fusion Arena’s groundbreaking was last September, and it was originally scheduled to open in 2021.
Photo: Comcast Spectacor/ Populous

The opening of Comcast Spectacor’s $50 million purpose-built esports arena — slated to be the first of its kind in North America — will be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The highly publicized Fusion Arena was supposed to be finished in 2021, but in a statement to Sports Business Journal, Comcast revealed that the project is now on hold, virtually ensuring that the original opening date will not be met. The venue was only in the early stages of construction — the groundbreaking was last September — so the delay could be significant.

“As we navigate through the many challenges and unknowns that the pandemic has forced upon our ambition to open Fusion Arena in 2021, we have decided to pause the project until we have more clarity. We hope to move forward in the near future,” the company said in the statement.

The venue has a planned capacity of 3,500 and will have luxury boxes.
Photo: Comcast Spectacor/ Populous

Comcast remains hopeful that the project will be resumed at some point, but the timing of that remains unclear. In addition to hosting Fusion home games, the venue is being built with an eye toward hosting all sorts of competitive gaming events amid the rise of esports.

As part of a partnership with developer Cordish Cos. and architect Populous, Comcast broke ground on Fusion Arena during the Overwatch League Grand Finals weekend in Philadelphia one year ago. The 60,000-square-foot venue is set to have a capacity of 3,500 along with things typically seen in major league arenas like luxury boxes, broadcast areas, a training center and team offices. The venue is situated at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, which houses Citizens Bank Park (home of the Phillies), Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles) and Wells Fargo Center (76ers and Flyers).

The move to pause the project also comes at a time when OWL executives and teams are having a broader brainstorm over the structure of the schedule next year. At question is how many in-person events should be held, both because of fears of any lingering effects of the pandemic in 2021, and because playing online-only matches this year has proved doable and cost-efficient.

Comcast still remains a major player in esports in any event, as its assets in the space on top of the OWL team include a stake in the pedigreed T1 League of Legends team in South Korea and its involvement with the forthcoming relaunch of the G4 TV gaming network, among other projects.

Prior to the pandemic, Comcast was seeing strong interest in naming-rights opportunities among other sponsorships associated with the arena.

The Fusion is one of the two teams from North America advancing to next month’s Grand Finals in South Korea. This is the second time in three years that the team will compete for the Grand Finals championship.