Like many other industries during the pandemic, esports has mostly become virtual. But the lack of live televised sports (until now) has given the competitive gaming industry a boost. Now, OverActive Media is building a new esports arena in Toronto.
The company is the owner of the Toronto Defiant and Toronto Ultra, local franchises in the Overwatch League and Call of Duty league. The Defiant had announced Roy Thomson Hall as its home for this season, but the season was shifted online due to the pandemic. But soon the two teams will have their own dedicated home.
The info on the new arena comes from a memo sent to the Canadian government by OverActive CEO Chris Overholt and obtained by ESPN.
In an email to NOW, Paulo Senra, OverActive’s head of communications, confirms the report is valid, but emphasizes that the new venue will not be just an esports arena. It will also be a spot for concerts and other events, with a capacity that is not currently available at other local venues.
“The plan is to build a premium 7,000-10,000 seat sports and entertainment facility – a venue capacity that is not currently available in the Toronto marketplace,” he says.
“This venue will serve as the future home of our two Toronto esports franchises. This venue will also attract premium concerts, entertainment and corporate and sporting events to the city and the province.”
The venue will be adjacent to BMO Field and Hotel X in the CNE area. According to the ESPN report, OverActive hired Bob Hunter, the former vice-president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC), to coordinate with government officials on the venue. Hunter has also helped develop other Toronto sports arenas, including Rogers Centre, Scotiabank Arena and BMO Field.
The Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues have been making investments in venues for local franchises. For Toronto, it adds a layer of institutional validity to esports that matches its growing popularity.