New Downtown Chicago Esports Stadium Plans to Open by Summer 2022

Are you an esports fan? If yes, then there's good news for you! We might get to see an esports stadium in Chicago by 2022 where professional gamers will play video games, and people will watch them.

Scott Greenberg is well known for building trendy downtown hotels. Greenberg plans to create a $30 million resort named Surge near Stevenson Expressway.
The president of Lincolnshire-based architecture group ECD and Chicago-based augmented reality gaming company MassVR announced proposals on December 5th, 2020. They intend to redevelop a Near South Side property with Chicago's first dedicated stadium for hundreds of fans to watch competitive video game tournaments.

The proposed site at 2500 S. Wabash Ave., called Surge, will also have a bar and restaurant and room for up to 80 people to engage in virtual reality gaming together in a 25,000-square-foot free-roam arena.

The $30 million project is a risky wager on esports that has grown from a fringe pursuit to a mainstream, billion-dollar business of competitions that can attract thousands of in-person fans and millions online. Increasingly, sponsors and high-profile investors have invested in the market, rendering colleges and high schools more prevalent as esports scholarships.

Greenberg, whose company operates EMC2 hotels downtown and theWit, said Chicago might be a destination for big sporting activities with a proper facility that will also tie together new e-sports initiatives at different institutions.

Greenberg and MassVR CEO Chris Lai discussed proposals at a virtual town hall meeting organized by 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, who named the project "cutting edge." Greenberg and Lai intend to re-zone the land and seek approval from the City Council for a proposed development that will also involve a property in the southeast corner of Wabash Avenue and 26th Street where they would develop a small retail area and overflow space for Surge. Greenberg said he aims to gain the city’s consent by May and break ground in summer with a view to opening in 2022.

Finding a suitable location

Greenberg said he collaborated with Lai for many years to grow the gaming platform and find a fitting location for a purpose-built facility that contained both a free-roam area and a competitive esports arena. The arena contains stadium seats, a stage for professional games, huge displays for spectators to see the video game action, and—maybe most important—the opportunity to stream competitions to audiences across the globe, many of whom pay to see top matches.

The location along Interstate 55 performed well in part because of its proximity to Illinois Tech, which has a strong esports program, as well as the McCormick Place Conference Center, which could stimulate interest from convention and trade show visitors searching for nearby spaces for items like networking activities, Greenberg said. Another reason: the site is situated in a federal incentive region. This almost-three-year-old initiative encourages owners to postpone paying capital gains tax if they divert those proceeds to specified low-income regions.

According to ECD and MassVR, at least 140 colleges and 60 Illinois high schools provide e-sports services. These groups would create some room demand, as well as firms publishing video games and hosting competitive esports tournaments, Greenberg said. He added that the venue would generally be busiest Thursdays through Sundays. There would be as many as 350 visitors for concerts and as many as 800 people for around a dozen dates a year that the venue could hold competitive competitions.

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