Bil­lion-dol­lar baby

A per­ma­nent es­ports venue in the heart of Las Ve­gas? Some­one’s onto a win­ner


A per­ma­nent es­ports venue in Las Ve­gas? Some­one’s onto a win­ner

Las Ve­gas might be fa­mous for its ‘gam­ing’, but there the term has a very dif­fer­ent mean­ing. Its con­nec­tion to videogames has so far been lim­ited to the Evo­lu­tion Cham­pi­onship Se­ries, an an­nual fight­ing-game event, and the oc­ca­sional Halo tour­na­ment. That, though, is about to change: a per­ma­nent es­ports venue, owned by Mil­len­nial Es­ports, is soon to throw open its doors.

Hav­ing re­cently formed through the merger of dig­i­tal es­ports com­pany Pro Gam­ing League and fi­nan­cial firm Strat­ton Corp, Mil­len­nial Es­ports had its choices when it came to se­lect­ing a lo­ca­tion for its first venue. But, as CEO Alex Igel­man tells us, “Las Ve­gas was a no-brainer. Ve­gas is the en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal of the world and es­ports is the en­ter­tain­ment of the 21st cen­tury.” Igel­man hopes that Mil­len­nial Es­ports’ new venue will make it the first com­pany to bring es­ports and Ve­gas to­gether in a mean­ing­ful way.

Pick­ing a lo­ca­tion within Ve­gas, you’d have thought the Strip would be the first place on the list. Home to mam­moth casino re­sorts such as the Bel­la­gio, the Mi­rage and Cae­sar’s Palace, it’s 4.2 miles of neon-stud­ded razzmatazz. NASA has de­clared it the bright­est place on Earth. Surely it’s the dream lo­ca­tion? But Igel­man says, “The Strip was never a con­sid­er­a­tion for us, as we wanted to launch where the ac­tion was.” That ‘ac­tion’ is now down­town.

Once con­sid­ered a no-go area, down­town Ve­gas has evolved through more than 20 years of in­vest­ment and ren­o­va­tion. So much so that it’s now Ve­gas’s trendi­est des­ti­na­tion, thanks largely to Fre­mont Street, the ‘sec­ond Strip’. A buzzing hub of en­ter­tain­ment, Fre­mont Street is vis­ited by 15 mil­lion tourists each year who take in its ho­tels, casi­nos and clubs, and shop in its 50,000-square-foot mall, Neo­nop­o­lis.

It’s inside Neo­nop­o­lis that Mil­len­nial Es­ports’ new venue is un­der con­struc­tion, and it’s hard to imag­ine a bet­ter lo­ca­tion. “Neo­nop­o­lis is a great venue and is smack dab in the mid­dle of down­town,” Igel­man says. “It truly is a hid­den gem.” Oc­cu­py­ing 15,000ft on the third floor, in a space that was pre­vi­ously a cin­ema, the venue will be cut in half to cre­ate two dis­tinct, but con­nected, spa­ces. “The first is an area to fa­cil­i­tate large LAN tour­na­ment play and view­ing par­ties and it will house our in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences,” Igel­man says. “The sec­ond is the arena, where the arena-play and event fi­nals will take place.”

“Ve­gas is the en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal of the world and es­ports is the en­ter­tain­ment of the 21st cen­tury”

Inside, you’ll find the con­ven­tional seats and stage of any other venue, but there’ll also be top-of-the-line broad­cast and pro­duc­tion equip­ment. That’s be­cause it’s in­tended to be not just an arena, but a stu­dio too. “It will op­er­ate as an es­ports hub and in­ter­ac­tive venue with the abil­ity to host and broad­cast videogame tour­na­ment cam­paigns hosted by Mil­len­nial Es­ports, game pub­lish­ers and part­ners,” com­pany pres­i­dent Chad Lars­son tells us.

The venue is al­ready set to host the North Amer­i­can fi­nals of the Halo Cham­pi­onship Se­ries Open Cir­cuit when it opens in Novem­ber. There­after, Lars­son is bullish about growth and hopes to work with a va­ri­ety of de­vel­op­ers and pub­lish­ers from across the com­pet­i­tiveg­am­ing spec­trum. “We’re game-ag­nos­tic and plan to col­lab­o­rate with as many pub­lish­ers as pos­si­ble,” he says. “Ex­po­sure from tour­na­ment broad­casts and in-per­son spec­ta­tors will drive growth and to­tal reach for the com­pany.” This in turn, he hopes, will pro­vide in­cen­tive for part­ners and gam­ing en­thu­si­asts to both visit the venue and work with Mil­len­nial Es­ports.

Echoes of the com­pany’s de­vel­op­ments in Ve­gas can be seen across the globe. With rev­enue from es­ports es­ti­mated to grow to $1.1 bil­lion by 2019, events and tour­na­ments are on the rise the world over as com­pa­nies vie for a slice of the ac­tion. But to date, most events have taken place in venues de­signed for other sports: Toronto’s Air Canada Cen­tre, for in­stance, tra­di­tion­ally home to ice hockey and bas­ket­ball, hosted more than 15,000 fans for the

League Of Leg­ends North Amer­ica fi­nals in Au­gust. Es­ports, how­ever, of­fers unique chal­lenges and is both re­quir­ing and de­serv­ing of ded­i­cated venues. That, in a nutshell, is what Mil­len­nial Es­ports is all about: pro­vid­ing a ded­i­cated space to cater for all of es­ports’ needs.

Igel­man es­ti­mates that sim­i­lar venues will be­come com­mon­place: “As es­ports moves more into the main­stream, it only makes sense that venues are built that can ac­com­mo­date am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional com­pet­i­tive game­play and act as a meet­ing spot for like-minded peo­ple.”

Ve­gas is the log­i­cal place to start. If Mil­len­nial’s plan comes off, this could be a land­mark mo­ment in the de­vel­op­ment of es­ports, the mo­ment where com­pet­i­tive games stepped out of bor­rowed sta­dia and into a neon­flecked home of its own. Un­com­monly for Las Ve­gas, it seems like a safe bet.

FROM TOP Mil­len­nial Es­ports CEO Alex Igel­man and com­pany pres­i­dent Chad Lars­son

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