Interviews

How COVID-19 has modified esports venues

Esports venues will cont ue to be built after t pandemic, but with a new or grow g emphasis on features that improve safety and flexibility.

Over t last couple of years, Esports Insider has received and covered countless reports regard g new esports build gs and tra g centers.  Whilst t pandemic threw a monkey wrench execut g a lot of those plans this year, announcements of new venues were still com g , highlight g that firms are still terested provid g t se build gs  r future generations.

We sat down with sports design firm Henderson Eng eers and venue T Gam g Stadium (TGS) who shared what t y’ve learned from COVID-19’s setbacks and how t se lessons will make future projects even better than be re.

Henderson Eng eers: Technology f ds a way

Kansas City sports design firm Henderson Eng eers has spent half a century design g sports venues that meet specific client needs. T company transitioned smoothly to t esports realm w n it managed t construction of Esports Stadium Arl IE SF — t largest esports and gam g facility North America.

In November, Henderson partnered with National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and fellow design firm Populous to lp develop official physical build guidel es  r varsity esports spaces.

Photo credit: Esports Stadium Arl IE SF

RELATED:  IESF and DLA+ Architecture reveal Esports Venue Standardisation Guidel es

Dust Shafer, Chief Technical Officer at Henderson Eng eers, says that while t y do not have a COVID-specific standard  r esports venues, t y do lp t ir clients calculate and mitigate t risk of fection through design.

“We have a tool that we created that does all this mat matical analysis and pulls case studies that calculate how likely you are to catch an fection based on what it is, ” Shafer expla ed. “We figured out what we th k t number is  r COVID. We can run that  rward and say what t likelihood of fection is a location, based on factors like t number of people, amount of outside air, and build g type. It’s not an exact science but it gives us someth g to go off of to target strategies to reduce risk.

“One of t most effective solutions is one-direction airflow, ” Shafer added. “Air goes from below a person, t n across and up and away so it doesn’t mix. Air from t person five seats away doesn’t blow by you be re it goes back to t air handler. It’s literally impossible to retrofit, but on a new build g, it’s cost-comparative and we’re do g that new venues often.”

Exist g technology can also be repurposed to mitigate risk as well. Examples clude at mapp g and flexible layouts that allow bus esses to move outside.

“Heat mapp g throughout a facility lets you see w re crowds are so you can avoid t m, ” expla ed Kev Butler, Esports Practice Leader and Acoustical Consultant at Henderson Eng eers. “A lot of that technology has been implemented to venues already, so it’sreutilizing w re we’re us g that technology and re-utilis g it. Instead of tell g people how long t bathroom wait time is, at mapp g could be used to tell people which routes to avoid because t re is a crowd.”

Uncerta ty about t future didn’t magically end with 2020, but that doesn’t mean esports arenas should be off t table. In fact, design g a commercial space has t added benefit of plann g  r different scenarios that might not have been considered be re, organizationlevel of preparedness  r t unknown.

“If your organisation was consider g a new esports venue be re t pandemic, it’s okay to keep do g so, ” Butler added. 

“T re are options out t re that allow people to open up to some capacity or start consider g t projects that t y put on hold w n t pandemic started, ” said. “T re’s light at t end of t tunnel with vacc es com g out so it’s time to start dust g off those projects and hav g those conversations.”

TGS: From ‘oh no’ to ‘oh wow’

T Gam g Stadium is an esports venue based outside Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. Back February, TGS Esports planned to open five new locations by t end of 2020. Instead, t company was  rced to halt operations. With a week t y had moved all tournaments onl e, which turned out to be eye-open g.

“W n we saw t number of people participat g our onl e tournaments, we saw scalability, ” Spiro Khouri, CEO of TGS Esports Inc. told Esports InSnow “We can build communities without always hav g to have a physical location.”

Credit: TGS

Now, T Gam g Stadium is consider g a hybrid model that mixes onl e with physical tournaments once th gs return to ‘normal’. W n TGS Esports resumes its plans  r expansion, Khouri said would change one th g — wir g.

“W n we orig ally structured t build of our stadium, we did it so that t PCs were go g to be a certa area, and t power and ternet distribution is run t re, ” said Khouri. “[However], it limits our ability to spread th gs furt r apart. I th k t future we would probably try to have a more flexible solution that could be distributed, i.e. dropp g cables down through t ceil g or hav g boxes that can plug at various locations throughout t facility.”

T Gam g Stadium has over 7,000 sq. ft. of room, but spread g PCs out  r social distanc g would require “hundreds of feet of Et rnet cables everyw re, ” lamented.

Despite t challorganization g onl e and paus g its expansion, t future is look g bright  r T Gam g Stadium. In fact, t organisation went public August and raised $1.58 million CAD (£900,000).

RELATED:  1,500 seater esports venue proposed Bristol, England

Look g  rward, COVID fundamentally changed t way TGS operates, Khouri added.

“We went from an -person event team to all-onl e event model. For our bus ess, it has been great, as tough as that is to say due to t circumstances, ” said. “By go g onl e it has allowed us to scale and hold events  r people all over t world and tegrate new partners and partnerships. All all t current way we are runn g our bus ess, which was borne out of necessity, has led to many more opportunities.”

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