Philly esports arena construction delayed by COVID-19

Construction of a $50 million esports arena in Philadelphia has been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 3,500-seat facility, with the working name of Fusion Arena, was expected to open next year and was commissioned by Comcast Spectacor, owner of the Philadelphia Fusion of the Overwatch League.

Sports Business Journal reported the delay on Monday.

“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 to Sports Business Journal.

It was nearly a year ago -- Sept. 25, 2019 -- that ground was broken on the project in a jubilant ceremony celebrating the esports arena, which would be the first of its kind in North America. The event took place at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, which contains the buildings that house Philadelphia’s big four sports teams: the 76ers, Eagles, Flyers and Phillies.

“Fusion Arena changes the dynamic of sports as we know it,” Mayor Jim Kenney said during the ceremony. “As esports continues to grow around the world, Philadelphia will be a hub in North America. Philadelphia is a city that’s always looking to bring people together and Fusion Arena will do just that.”

Designs call for the 60,000-square-foot arena to hold 3,500 seats and include luxury boxes, team offices, a practice area and broadcast facility. The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia hosted the Overwatch League finals in 2019.

Sports Business Journal said Comcast “remains hopeful” that the construction will continue but recognizes that Overwatch League teams are looking at various models, as online matches held during the pandemic proved to be “doable and cost-efficient” and because the threat of COVID-19 spread remains.

The Fusion are one of four teams playing in the Overwatch League grand finals in Asia, which begin Oct. 8. They will join the defending champion San Francisco Shock, Shanghai Dragons and Seoul Dynasty in competing for the $1.5 million grand prize. The runner-up gets $750,000, with $450,000 for third place and $350,000 for fourth.

--Field Level Media