An official city sponsorship could mark the beginning of a new era for esports, and more cities will likely follow D.C.'s example in the months and years ahead.
United States capital Washington D.C. has extended official sponsorship to NRG Esports as part of an initiative to make the district a hub for professional competitive gaming.
City officials also revealed plans to build a 4,200-seat arena that will host prominent esports competitions alongside concerts, boxing events, and matches from resident sports teams like the Washington Mystics.
The city’s official sponsorship of NRG Esports marks the first step toward making Washington D.C. a “capital of esports,” municipal convention and sports authority Events D.C. stated in an interview with Mashable this week.
“We have a bunch of universities here in Washington,” Events D.C. Chairman Max Brown said. “There are lots of younger kids who are here and are coming here every year through our universities so we think it makes a lot of sense for us as a city to plant a flag [for esports], and ultimately be the capital of esports like we’re the capital of the United States.”
Brown notes that the district’s $65 million sports arena will be “fully tailored and wired for esports” when construction is complete. Gamers eager to visit Washington D.C. in order to cheer on their favorite Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players should put their travel plans on hold, however, as the stadium will not open until “late 2018 (or) early 2019,” according to Brown.
Once the stadium opens, Washington D.C. residents can expect to see major competitions featuring NRG Esports professional teams and players. Currently, the organization sponsors top-tier players in games like Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and Rocket League.
NRG Esports co-founder Andy Miller believes that Washington D.C.’s sponsorship will lead to a boom in tourism, as esports fanatics frequently travel to cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta in order to catch competition finals and other major events.
“These events sell out in two seconds, you need to travel, you need to spend good money and they’re big and they’re fun and they’re super cool but it’s not like, ‘I want to go watch my team play this weekend, head down and check them out at the local arena,'” Miller said. “That just doesn’t happen in esports, and that’s something that’s missing when you want to have a real connection with an organization and with players.”