Soldier Field, Fenway Park, and … MLG Arena.

Major League Gaming announced today that it is opening the Arena in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a 14,000 square foot venue with bleacher seating that will host e-sports events throughout the year. MLG will christen the arena with the Call of Duty: Ghosts Pro League playoffs in October, where top teams from around the world will compete for $75,000 in prize money. MLG isn’t starting construction from scratch — it is instead taking over a building near the Easton Town Center mall to the east of the city.

Competitive gaming is huge and growing. Earlier this year, developer Valve held The International championship event for its action-strategy release Dota 2 with nearly $11 million in prize money up for grabs. More than 20 million people tuned in to watch that event. In 2013, 32 million watched the championship event for League of Legends, another action-strategy game. MLG wants to use its new Columbus arena, in addition to its popular video service, to capitalize on the growth of e-sports. The company has started generating more revenue thanks to its online livestreaming video, and that money is helping it continue to build out its physical presence.

“MLG’s mission is to promote e-sports globally through premier competition,” MLG chief executive officer Sundance DiGiovanni said in a statement. “[And it is] to deliver premium gaming content to viewers anytime, anywhere through our global streaming platform, With the MLG Columbus Arena, we now have a flagship venue built to showcase the best as we continue to expand our global footprint.”

MLG will use its new arena in conjunction with its worldwide events in cities like Dallas and Anaheim, Calif., as well as its MLG Studio in New York City. The e-sports association is also still planning a gaming-specific “stadium” (not arena) in China, which will open in 2017.

With all of this growth and the global appeal of e-sports, Columbus might not seem like the ideal spot for an e-sports arena, but MLG has a long history with the city.

“Columbus has hosted some of our most successful events to date,” MLG Properties executive vice president Adam Apicella said.

But it’s not just about the past. The demographics of Columbus fit really well with the crowd that MLG expects will continue gravitating toward e-sports over the next few decades.

“With 62 colleges in the Columbus region, hundreds of thousands of university and high school students in the 11-county area, and close proximity to our audience on the East Coast, Columbus is a great location for our MLG Arena,” said Apicella.

Ohio State alone has nearly 57,000 college-age students, which makes it the third-largest university in the nation. The campus is also the headquarters of the E-Sports Initiative, a nonprofit organization that works with e-sports companies to help science and technology students find work in related fields.

“We look forward to hosting the best players in the world and continuing to collaborate with the passionate community at Ohio State and their e-sports initiative – ESI, as well as those throughout Ohio and beyond,” said Apicella.


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