By the end of the year, Washington, D.C. should have its first live theater dedicated to professional video games, or esports, to watch and play.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment will open a 14,000-square-foot esports facility in Gallery Place for spectators to watch, play, and practice. The new venue represents a significant investment in the billion-dollar industry — one that private and public city officials have been trying to make a reality in D.C. for years.
The space, dubbed “District E Powered by Ticketmaster” (catchy! ), will include a 150-person competition studio and a food court and will be located next to IRL sports venue Capital One Arena. The venue will also house a practice facility and streaming hubs for Wizards District Gaming, the city’s NBA 2K league team that has won back-to-back championships, and Caps Gaming, D.C.’s NHL esports team, both of which are owned by Monumental Sports.
Founded in order to “foster the amateur gaming community” in Washington, D.C. Team Liquid, an international esports organization, will have a satellite office in the esports hub.
Monumental Sports has signed a multi-year lease and invested several million dollars in the facility, according to a spokesperson. D.C. District E is far from the first venue dedicated solely to esports, but it is another step in the city’s push to make the District an esports capital.
Over the years, Events DC, the quasi-public convention and sports authority, has put a significant amount of money into the industry by sponsoring tournaments and events.
On the private side, Monumental Sports isn’t the only local company to invest in virtual gaming; Mark Ein, the owner of Washington City Paper, purchased the Washington Justice, an Overwatch team, in 2018. Nearly 400 people attended an Events DC-sponsored watch party for the team’s inaugural match at Penn Quarter.
The esports market is expected to generate more than $2 billion globally by 2023, but the local challenge is to build a D.C.-area fan base and get those fans to attend events in person. While the pandemic has benefited streamers on platforms such as Twitch, it remains to be seen whether District E will entice fans to watch esports live.
The space will be “intentionally welcoming,” grabbing the attention of passersby like fans attending IRL Caps and Wizards games, to peer into the gaming venue and learn more about the energy and enthusiasm of esports.
The venue is expected to open in the fall of 2022, according to Monumental Sports, and more information on programming will be available this spring and summer.