The past year has seen esports events at Madison Square Garden in New York City, KeyArena in Seattle, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the Staples Center in Los Angeles ... and that's just in the United States. That had us thinking: What venues in the U.S. should host esports events in 2017 that haven't already?
To make our list, we considered logistics of venue, location and marketing creativity of venue hosts. So without further ado, here are the venues we'd like to see host esports events this year.
1. Quicken Loans, Cleveland, Ohio
Sports has played a big part in Cleveland's revitalization. Not only has the feeling about Cleveland improved, but the downtown area looks vastly different compared to when LeBron arrived in 2003.
Cleveland sees itself now as an up-and-coming hipster place, like a mini-Brooklyn, and it has a young, vibrant community that's perfect for the gamer crowd. We also like the centralized location that allows fans to get in a car and drive from major cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
And finally, there's the food: Cleveland's famous chefs -- Michael Symon, Rocco Whalen and Jonathon Sawyer -- all have stands within Quicken. Whalen's nachos are usually outstanding, and Symon's B Spot serves a vanilla-apple-pie-bacon milkshake that is so good, the thought of 900 calories doesn't seem empty at all to us.
2. T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Nothing against Cleveland, but if the esports community is truly looking for buzz, there's still no place like Vegas. A decade ago, there might have been concern that Vegas was too young for the esports crowd, but the target demographic has changed in town as gambling has taken on a different focus, while day-party venues and restaurants have become planned destinations. We also like the fact that there have already been three UFC fight cards and a WWE show there, as production values for those events are similar to what you'd see at an esports event (lots of lights, big crowds, a couple of pyrotechnics for some panache).
3. Everbank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Football stadiums aren't a natural for esports events. They're seen as too big, and viewing isn't ideal. But we felt the need to pick one, because we like the idea of an outside space. And if there's one that we're going to pick, it's where the Jacksonville Jaguars play.
Let's start with the TVs, which are the largest stadium TVs in the world and the only ones in 8K quality. The marketing team is really progressive. They were one of the first to do a Pokemon Go event and will be hosting a Madden Championship in March. And then there's just the coolness of the venue -- a party deck that can host 3,000 people and two pools that fans can jump into if they rent the cabanas.
4. Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, Calif.
This fit is just too natural for esports, given the fact that it's a spanking-new venue, completely tech wired, and its minority owners, Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov, own NRG esports. Among the perks of the place? Warp-speed Wi-Fi and an 84-foot-long HD scoreboard.
5. Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas
With esports growing as fast as it is, a statement needs to be made by those in the industry to show those who are skeptical just how impressive crowds can be. Having fans sit in seats and filling up a venue that might normally be filled up for an NBA game isn't visually stunning. But what about opening up the infield at Texas Motor Speedway and hosting a huge esports event there?
The infield would allow teams and sponsors to have a convention of sorts and best reach fans on site, while the viewing experience wouldn't be compromised thanks to the fact that TMS has its "Big Hoss" TV that spans 22,000 square feet or, for those keeping track at home, half an acre. We also know they can make some crazy food items, including Hawg Heaven, a Texas BBQ pulled pork sandwich with bacon jalapeño mac and cheese, sweet onions and fried pickles.