A new esports arena is set to open in Sunderland close to the UK city’s Stadium of Light after the local authority approved a planning application for the development.
The arena is expected to open early next year on the site of a former car showroom off Stadium Way, in the shadows of the 49,000-seat home of EFL Championship football club Sunderland. The facility will be part of a wider performance and education campus linked to the British Esports organisation.
Although the development was initially expected to open this summer, revised plans were submitted for planning approval in June, including a scaled-down extension to the existing building.
The National Performance Centre for British Esports (NEPC) will include a 200-seat gaming arena with a raised stage area and ancillary spaces for studios, broadcasting and editing. There will also be a separate retail space and a function room with arcade games, screens and a DJ booth, as well as a bar and kitchen, a green room, a VIP area and other facilities.
A design and access statement from the applicant adds: “The NEPC will become a centre of excellence, providing access to state-of-the-art equipment, training and investment that will support Sunderland, the North-East and the UK to become a globally recognised esports hub capable of attracting and developing the world’s best esports talent.”
The arena will also host regular esports events and will be “used as a training base for the Great Britain esports team, which recently took part in the Global Esports Games in Singapore,” the statement added.
At TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2023 in June, Alex Inglot, commissioner of the ESL Pro League esports competition, gave a presentation in which he extolled the benefits of stadiums incorporating an esports hub within its facility. Inglot underlined the potential for such a space to engage the hard-to-reach teenage market and boost a stadium’s reputation while opening up new revenue streams.