Ready Player One: The Dish on eSports

By Sam Boykin, November 5, 2018

When the Sacramento Kings unveiled Golden 1 Center in 2016, it had all the bells and whistles expected in today’s modern arenas, including luxury suites, exclusive clubs and upscale dining options. But there’s one attraction that makes the stadium truly stand out: the world’s first dedicated esports training facility inside a pro sports venue.

Already touted as the country’s most high-tech stadium, the state-of-the-art venue-within-a-venue esports training center, at about 2,000 square feet, has a spacious lounge complete with an oxygen bar and trendy drinks like kombucha and nitrogen coffee. There’s also a studio and green-screen room with 4K cameras, where players can live stream video, blog and create content to share with fans.

While the Kings’ esports arena is the first of its kind, it’s going to have plenty of competition. A growing number of cities and organizations are developing esports arenas to take advantage of the skyrocketing popularity of video gaming, a market that’s valued at approximately $612 million, according to SuperData, which provides data on the gaming industry.

The Kings’ esports facility is home to the team’s NBA 2K League team, which will compete against 16 other teams, says Ryan Montoya, the Kings’ chief technology officer, who oversees the esports group. The Kings recruited the six-player team, comprised of mostly 20-somethings, from all over the country. The NBA will pay each player between $32,000 and $34,000 for the six-month season. The Kings provide housing and transportation, along with training and coaching.

“We’re treating them just like professional NBA athletes,” Montoya says. The NBA 2K League has a prize pool of $1 million for the entire season, which started in May. Montoya says most tournaments will likely be played in New York.

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