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In June of this year, esports organization Team Vitality became residents of Stade de France. The Parisian national arena brought the club’s players out of their shared gaming house, and put dedicated gaming PCs in view of its pitch; first built in 1998 for the FIFA World Cup. Now Stade de France CEO Alexandra Boutelier is mulling the idea of a 1,500 to 3,000 seat esports arena within the stadium, as a potential home venue for Vitality.
“It still has to be imagined, but idea of the arena that we have in mind is an occasion that you will be able to live in,” Boutelier told The Esports Observer. Her concept for the arena matches the current trend in traditional sports, where stadiums add hospitality attractions to keep fans inside beyond the 90-minute mark of a soccer match.
With a total seat count exceeding 80,000, the Stade de France is not affiliated with any local Paris club. Even if France itself is the home team, the two locker rooms are physically identical. The venue is fully equipped for not just sports, but concerts as well; with its own onsite hospital and prison to suit the occasion. But even with conventions and seminars on top of this, Boutelier said it’s not enough to ensure the space remains profitable and prime for reinvestment.
“We spent some time in the U.S. to look at different esports arenas,” she added, noting that the stadium’s immediate priorities are the Rugby World Cup in 2023, and the Olympic Games in 2024. “We cannot transform the very large lounge into what we have in mind for esports before the Olympics.”
Vitality and Stade de France plan to co-invest in the space, and put hospitality at the forefront. Right now, a key challenge facing a number of esports arena projects is how to make the space live 365 days of the year. “For Vitality matches, when we require it, it’s the home arena,” said Boutelier.
“But when we host events; football, rugby, concerts, how do we use it? How do we make it part of the experience? That’s an operational question, we don’t have all the answers right now obviously.”
In the meantime, Team Vitality will continue to bootcamp its players within the stadium. During a tour, the esport organization’s leadership explained that partnership discussions with Stade de France took less than a year. Maybe that’s down to the fact that Boutelier played Diablo III a few years back…
The training area itself is still far from finished; despite being able to walk through it, journalists were barred from taking photos until all the co-branded inventory is in place. Vitality boasts one of the largest lists of non-endemic partners, including adidas, telecom Orange, and Renault Sport. Fabien Devide, Vitality executive president and co-founder, told TEO that the club is currently looking for a named sponsor for its training space.
“When we started, it was good for everyone to have remote players, because you’re saving costs and have them close to their parents,” said Devide. The players for Team Vitality’s League of Legends European Championship (LEC) team live and train in Berlin, as this is where the league is broadcast from. “We need to travel to see them, but we don’t build the relationship between the org and the players. We want to absolutely avoid this.”
While the club is planning another space in Berlin, its other teams in Rocket League, Counter-Strike, and other games are in a constant state of travel. As well as giving them a space to train, Vitality can also offer a range of personal trainers, whose collective backgrounds include mental training in professional volleyball, and the military. “At the end of the day, we need to be really professional and build a great worth ethic,” said Devide.
Beyond training facilities and small scale arenas, the next step for Stade de France would be hosting large, international esports events. The League of Legends World Championship is taking place in Paris this weekend, having sold out the 15,000 seat AccorHotels Arena in minutes.
“I’m sure 80,000 seats for the finals would have been filled,” said Boutelier, who believes esports is only a few years away from packing out the Stade de France. “I think for some events that already works. It’s just a matter of daring to go there.”
Esports Rising – Nov. 14 | Who Is Attending?
Esports organizations in the likes of Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, Gen G. Game developers, including Riot Games and Blizzard. Non-endemic sponsors such as adidas, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Jack in the Box and more. Sponsored by Lagardère Sports, and presented by Sports Business Journal / Daily, with support of The Esports Observer.