Amsterdam ArenA: eSports Stadium

ArenA is investing in events especially for generation Z: young people, aged 7–25. Together with partner ESL-Benelux, the ArenA put on its first public eSports games event.

How does a stadium reach a generation that no longer reads, doesn’t watch television and doesn’t use e-mail? And how do you motivate these young people enough to get them to come to the stadium? Together with its partner ESL, a major force in eSports, the Innovation ArenA in Amsterdam has developed an annual eSport festival. The ArenA hopes to connect with the game generation by putting on this new kind of event that brings together digital and live action.

Jeroen van Iersel, who is in charge of organizing these eSports events for the Amsterdam ArenA, emphasizes how important they are: “eSports, like League of Legends, have millions of online fans. Our live ArenA events bring virtual communities together so we’re giving the online world an extra dimension. At one of our festivals, the audience watches an online, five-a-side match. So we’re giving the online game a real, live audience.”

Van Iersel continues: “Ajax is taking part in this project. The club is a leader in eSports worldwide through their collaboration with EA and its video football game, Fifa. Ajax even employs two eSports players, and has a separate eSports department and several sponsorship contracts for these activities. For example, they gave football clinics at the festival. That’s how we can give Fifa fans a real football experience. This festival strengthens the connection between our home team Ajax, the sport, and the future of our stadium.”

The plan is to put on major festival every year, including all the major eSports, for a growing audience aged 14 and over. Van Iersel: “This year was the first time we set it up on such a huge scale. We had 4,000 visitors. The idea is that in three years time we will have 15,000 visitors, and over time the total audience will grow organically to fill the stadium.”


THE NEW CELEBRITY

eSports is fast-growing branch of sport. eSports professionals already earn as much as the average top athlete. Coaches supervise eSport training and the teams live together in one house. Some eSporters even have personal shoppers. eSporters have become true celebrities for their fans. For example: when the Ajax team landed at Schiphol recently after an away game, one player was mobbed by the crowd. It turned out that he was not one of the field players but an eSporter who’d come along for the ride. The average eSporter is between 16 and 25 years old. Any older and the player’s reaction rate slows down, making it too hard to keep playing at the professional level.

Drone Racing World Series

Together with partners Formula FPV and Zoomin.TV, this year the Amsterdam ArenA put on the first drone race to take place in the stadium. It was a try-out, intended as a forerunner of a stadium race planned to run annually on six continents with an international final as the highlight: the Drone Racing World Series. In attendance on the main stand was a live audience of some 500 people, including business partners and potential sponsors. Eight of the world's best drone pilots were invited to compete. The drones, which including the tail are about the size of a bat, reached speeds of 150 km per hour. The circuit was projected onto huge screens in the stadium using the ArenA’s fixed and mobile cameras to record the race. It was a mighty powerful event, especially when drones crashed in the air. The entire race, including accidents, was viewed live on screen. This spectacular race is best compared to a Formula One race in 3D, but the audience can watch it safely from behind the nets.