The British Esports Association (BEA) – a computer games tournament organizer- has announced it will open a performance and education facility at next to the Stadium of Light.
In what has been reported as a multi-million pound deal, BEA acquired a former retail premises adjacent to the ground, where it will now establish its National Esports Performance Campus (NEPC).
Esports – referring to “electronic sports” – refers to organised competitive video gaming, in which teams and individual players pit their skills against one another online, and often in front of large live audiences to win trophies and cash prizes, which can extend to millions of pounds.
Already a phenomenon around the world, with one in three people globally playing video games and over half a billion fans, esports is set to explode in popularity in the UK. Both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games are considering the inclusion of esports in future competitions.
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 NEPC will deliver educational and coaching courses for players and all other roles within the esports industry. The campus will have dedicated esports classrooms, performance rooms, streaming booths for shoutcaster skills and an arena space.
The Campus builds on the success of BEA’s projects with schools and colleges that include the first BTEC in esports currently being delivered to over two thousand students and its Student Champs that see nearly 400 school and college teams compete in esports titles across the academic year.
The NEPC is set to open in the summer, with a full refurbishment and an extension planned to the current 11,000 sq ft space set to start this month. The NEPC will host regular esports events, community tournaments, summer camps and be used as a training base for the Great Britain esports team, which recently took part in the Global Esports Games in Singapore.
Chester King, chief executive officer at BEA, said: “The UK is Europe’s second biggest video game market and ranked sixth globally – this speaks to the potential of esports which will capitalise on gaming’s popularity, with talented competitors emerging and a growing audience keen to spectate and enjoy esports as a leisure activity. This is a market that we know will explode in the UK and we want to support its growth.
“Sunderland is a hugely ambitious and future-focused city and that aligns very much to BEA and esports, which has vast growth potential and ties into Sunderland’s strengths in gaming, digital and sport.
He added: “The campus will be an inspirational site, a place for players and coaches to work, learn and develop. This is a much-needed facility and through my team’s experiences we understand its importance.”
The move into Sunderland will initially create 20 jobs in the city, however, it is the wider benefits of esports that make this move hugely significant. It is expected that tens of thousands of spectators will visit Sunderland’s NEPC to tap into the world-class facilities that will be available, and that a whole new local ecosystem will be created by the move.
BEA has purchased the former retail property, which will allow it to grow roots in the city, creating an unrivalled esports facility that is expected to attract tens of thousands of people every year.
Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to support BEA in making this incredible commitment to our city, which is testament to the ambition and vision we have for Sunderland, and their confidence in it.
“Esports has been a phenomenal global success, and it is a huge growth market in the UK, that will be realised over the coming years. BEA’s move puts Sunderland at the beating heart of that, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”
Sunderland’s focus on 5G and digital technology was another driver in BEA’s move to Sunderland.
Council leader Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a truly game-changing development for Sunderland, and we could not be more excited about having BEA choose the city for its NEPC.
“Sunderland is pioneering in so many ways right now – from our work to build a low carbon future, to developing world-class urban communities, to the digital infrastructure that we’re putting in place across the city to ensure residents and businesses thrive. This investment from BEA brings together all of these strategies and we cannot wait to see it come to fruition