ESPN Esports
June 7th, 2018

Overwatch League aims to get teams to their home cities by 2020, sources said

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The Overwatch League will aim to move franchises to their home cities and start traveling to these cities by 2020, league sources said. This is anticipated to be for the launch of the league's third season.

How teams will travel has not been decided, but one idea discussed is a roadshow that would have all teams in a division travel to a city at once, essentially touring regions of the world, sources said.

In this model, Pacific Division teams would travel through the Midwestern United States, the West Coast of the U.S. and then through Asian cities; Atlantic Division teams, by comparison, would travel through the East Coast of the U.S. then to Europe. Each division is currently split in half by Texas, where Houston plays in the Atlantic Division and Dallas is considered the Pacific Division.

Since the league launched in January, it has competed out of the Blizzard Arena at the Burbank Studios in California, about 30 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. The league's inaugural finals will take place in July at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

"We look forward to announcing details on the Overwatch League's format for later seasons in the future," Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer said to ESPN.com. "Together with our teams, we are evaluating a range of format options to realize the full potential of our global league. Based on the tremendous response we've seen from fans in local markets, including the growth of local supporters' clubs and Overwatch League watch parties all over the world, it's clear that there's a high demand from fans to connect with Overwatch League teams in their home markets, and our goal has always been to move to a home-and-away format as soon as possible."

By the end of this summer, the Overwatch League intends to have a total of 18 teams to begin competing in the second season in 2019, Blizzard said. It will look to add a total of six across three regions -- North America, Europe and Asia -- with Activision Blizzard esports leagues CEO Pete Vlastelica telling German business newspaper Handelsblatt that the league is discussing with buyers in Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, as well as some of Scandinavia.

Franchise prices during this round of expansion range from $30 million to $60 million, depending on a number of factors like Overwatch player density and bidders for certain slots, sources said.

Nanzer said in an interview with Inven Global in March that the ultimate goal for the league is to have 28 teams across the world.

Of the teams currently in the Overwatch League, only one has announced its official venue: the Los Angeles Valiant, who will play at the Microsoft Theater at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles.

Several other team ownership groups have investments in venues. On the East Coast, Philadelphia Fusion ownership Comcast Spectacor, Boston Uprising owner the Kraft Group and New York Excelsior ownership the Wilpon family all have venues in their local areas. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Gladiators ownership Kroenke Sports & Entertainment is in charge of building the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, and just outside of Dallas in Arlington, Texas, investors in the Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel are leading a project to remodel part of the Arlington Convention Center into an esports arena.

Other teams have explored partnerships as potential options for their home locations. In April, NRG Esports, the parent of the San Francisco Shock, partnered with University of California at Berkeley, which is located about 30 minutes outside of downtown San Francisco. NRG and Shock CEO Andy Miller told ESPN in April that the university presents a "good option" as his franchise evaluates where it might play -- but that the decision has ultimately not been decided.

The Overwatch League is the first developer-ran esports league that has aimed to geolocate. The format was a significant selling point by Activision Blizzard on what made the league different from its peers -- and part of why sports team owners like the Kraft Group, Wilpon family, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and others bought into the league.


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