Esports are on their way to becoming a billion-dollar industry, and Washington is aiming to a big-time player.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment SVP Zachary Leonsis pictured at the Wizards District Gaming esports headquarters in Chinatown, next to Capitol One Arena.
We’ve come a long way since Pong. At last year’s esports tournament, the International, $24 million of prize money was awarded, including $11 million for winning group Team Liquid. You might recognize some of its owners—Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s Ted and Zachary Leonsis, Revolution Growth’s Steve Case and Donn Davis, Washington Nationals owners Lerner Enterprises, and Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein, whose company Washingon Esports Ventures also just launced a pro DC esports team for the Overwatch League.
“Esports haven’t quite gotten to the point where we’re selling out arenas 41 nights a year the way we are for the Capitals or the Wizards, but the viewership numbers for some of these live events are just in the same scale because people are streaming it from their home,” Zachary Leonsis tells me from Wizards District Gaming headquarters. Unlike Team Liquid, which has teams that compete across multiple game titles from Fornite to FIFA, Wizards District Gaming focuses on one game, NBA 2K. And yes, the six-person team has lockers, uniforms and a regimented practice schedule. They just completed their maiden season with a playoff birth. Seventy-two thousand gamers tried out for the league, but only 100 qualified to be drafted by the league’s 17 teams.
Next year they will have a new home arena. Events DC’s St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena will not only host the Washington Mystics and Capital City Go-Go, it’s built for esports, too. “I think very quickly esports will be the largest participatory sport, business, industry, with the most active participants, the most dollars, compared to any sport,” Ted Leonsis told the audience last year at the unveiling of the Wizards District Gaming franchise. Grab your joysticks, folks, this is about to get ewild.
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEN EUN