By sometime in 2025, Exhibition Place in Toronto could be home to a 7,000 seat entertainment facility built with Esports in mind, along with a second hotel on the ‘Ex’ grounds. OverActive Media, owners of two Toronto-based Esports teams and two Madrid-based Esports teams, are proposing to build an approximately $500 million facility on 4.5 acres’ worth of surface parking space west of the historic Stanley Barracks and the recently built Hotel X.
Approximate site of the Esports Performance Venue and Hotel at Exhibition Place, image retrieved from Apple Maps
Esports are a growing industry, worth billions annually across the globe. OverActive Media’s two local teams are the Toronto Defiant who play in the Overwatch league, and Toronto Ultra who play in the Call of Duty league, and for whom the new venue would be home base. The privately funded facility—for which OverActive Media is seeking out a naming sponsor—is being designed by Populous, a global firm that specializes in arenas, stadiums, and other entertainment venues.
Looking east towards the Esports Performance Venue and Hotel at Exhibition Place, designed by Populous for OverActive Media
It would come as no surprise that E-Sports venues require state-of-the-art communications infrastructure for top level team play, and spectator comfort. Specially-built facilities have been in place in Asia for some years now, and more recently have been opening elsewhere. Toronto’s venue would be the largest purpose-built facility of its type in North America. To the north of the theatre-style main hall would be an approximately 30-storey, 400-room hotel. A pool, fitness centre, spa, and restaurants are planned to broaden offerings onsite. Parking displaced from the surface lot would be relocated underground in the foundations of the new complex.
Looking west towards the Esports Performance Venue and Hotel at Exhibition Place, designed by Populous for OverActive Media
Filling a hole in mid-size entertainment audience venues in the Toronto area—Toronto has a number of venues which seat around 3,000 people, and then Scotiabank Arena which can seat up to 20,000 depending upon its configuration—this 7,000 seat complex would also be designed to cater to range of entertainment acts, conventions, corporate events, product launches, and awards shows, aiming to book about 200 events per year. Backstage facilities would include player and performer lounges, change rooms, and practice space, while OverActive Media, headquartered in Toronto, would move its head offices into the building.
Auditorium, Esports Performance Venue and Hotel at Exhibition Place, designed by Populous for OverActive Media
Announcing the plans on February 22, OverActive’s President and CEO Chris Overholt declared “Today is another important step in the evolution of OverActive Media. We are building a world leading, 21st century sports media and entertainment company and this best-in-class performance venue will be the chosen home for a new generation of fans that think differently about their entertainment choices and experiences. It has always been our intention to develop a venue and hosting strategy and to build a facility that could not only serve as an iconic home for our two franchises, but ultimately emerge as a global hub for major international esport events. We are already in active discussions to attract some of the biggest esport events in the world. This venue will redefine Toronto’s event hosting opportunities in every way.”
Proposed site plan of the Esports Performance Venue and Hotel at Exhibition Place, designed by Populous for OverActive Media
There are a number of steps before OverActive’s plans may become a reality. The Board of Governors of Exhibition Place needs to be convinced in time for a March vote that the proposal meshes with the master plan for Exhibition Place. That approval appears to be forthcoming as Ward 3 Councillor Mark Grimes, who chairs the Board, has expressed his enthusiasm with the proposal, reporting that Mayor John Tory and the Premier of Ontario were similarly impressed. A Site Plan Approval application will need to be made to the City for review before building permits can be applied for. OverActive expects the project to take 2 ½ to 3 years to build, and hopes to open in 2025.
You can learn more from our Database file for the project, linked below. If you’d like to, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.
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