South Bend Eyeing ESports Type Arena

Published Saturday, August 24, 2019

On Friday, August 23, $2 million was approved by the St. Joseph County Hotel-Motel Tax Board to convert the underused 700-seat Bendix Theatre at South Bend's Century Center into a 500-seat arena hosting esports-type events, such as “Fortnite,” “Rocket League,” “Overwatch,” “League of Legends,” “Heartstone,” “Dota 2” and others.

With a usage rate of only 55%, the Bendix is presently being used for lectures, church services, rehearsals and performances, and has been in need of repair and renovations. According to officials, the need to remodel led to a re-imagined space. 

Because it’s an amphitheater, the Bendix is ideally suited for the conversion because fans will be able to have a good view of competitors down below. A great sound system, theatrical lighting and many video monitors are core components of such an arena, as well as seats that might have the ability to rumble or vibrate to match the game action.

There also will be a production center for announcers, as well as those who stream events on the internet.

The possibility of new visitors is what won the support of the tax board. “We think the investment will serve as a catalyst for tourism,” said John Anthony, board president and an early proponent of bringing esports to the region. “It has the ability to attract fans of a new sport.”

And it fits in nicely with the region’s growing reputation for sports tourism — whether it’s visitors here for high level Notre Dame athletics or events hosted for amateur hockey, softball, soccer and many other sports, said Rob DeCleene, executive director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka.

Read the full story by Ed Semmler at the South Bend Tribune.