With Loss of ESports Arena, What Does the Future Hold for the Sports Complex?

While it’s not something that often jumps onto our residential-heavy real estate radar, the recent news of the loss of an eSports team and arena was something that definitely caught our eye. Back in 2019, the Comcast Spectacor-owned Philadelphia Fusion, a team in the global Overwatch league, had plans build a 3,500-seat eSports-dedicated arena right next to Xfinity Live down in the sea of parking lots at the sports complex in South Philadelphia. This new venue was to serve as an arena and training area for the Fusion and was slated to be the first eSports-specific venue in all of North America. As you can see from the plans, it would have been a pretty snazzy addition to the complex.

An aerial of the sports complex shows the Fusion Arena smack in the middle
Exterior view of what could have been
An inside view of the arena shows an action-packed scene

Sadly, the team did a little bit of Seoul searching as they moved their homebase from Philadelphia to South Korea and rebranded as the Infernal, ending the Fusion’s run in Philly. While Comcast Spectacor reps indicated they are still planning to build a scaled-down arena that will serve multiple functions, there are no firm timelines on anything rising on this site. From an eSports perspective, there are still plenty of spots within the city limits to get your gaming fix, but from a real estate perspective, this follows a long history of sports complex plans that have disappointingly gone nowhere.

As you may have noticed on the above aerial view, there was also a proposal from several years back for Pattison Place, a mid-rise office building at the north end of the sports complex. As you may have guessed, this out-of-the-way office proposal from early 2019 has seemingly fizzled out during the work-from-home shift during the last few years. It’s a shame, because this modern tower designed by Beyer Blinder Belle and BLTa would have injected some life to the area during the typically desolate daytime hours. While not officially a dead project, there has been nary a word about it over the last few years.

An exterior look at the glassy Pattison Place
Another exterior rendering shows proximity to the Wells Fargo Center

An even larger mixed-use proposal popped up for the area a couple years ago, when the Philadelphia Suburban Development Corporation (PSDC) teamed up with sports-complex master planners CallisonRTKL to sketch out the Stadium Square plan at the corner of Packer Ave. & S. Darien St. at the current site of the South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook and directly next to the Live! Casino. This project called for up to 2.5M sqft of residential, office, and retail amongst a whole other host of uses. While this project also released renderings a few years back, once again no progress has been seen at all recently.

A conceptual model of Stadium Square
Rendering of the view from Packer & S. Darien
Another rendering shows what the future streetscape could be

Add all of this together – along with the Sixers’ plans to build an arena at the Fashion District in Market East – and it leaves a very vague picture of what’s in store for this area. The zoning, the lack of close-by amenities, and the slightly out-of-the-way location make this a tricky area, though one that has the potential to be something special. If we had our way, we would completely remap the area, turning the industrial zoned parking lots into CMX-3/CMX-4 lots, which would permit a wide variety of mixed-uses across the area. With the acres of underused land, a proximate Broad Street Line stop, and easy access to the Navy Yard, this area is absolutely loaded with untapped potential.

In the short term at least, we imagine this potential will remain untapped and the game of arena Whack-a-Mole is likely to be decided before we see any major real estate movement at the complex. In the meantime, we’ll continue to dream of a new and exciting South Philly neighborhood around the stadia, loaded with rabid sports fans who live within walking distance of a tailgaters on football Sundays. At least those folks would never need to worry about beating the traffic after a game.