Full Sail University Builds Massive Esports Venue

The 500-seat ‘Fortress’ is the largest esports arena in an education environment

The fast-growing esports-arena sector is about to take a giant leap forward. Full Sail University, a media-arts college in the Orlando area, will open an 11,200-sq.-ft. esports arena on the school’s 200-acre campus in May.

Named The Fortress, the new venue will have large AVL systems in place to support esports game play, including several video walls comprising 354 tiles with 2.9-mm pitch resolution and two complete and separate L-Acoustics PA systems, one each for end-stage and mid-stage configurations. The venue will seat more than 500 spectators, which Vince Lapore, director, event technical operations, Full Sail, says is one of the things that distinguish The Fortress from other esports facilities.

Besides serving an educational function, the 11,200-sq.-ft. Fortress will be home to Full Sail’s own esports team, Armada.

“A lot of other [esports] venues call themselves arenas, but this venue is specifically set up to accommodate spectators in the stands,” he points out. “It’s part of what makes The Fortress a true sports arena.”

It will be home to Full Sail’s own esports team, Armada, the first sports team that the 40-year-old school has ever “fielded,” although, throughout a long relationship with ESPN, it has provided the sports broadcaster with a steady stream of trained interns and entry-level employees. It will also have a significant broadcast capability. A Calrec Brio audio console and Sony cameras will interface with Ross A/V switchers and routers, as well as Ross Xpression CG and graphics systems.

“A big part of esports will be streaming events out of the arena,” says Lepore. “As a result, we’ve put more emphasis on what goes out of here to the online audience than in the past with our live venues on campus. But both the online and the in-house audiences will have incredible gaming experiences out of here.”

He adds that the school is still evaluating various streaming codec solutions, which he says will be in place by the mid-May opening. The Fortress is also “cooperating” with the WWE, which launched a partnership in 2012 to do live tapings of WWE NXT events on the Full Sail campus, which were also used as teaching scenarios for the school’s broadcast– and live-event–production curricula. Talks are also reportedly in progress with the Orlando Magic for the NBA team’s own esports iteration, Magic Gaming. Drone racing is another sports-related activity under discussion.

However, Lepore says, The Fortress will also be used extensively for production training within the school.

“The goal is to balance The Fortress for its applications as an esports arena, an event environment, and a teaching space,” he says. “We are first and foremost a school, but we also have a deep connection to sports broadcasting.”

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