Will Vancouver be getting its own pro-gaming team?
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
For those following the esports scene, you are probably already well aware that Vancouver seems to be setting itself up as a destination city for professional videogaming.
Having hosted international competitions from many varying esports leagues—including the League of Legends North American League Championship Series and the Dota 2 International, which managed to sell out Rogers Arena for over a week straight—it was only a matter of time before someone capitalized on this rapidly-growing industry.
On September 5, Vancouver was announced to be one of eight new cities to be added to the growing Overwatch League (OWL) this coming April. Unlike many other professional gaming leagues, which usually have country or region-based teams, the OWL works off of a more standardized North American professional sports model, instead functioning with set, city-based teams such as the London Spitfire, Houston Outlaws, and the Shanghai Dragons. Vancouver will be the second Canadian city to join the OWL after Toronto was added to the list on August 13.
Purchase of the team slot was made by Aquilini Investment Group (AIG)—overseen by managing director Francesco Aquilini—the parent company to the Vancouver Canucks. Reportedly the sale cost AIG between $35 and $60 million. AIG is the third company with stakes in the National Hockey League to transition over to the OWL. Both Comcast Spectacor, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Colorado Avalanche, purchased team slots in 2017—creating founding OWL teams the Philadelphia Fusion and the Los Angeles Gladiators, respectively.
Francesco Aquilini said in a press release that Vancouver’s team will likely represent the Pacific Northwest in the league since it is the first team to be added in this region.
“The Overwatch League has visionary leadership, strong franchises, and connects with millions of players globally,” he said. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to expand into esports and we can’t wait to launch the team in Vancouver, which will also represent fans across the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle and Portland.”
The fact that the purchase of the team slot was made by AIG (as opposed to a backer specifically related to technology or esports) goes a long way in legitimizing professional video games as a whole within our city. It means recognition of the industry itself and a whole new stream of revenue for tourism within Vancouver. Currently teams compete in the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. However, the OWL has made it clear that they intend to transition teams to play out of their franchise cities eventually.