A new esports arena inside South Bend’s Century Center will open to the public on Friday, Feb. 5, bringing competitive video gaming to Michiana.

Esports viewership primarily focuses on competitive multiplayer video games like League of Legends or Fortnite – and it’s extremely popular.

According to analytics business Newzoo’s Worldwide Esports Market Report, viewership reached nearly 500 million in 2015 and is projected to grow to 6.5 million by 2023.

Jeff Jarnecke, executive director of places for the City of South Bend, stated the city wishes to harness that growth by hosting regional and nationwide competitions at the brand-new 500-seat Bendix Arena.

“Our company believe that this endeavor will draw in folks from all around the region and, honestly, all around the country to come to South Bend,” he stated.

The remodellings to the Century Center’s Bendix Theater were moneyed by the county’s hotel-motel tax. The complex also has 36 gaming PCs and multiple XBox and PlayStation consoles.

Jarnecke says in addition to attracting competitors, he hopes the center will bring in local players, becoming a youth community center.

“The chance to build a location where they can call house, to have that sense of neighborhood, have that sense that they belong to belong, was extraordinary,” he stated.

The esports center will be open to the general public from 2-10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and from 2 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Video gaming starts at $6 an hour.

Jarnecke stated capability will be decreased for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic.