E-sports arena proposed for Bronzeville

A new sports arena may be coming to Chicago. But it will require fast thumbs, more than fast feet.

Professional gaming is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with some players -- many just teenagers -- making millions of dollars a year.

Developers Scott Greenberg and Chris Lai plan to spend $30 million to build the Surge E-sports Arena at 25th and Wabash in Bronzeville, which will feature room for 800 spectators and 30 professional gaming participants, a 35-foot tall and 80-foot wide immersive screen, plus food, drink and luxury suites.

“You’re actually engaged in the whole E-sport experience and the gaming experience because it surrounds your peripheral vision, and you have the sound and light effects of a rock concert,” Greenberg said.

The arena would also feature a proprietary virtual reality system.

“It’s a real life holo-deck. It’s going to be over 20,000 square feet where you’ll be able to suit up and freely move around with other people and be in another world,” Lai said.

“I love doing cutting edge things in the ward,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell.


Dowell is supporting the project in part because it will bring the high-tech gaming experience to neighborhood schools.

“A lot of our schools here are not connected to that world, and I saw this as an opportunity to connect those schools to this kind of facility,” he said.

But will people come from all over the country to watch other people play video games?

“Yes, it’s computer gaming. But honestly, the secret behind it is really bringing people together,” Greenberg said.

The project is expected to go before the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council in February. If approved, construction will start next summer with an opening scheduled in the summer of 2022.