Esports finds a home in Vegas in the most Vegas way

This month the first permanent esports venue in Las Vegas opened downtown. In addition to the 15,000-square-foot theater, you can get a tattoo, eat breakfast, and get married all within a stone's throw of thE Arena. Arash Markazi/ESPN

LAS VEGAS -- The first permanent esports arena in Las Vegas, and one of the few in the country, is on the top floor of the 300,000-square foot, three-story Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas.

It can be a life-changing structure depending on your state of mind as you walk around the neon-lit shopping mall. There is a wedding chapel next to an arcade by the entrance off Fremont Street. Walk a few yards through the outdoor courtyard and you'll find a tattoo parlor next to a Denny's, where for just $199 you can get married over a couple of Build Your Own Grand Slam breakfasts complete with souvenir shirts and a champagne toast.

It is quintessential Las Vegas, and Alex Igelman, who is the CEO of Millennial Esports, is hoping that esports and his new esports arena, called thE Arena, will soon be as much a part of the Las Vegas experience as the neon lights and casinos that line the city's streets.

"I knew that esports was going to take off, and I knew that it only made sense for it to be in the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas," Igelman said. "Downtown is the perfect place for this. It's easy to get here and park here. We have 700 [parking] spaces underground. Downtown needed something like this and Las Vegas needed something like this. I think esports is now something that is on everyone's radar. People are recognizing that it is here to stay, and building a permanent facility is the next step."

The 15,000-square-foot arena hosted its first event -- the Halo World Championship Qualifiers -- earlier this month and is in negotiations to host several other major tournaments this year, such as the first EA Sports-sanctioned Madden NFL tournament on the West Coast on March 25-26. The main hall of the facility can accommodate about 900 people and can be configured to host 15 player stations that seat up to 14 players each. The main arena has over 200 stadium-style seats overlooking the main stage, where there is also a production pit so crews can produce and livestream tournaments and events. There are also player and VIP lounges, a media room for interviews and a theater-style concession area.

"We want this facility to be used all the time," Igelman said. "We're in the process of developing our content calendar now. We know we're not holding Dota's The International here or the LCS Finals, but there are many other titles out there that we will be the sweet spot for. We've got an unbelievable production area where we can cast and stream from, so we'll be a tier under those world championships."

Across the street from the arena is the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino, which has made a push to become the most esports-friendly casino in Las Vegas. Seth Schorr, who is of the CEO of Fifth Street Gaming and chairman of the Downtown Grand, is also on the board of Millennial Esports and has known Igelman for 15 years. Last year the Downtown Grand became the first casino in Las Vegas to open a dedicated esports lounge and to push for esports wagering.

"We want to create a 365-day-per-year esports destination," Schorr said. "We want our hotel to be known as a place that embraces esports enthusiasts."

"We have something for everyone here. There's really nothing like this place in the world." Alex Igelman, CEO of Millennial Esports

There is enough available room at the Neonopolis for Millennial Esports to acquire another 50,000 square feet of space, and Igelman is considering this as he maps out the facility's schedule over the next year. But the arena's opening has already had an impact on other previously vacant space at the complex, which is now being rented out by others hoping to tap into the esports market.

"Next month, because of us, the landlords and owners have said that there is a nightclub opening right below us aimed at the same generation," Igelman said. "It's going to be called The Nerd. It's going to be targeted at our esports audience."

That's right, you can play in an esports tournament at thE Arena, meet the love of your life at The Nerd, get matching tattoos, and get married over a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's without ever leaving the building.

"We have something for everyone here," Igelman said. "There's really nothing like this place in the world."