RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fans are flocking to PNC Arena this weekend for Apex Legends Global Series Championship. It's the first time PNC Arena has ever hosted an esports event.
"I think it feels really cool to actually be able to see the players in-person," said Joza Arnold, who came with his dad from Ohio for the competition, which offers a $2 million prize for the winners.
Arnold said he also hoped to check out the Triangle's colleges while here, an example of the wider-scale impact organizers and local officials are hoping to see.
"A lot of it was sourced locally, lot of jobs that were here sourced locally, a lot of some of the equipment was sourced locally. Obviously Lenovo being in our backyard, they're a global sponsor of this event, it just happens to be the Global Championship is here," said Ed Tomasi, Co-Chair of the Greater Raleigh ESports Local Organizing Committee.
Over the past few years, this region has grown into a destination for large-scale esports competitions, with tickets for the the Halo Championship Series at the Raleigh Convention Center last December quickly selling out. For events at this scale, it's anticipated 70-80% of fans will travel from out-of-state to attend, leading to increased sales at nearby hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers.
Caleb Smith, owner and manager of Triangle ESports Academy in Cary, said competitors rented out his space leading up to the tournament.
"Most of them came here at least a week early especially the ones that may come from Europe or Asia, may do the whole time change, jet lag, and then they need a place to practice before the event. So that brings a lot of revenue when it comes to teams coming and playing, buying concessions," Smith explained.
He's noticed the building excitement, noting they have plans to open a second location, a result of interest and strong business. Local colleges and universities are now offering courses in the gaming industry, and the Triangle is home to several well-known companies, including Epic Games.
"This is really a STEM project if you really think about it. It's computers, it's technology, it's science, it's art. It's entertainment. And all the jobs that go along with that - whether it's the security guard here at the arena or the person programming the actual game itself," said Rep. Jason Saine, who represents Lincoln County in the State House.
Saine was instrumental in pushing a new program included in the state budget last year - allowing production companies to apply for a rebate of up to 25% on qualifying expenses, with a total allotment of $5 million for the year.
"Now, North Carolina becomes such an attractive market to bring these global events to, but it also attracts the regional events as well," said Tomasi, who said they are in discussions to bring more competitions later this year, as well as 2022 and 2023. Attendance is expected to increase each day, leading up to the finals on Sunday.
"You just feel that energy man. Yesterday, when I was playing down on Mainstage, and we're about to look up and you see all the people and lights, just their energy and them yelling. It gets you excited. It puts a heartbeat in your chest that you can't describe," said Rambeau, a competitor from Florida whose brother lives in Raleigh.