Is a New Mega Esports Venue Proof Experience Destinations Can Save Malls?

Major athletic players have made significant investments in the burgeoning esports industry over the past two years, and now, a prominent U.S. mall is banking on the buzz of gaming.

Simon and Allied Esports said The Village section of the Mall of Georgia will soon house a two-level, 13,000-square-foot dedicated esports facility. (The mall is in Buford, a roughly 40-minute drive from Atlanta.) The venue will feature amateur and professional gaming tournaments, PCs and consoles for daily use, food and drinks, a retail component and more.

Construction is scheduled for Q2 with an expected open date in the second half of 2020.

There are more than 200 stores in the mall, including several footwear retailers including Champs Sports, JD Sports, Journeys and more.

“We’ve long felt that the gaming and esports communities in the Southeast, especially the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, are vibrant and growing and believe we have a location at Mall of Georgia that will serve as a dynamic hub for esports experiences in the region,” Allied Esports CEO Jud Hannigan explained in a statement.

Although the addition of an esports facility is a first for Allied Esports, adding destinations that aren’t necessarily shopping focused isn’t new for malls. With the number of malls diminishing in the U.S. over the past decade — and an estimated 25% more closing by 2022, according to a 2017 Credit Suisse report — some are adding entertainment options to complement shopping.

The NPD Group senior sports industry adviser Matt Powell said bringing entertainment destinations to malls could be a major traffic driver as the idea of shopping in them becomes less desirable.

“The ultimate goal of any of these entertainment venues that we’re seeing pop up in malls now is to bring more traffic, to bring younger traffic than they might have been getting,” Powell said. “It’s not unlike putting in a Dave & Busters or a chain like we have in the Northeast called Round 1 that has an arcade and pool tables. The idea is to make the mall more of an entertainment destination than just a commerce one.”

More malls are starting to adopt this principal, most recently the $5 billion megamall American Dream in East Rutherford , N.J., which features a rollercoaster and a water park, among several other activity-based destinations. (The complex, which features 3.3 million square feet of retail, will celebrate its grand opening in March.)

Although the impact Allied Esports will have on traffic in the Mall of Georgia won’t be realized until the latter part of the year, a local real estate expert is looking forward to what the facility could do for the area.

Sarah Williams, SVP and national director of retail brokerage for JLL, said the Mall of Georgia traffic is strong, and historically has been, with millions of Northeast Atlanta customers visiting throughout the year. Williams did say, however, that the addition of Allied Esports will ensure customers keep coming.

“The addition of Allied Esports will be a powerful addition to the mall, sure to bring even more new customers onto the property who might otherwise not be shopping at the mall,” Williams said. “It should absolutely boost expenditures, especially with food and beverage offerings on property.”

Although Allied Esports will be the hot new addition in 2020, Williams noted other recent non-shopping destinations that have made visiting the Mall of Georgia more desirable such as Billy Beez and Paranoia Quest: Escape the Room.

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