Back in February, Toronto held the NBA All-Star Weekend at the Air Canada Centre. It coincided with a renaissance in both the city’s basketball team and its nationalism in general; the Raptors finished in the top four in this year’s NBA playoffs, and Canadians are finding out that people actually like us.
Most recently, LeBron James complimented the city and its crowds after defeating the Raptors en-route to the NBA Finals:
During the All-Star Weekend, two-time Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley remarked:
“I go there every summer,” he said. “I have a bunch of friends up there. I think it’s one of the best kept secrets in the world.
“I think it will be great to shine the light on that city.”
The Summer LCS Finals being announced for Toronto is going to continue that.
— lolesports (@lolesports) June 6, 2016
Canadian League of Legends fans are hungry. When Riot Games announced the venues for the 2016 World Championship in North America, they may have even felt snubbed; the company has expanded its desire to travel over the last year, which gave fans hope that they might have their own event. Instead, a North American finals was confined the USA: groups in San Francisco, quarterfinals in Chicago, semis in New York City and finals in Los Angeles.
Canada has never had an LCS event before for a few reasons. The venue space in the city is limited, with most of it being owned by a few parties: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) also owns all of the major sports teams in the city (except the Toronto Blue Jays) and the facilities they play in.
The Rogers Centre (formerly the Skydome, owned by Rogers Communications) is much too big, at a 40,000 capacity without closing off upper decks, and Ricoh Coliseum (owned by MLSE) is too small at 8,140 for a hockey setup. The Air Canada Centre represents that “just right” size but is hamstrung by the long and arduous NHL and NBA seasons, which both have 41 home games apiece. Both of those seasons start in mid (NHL) to late (NBA) October, and no one wants to hold an event during a Canadian winter.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 27, 2016
Since Season 2, every worlds finals has ended in October: Season 2, the 13th; Season 3, the 4th; 2014 Season, the 19th, and 2015 Season, the 31st. The scheduling likely would have been difficult for the length of time needed for setup, teardown and the games themselves.
However, summer LCS Finals are in a perfect alignment with the offseason of both those events, as they take place on Aug. 27-28. This means the main competition is concerts and other “specialty” events like WWE tour stops.
Months ago, I was informed by a source who works within MLSE that they were looking to host an esports event in the city, which looks to have resulted in working with Riot; the Air Canada Centre represents the perfect venue space for the LCS, as the 10,000-15,000 (18,000ish if they decide to do a “center of the arena” layout, depending on floor seating and stage design) fits what Riot has been trying to fill with domestic events in the USA.
In short, it’s the stars aligning with big enough players finding a common reason to work together. Riot likely wants to satiate the demand for a Canadian event, and MLSE likely wants a usecase to work with for future events. Becoming the main esports venue in the biggest city in Canada is a lucrative opportunity as the industry explodes.
But let’s go back to that nationalism for a second.
Esports events rarely come to Canada because it is usually more beneficial for companies to serve the larger markets in the northeastern United States, like New York, or MLG’s Columbus events. This makes visa situations for players and crew easier (likely the cause of the worlds snub), and Canadians can travel south rather than a larger amount of Americans travelling north.
This means that when events do come here, they are treated to a crowd that appreciates what they’re seeing. This was noted both for 2015’s IEM Toronto StarCraft event and the recent Get On My Level Smash Bros event. Many commentators from both spheres noted the Canadian crowds as being something special.
GOML looks so hype. Stream has been top notch. Crowd is killing it. Is the crowd micd or is it just that loud? Lol
— Ben Nichol (@MrBitterTV) May 22, 2016
This grows when one of our own are competing against the world’s best.
While League fans from Canada might not be aware of those other events, they are certain to want Riot to consider coming back to the country, either again in Toronto or somewhere like Vancouver. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate Drake: seeing someone from your city or country getting recognition on a world stage gives you pride.
That feeling breeds a realization that the fans need to make this LCS experience great; whether this means hosting Americans to stay in their homes, guiding out-of-towners to better experiences with the city or just treating players and staff to some really good meals, Canadians are going to try for this event. We need to. We’re done being overlooked.
This event means something to Canadians that others may have taken for granted; the North American LCS 2016 Summer Finals are going to be a spotlight on the city it’s being played in as much as it is the players who are participating.
If you can, come up and enjoy the event. Get poutine while you’re here. You won’t regret it.
15 pounds of poutine on the first day pic.twitter.com/cqRIWt1oBm
— Marcus (@Dyrus) May 24, 2016
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.