The NBA 2K League is relocating its in-person competition to Indianapolis, leaving behind the New York City studio that had been its primary home since launching five years ago.
Much of the 24-team league’s early action was hosted at the 115-seat venue in Long Island City, with occasional tournaments in other cities. The coronavirus pandemic forced the league into remote play for much of 2020 and 2021.
The league will continue with some remote competitions but will also host teams at its new NBA 2K League Studio at The Pavilion at Pan Am beginning April 20. The studio features two stages, allowing for simultaneous gameplay that the league believes will better serve its online broadcasts.
Ryan Vaughn, president of the Indiana Sports Corp., said some teams will remain in Indianapolis for extended periods, while others will travel to the city only for studio competitions.
He said the organization is leasing 60 apartments in three unidentified properties to house long-stay participants and booked dozens of hotel rooms—anywhere from 30 to 300 depending on the day—for those who plan to travel.
The 2K league’s personnel will be based in Indianapolis for the duration of the event and are working closely with the Indiana Sports Corp. to build out the space at the Pavilion.
Fans will be able to attend, but the league says it isn’t announcing ticket information yet.
“We are thrilled to get back to our live studio experience in the heart of downtown Indianapolis—a city overflowing with passionate basketball fans and known for putting on some of the biggest events in American sports,” NBA 2K League President Brendan Donohue said. “The NBA 2K League is proud to call Indianapolis our home for the 2022 season.”
Donohue said Indianapolis beat out five other finalist cities to host the league during its fifth season of competition, noting the city’s first foray into professional esports comes after decades of experience in hosting other events.
“There are plenty of cities that have never hosted an esports event, but there’s very few cities have hosted what this city has hosted,” he said. “It made a lot of sense for us [to be in Indianapolis]. And when they showed us the facility, that was the final straw—we knew it was a perfect fit for us.”
The season, which concludes in late August, will not be affected by plans to level the Pavilion later this year as Kite Realty Group and the city break ground on the redevelopment of Pan Am Plaza. That project is expected to get under way in the second half of 2022, with construction on an expansion of the Indiana Convention Center and a Hilton Signia hotel.
The league’s teams are all operated by NBA teams, with the exception of Shanghai’s Gen.G Tigers, which have been based out of the University of Kentucky’s state-of-the-art esports space amid the pandemic.
Vaughn said it’s unclear what the economic impact will be from the event, but added he expects the exposure on traditional media channels and social media will go a long way in showcasing the city.
“The media impact is going to be what’s really catalytic here,” Vaughn said. “These folks are obviously very digitally savvy and they have huge followings across their platforms. So if they’re singing praises about their experience in Indy, that will only be good for us.”