It has played host to some of the country's most famous sports games, but now New Zealand's home of rugby is set to become the country's centre of esports as the video gaming scene continues to grow across the world.
Eden Park is out to attract new audiences who may never have attended rugby or cricket at the Auckland venue while showcasing some of the country's top gamers on the world stage.
Advisory and investment firm Guinevere Capital has announced Eden Park as the home for New Zealand's first high-performance esports centre, which will give the best teams in Australia and New Zealand professional practice spaces, stream booths, broadcast capabilities and host weekly leagues as well as being a venue for esports events.
Guinevere Capital has played a pivotal role in the creation of two other groundbreaking esports performance facilities in iconic sports stadiums around the world, at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground, and Twickenham Stadium, the home of British rugby.
Managing director of Guinevere Capital David Harris said the centre will be crucial for the development of the Oceania esports scene.
"The Eden Park esports high performance centre will be a melting pot of the Aust/NZ esports and gaming communities, where we can develop our esports science and training philosophies, and provide the infrastructure for players and streamers to hone their craft and build their brands," Harris said.
"Whilst esports is a hugely modern industry which brings a new brand of athlete, setting up a facility like this in Eden Park, which holds immense legacy and cultural significance, feels fitting. Esports is going to be a huge part of New Zealand's future, and we're proud that we get to be a part of that."
The facility is expected to open towards the end of 2020.
Teams such as Australia-based Dire Wolves, famed for its flagship League of Legends team, will use the new centre as a hub. Last week they launched a huge expansion of their organisation, including creating rosters in video games such as EA Sports Fifa, Overwatch, NBA 2K, and Valorant.
Dire Wolves is a team that has had a strong Kiwi presence in its League of Legends throughout the years, with its current roster featuring Ryan Short from Tauranga, Hamiltonian Andy Van der Vyver and Auckland duo Daniel Ealam and Ari-Greene Young.
The team also once contained Hamiltonian Quin Korebrits who now features for Legacy esports in the Oceanic Pro League.
While most sports were forced to cease operations during the Covid-19 lockdowns, esports was able to continue across the world thanks in part to competitions being able to be played remotely.
Eden Park CEO Nick Saunter says the initiative will attract new audiences who may have never attended a rugby or cricket match at Eden Park, while showcasing some of the country's top gamers on the world stage.
"New Zealand's national stadium is iconic and at the centre of many special memories for both Kiwis and tourists around the world. The esports high performance centre will showcase Eden Park's ongoing ability to diversify, evolve, and be at the forefront of new technology," Sautner said.
The annual League of Legends world championship brought in more than 100 million viewers, including a peak of 44 million concurrent viewers, during the competition's final round on November 10.
The world championship has filled out stadiums across the world including the Beijing National Stadium - known as The Bird's Nest.
The prize pool for the 2019 tournament was US$2.2 million.
Community manager for New Zealand's fighting community Standing Fierce, David Douglas, said: "The Kiwi esports scene is an extremely passionate and vibrant one, and seeing our industry and community establish a new base in the home of New Zealand sport alongside titans of national culture such as the All Blacks and Blackcaps, is really exciting for us."
"The grassroots [esports] community in New Zealand has enormous potential, and having a venue like this, not just for our pro players to train, but to nurture and support local talent and fandoms, where we can hold events, network and exchange ideas will be hugely beneficial to the Oceanic scene."
Guinevere Capital says the creation of the Eden Park esports facility represents the growing significance of esports in New Zealand, and the impact the new industry will have on the region's future.
Eden Park holds 117 years of history and is one of Oceania's most celebrated cultural landmarks. The first stadium in the world to host two Rugby World Cup Finals, the Park 50,000 capacity is considered the home of the All Blacks, where they remain unbeaten in over 40 test matches stretching back to the 1990s.