As the novel coronavirus shuts down stadiums and theaters across the country, one entertainment industry sees opportunity in the cancelled events. Esports, which in 2019 commanded a global audience of more than 433 million, is poised to grow as people seek socially distant forms of entertainment.
The industry's advantage lies in its flexibility. Unlike athletic games and artistic performances, esports competitions can be held entirely online, with gamers facing each other remotely in matches live-streamed to far-flung audiences numbering in the millions. The closure of schools, offices, and traditional entertainment venues in China has already led to a significant spike in esports viewership. According to the Washington Post, the esports organization Gen.G reported an increase of 18.2 percent in Chinese viewership on two of its live-streaming sites for its Player Unknown's Battlegrounds and League of Legends teams. Meanwhile, over the past week the streaming app Twitch saw increases in first-time downloads of 50 percent, 41 percent, and 26 percent in Greece, Italy, and Spain, respectively, and 14 percent in the United States, which is still in the early stages of quarantine. "There is an opportunity to expand their audiences," according to video gaming market analyst Michael Pachter, quoted in the Post. "It won't expand by 50 percent, but it could possibly expand by 20 percent."
The coronavirus has, of course, presented challenges to the esports industry. In recent years, esports leagues have held live tournaments in both designated and makeshift venues, which can attract audiences in the tens of thousands. The social aspect of these often multi-day events is often as important as the competition itself. Spectators alternate between watching the professional games, playing each other, and patronizing esports vendors. Numerous tournaments have been cancelled as venues shut down over public health concerns.
Nevertheless, the opportunities for virtual gaming and live-streaming promise to introduce new viewers to esports, expanding the industry's reach. A rise in the popularity of esports presents opportunities not only to gaming professionals, but to adjacent industries. Development projects like the Aud will be well-positioned to take advantage of the growth of esports once the economy - and daily life - returns to normal.
"A Map of New England," originally published in William Hubbard's "Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians," 1677. Massachusetts Historical Society. Oriented with the West at top, the map uses numbers to represent communities attacked by Native fighters - the number 17 (slightly left of center) denotes Quinsigamond Plantation.
The city of Worcester got off to a rocky start. Quinsigamond Plantation, as it was called in 1675, was located in New England’s western frontier. Like other nearby colonial outposts, it had sprung up along the Boston Post Road to satisfy land-hungry colonists and expand Massachusetts territory, often at the expense of indigenous populations. The village had been purchased for a pittance from the local Nipmuc in 1674. Lots ranging in size from 25 to 100 acres had been laid out on “Indian broken up lands,” the settlers’ term for former Native agricultural areas. A two-story, wooden garrison house – the “old Indian Fort” – guarded the plantation and the approximately thirty Englishmen who called it home.
Relations between the Quinsigamond Plantation settlers and the Nipmuc were initially calm, though colonial authorities tried to exert political influence over their Native neighbors. In September 1674, the Reverend John Eliot and Daniel Gookin visited the nearby village Pakachoag, where they were “kindly entertained” by sagamores Horowanninit (known to the English as Sagamore John) and Woosanakochu. Eliot and a Christianized Nipmuc minister, James Speen, preached and led a prayer service. A resident council then approved the two sagamores “to be rulers of this people and co-ordinate in power, clothed with the authority of the English government” and accepted Speen as their minister. It is unclear whether the villagers did so because they sought the colonial government’s protection or simply to humor their visitors. Whatever the case, the outbreak of King Philip’s War disrupted all efforts to forge tighter bonds between European authorities, Quinsigamond Plantation, and the Nipmuc.
Largely forgotten in public memory today, King Philip’s War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. What began as a Native rebellion against English colonization morphed into a war of extermination whereby the Wampanoag, Massachusett, Nipmuc, and Naragansett joined forces to oust the colonists from the region, and the English, with the help of Mahican, Pequot, and Praying Indian allies, fought back with equal or greater brutality. Between the war’s outbreak in June 1675 and its end in August 1676, up to forty percent of New England’s indigenous population had been killed, died in captivity, or sold into slavery. Five percent of colonists had perished and 67 English towns were destroyed, mostly on the frontier. Quinsigamond Plantation was among them.
Hostilities erupted in the vicinity of Quinsigamond in June 1675, when the rebellion’s leader, the Wompanoag grand sachem Metacomet (also known as King Philip), forged an alliance with Horowanninit and the Nipmuc, and destroyed the colonial town of Quaboag (Brookfield). A month later, the constable of Pakachoag, Matoonas, attacked Mendon to avenge the execution of his son by the English in 1671. The region descended into violence. Companies of English soldiers indiscriminately ravaged the villages and crops of both enemy tribes and Praying Indians, and interned captive men, women, and children on the notorious Deer Island and Long Island in Boston Harbor. Meanwhile, Native fighters razed English settlements, among them Grafton and Marlborough. Tiny Quinsigamond Plantation was soon abandoned, and many of its initial settlers, including Ephraim Curtis, joined colonial forces against the rebelling tribes. The empty village was used occasionally as a military outpost until a band of Nipmuc burned it to the ground on December 2, 1675. Upon hearing the news, the fiery Puritan minister Increase Mather interpreted it as a sign of divine wrath.
The violence raged through the winter and spring, when it became clear that the English were prevailing. Surviving Natives who were not enslaved or imprisoned gradually retreated from their ancestral homelands. Sensing defeat, Horowanninit of Pakachoag village and 180 followers abandoned their allegiance with Metacomet in July 1676 and entreated the colonial government in Boston for peace. As a sign of goodwill, they captured Matoonas, executed him on Boston Common, and impaled his head nearby, as his son’s had been five years earlier. Their gesture did little to gain the colonists’ trust: of the original 180 men, eleven were executed, thirty sold into slavery, and the rest imprisoned on Deer Island (which they soon escaped). When the war ended in August with Metacomet’s death, Horowanninit and his remaining followers returned to Pakachoag to find the region depopulated. Fewer than one thousand Nipmuc now inhabited what had once been a center of tribal life.
English settlers, too, returned to the area. Quinsigamond Plantation was rebuilt between 1678 and 1686 and renamed Worcester. Houses, mills, a church, a school, and a fort sprang up to replace the ones that had burned during the war, and colonial authorities allotted land to the settlers who moved in. However, the town’s renaissance was short-lived. Native unrest resurfaced in the 1690s, and the beginning of Queen Anne’s war in 1702 sounded the death-knell for the reestablished village. Horowanninit led his fellow Nipmuc in raids against Worcester, causing its residents to flee a second time.
In 1713, the English made a third attempt to settle the area. This time, they succeeded. The town of Worcester grew into a thriving city whose diversity belied its bloody beginnings. And although colonial warfare devasted the Nipmuc, they were not exterminated. To this day, members of the Nipmuc Nation call Worcester and the surrounding region home.
Approaching the Worcester Memorial Auditorium from the east this week, you'll be greeted by an unfamiliar sight - a dark blue signpost welcoming you to the "Salisbury District" in capital letters. This wayfinding sign is among the first to be installed throughout the city as part of what MassLive News describes as a months-long process "to add public art and a sense of identity to some of Worcester's neighborhoods and popular locations." Artwork will eventually be incorporated to the base of the signs. In addition to the marker in Lincoln Square, the City so far has installed three others on Shrewsbury Street, Washington Square, and MLK Jr. Boulevard. The total number of wayfinders has yet to be disclosed.
The wayfinder in Lincoln Square will help to establish the future renovated Aud as the gateway between Worcester's downtown and the cultural and educational attractions immediately to the north. The marker publicly identifies a blighted corner of the city as the southeastern edge of the Salisbury Cultural District. The area includes many institutions that already invigorate both the neighborhood and the city as a whole, and which the Aud project is intended to complement. The next time you visit Worcester, make sure to stop by any of the Salisbury Cultural District's sites:
Following months of negotiations, the Architectural Heritage Foundation and the City of Worcester have executed a Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for the Worcester Memorial Auditorium. Entering into this cooperative site control arrangement marks the completion of the first stage of last June's purchase agreement between AHF and the City. The LDA will allow AHF to advance the project to the predevelopment phase, which will entail designing modest and historically appropriate interventions to make the building handicapped accessible by contemporary standards. Our immediate next steps are to enter into consultation with Worcester's historical community, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the National Park Service. We are grateful to the City of Worcester for its support and look forward to continuing to work together to preserve and revitalize the Aud for communities in the city and beyond.
Jason Baker is a fan of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium - so much so that he has made two trips to document the building. On December 4, the local photographer and his colleague, Zach Menard, spent an hour exploring the Aud for the second time, capturing striking images of its chambers and corridors. He specializes in historic buildings, particularly those that are vacant or deteriorating. His goal is to create a visual record of structures at risk of demolition and to inspire viewers to learn more about the sites. "I feel like I'm keeping memories alive," Baker said in a recent Boston Globe article.
In addition to the Aud, Baker has photographed another AHF adaptive reuse project, the Charles River Speedway in Boston. AHF is grateful for his efforts to draw attention to these and other historic buildings across New England.
That esports is upending the entertainment world and appearing in college curricula is established. But high school?
The Washington Post reports that high schools in nine states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, have officially added esports to their athletics programs. Students train together and compete against teams across the country as they would in conventional athletics - but because esports is web-based, no travel is necessary. Participation opens the possibility of earning a college esports scholarship, but also teaches strategic thinking, teamwork, and sportsmanship, and enables students from across the social spectrum to get to know each other.
As the world of high-tech entertainment grows, one thing seems certain: esports will play an increasingly important role in the coming years. And the Aud can be a resource for those who want in.
Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coming-to-a-high-school-near-you-the-brave-new-world-of-esports/2019/07/22/331919d2-aca3-11e9-bc5c-e73b603e7f38_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1046ad1cf8d3
"Nothing but a Win for the City:" Worcester City Council Economic Development Committee Endorses Aud Proposal
The Worcester City Council Economic Development Committee has endorsed the Architectural Heritage Foundation's redevelopment plans for the Worcester Memorial Auditorium. The Committee's support facilitates the execution of a Land Disposition Agreement between AHF and the City later this month, paving the way for the building's eventual sale to AHF or its subsidiary two years from now.
Following a presentation yesterday evening by AHF's development team, Councilor and committee chair Candy Mero-Carlson expressed enthusiasm for reactivating the Aud as an educational, cultural, and entrepreneurial center for digital technology. "This is a pretty exciting night for the city of Worcester," she remarked. "This building has been looked at, re-looked and re-looked at again. We wanted to do everything we could to save it. Working with the colleges on this, this is nothing but a win for the city. I'm very happy to move this forward."
Councilor-at-Large Gary Rosen posed several questions about district parking needs and potential, unanticipated hurdles to the project before commenting, "This building, its contents, its history are all in wonderful hands. This is exciting and it's a great project. I support it one hundred percent."
Alan Ritacco, Dean of Becker College's School of Design and Technology, attended the meeting and offered insight into the redeveloped Aud's future impact on the city: "There isn't another building like this in New England. This will be a first and put Worcester on the map."
For more information on AHF's plans for the Aud, visit the Vision page.
Read the Worcester Telegram and Gazette's article on the presentation here:
The Worcester Business Journal recently highlighted AHF's pending purchase agreement for the Worcester Memorial Auditorium in an article on recent investment in Lincoln Square. The Aud is one of three historic buildings in the square that are slated for redevelopment by Boston-based companies and organizations. The other two include the former Worcester County Courthouse - currently under construction to become a $58-million apartment project - and the old Lincoln Square Boys Club, potential educational, office, medical, or biotech space. The Journal describes the Aud as "arguably the most historic out of the three," and AHF's project as "the most ambitious."
Read the full article here: https://www.wbjournal.com/article/at-least-170-million-worth-of-redevelopment-projects-could-transform-lincoln-square?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Three+Lincoln+Square+projects+%7C+Worcester+s+biotech+cluster&utm_campaign=Daily+061119
Following the announcement in the Worcester Telegram of the pending purchase agreement between the City of Worcester and the Architectural Heritage Foundation for the Aud, Worcester media outlets picked up the story. Read the articles below from the Worcester Business Journal and MassLive, and listen to an interview with Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus on Talk of the Commonwealth:
Worcester Business Journal: https://www.wbjournal.com/article/boston-architecture-firm-plans-94m-digital-arts-renovation-of-worcester-memorial-auditorium
Talk of the Commonwealth: https://soundcloud.com/talkofthecommonwealth/city-manager-ed-augustus-tells-us-about-selling-the-aud
This week, Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus offered his stamp of approval for the future sale of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium to the Architectural Heritage Foundation. His decision came four months after AHF submitted a final report to the City outlining a plan to redevelop the building as a cutting-edge educational and cultural center for for digital innovation, entertainment, entrepreneurship, and the arts. A City Council vote on the future sale authorization is slated for Tuesday, May 28.
The agreement gives AHF two years to complete schematic designs of the project, secure Tier II and Tier III funding, and identify a development partner and building operator before closing. Under a future sales contract, AHF would purchase the Aud for $450,000, or $6 per square foot, facilitating what is expected to be a $94 million redevelopment. The project would preserve the exterior facades, Memorial hall, lobby, Shrine of the Immortal murals, and Kimball pipe organ, while outfitting other interior spaces for digital innovation, competitive gaming, performance, and IMAX-like uses.
AHF is excited to continue to work with the City of Worcester on rehabilitating the Aud. We are delighted by the City’s engagement with the project and commitment to the ongoing revitalization of Lincoln Square. Worcester is widely recognized as a leader in technological innovation and education, and the Aud presents an excellent opportunity to connect an historically meaningful building to 21st-century economic opportunities. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the City and the Worcester community to bring this magnificent building back into public use.
Read the Worcester Telegram's coverage here: https://www.telegram.com/news/20190523/worcester-agrees-to-sell-worcester-memorial-auditorium-to-architectural-heritage-foundation
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