Matt Rossetti – The Inverted Bowl – Where the upper deck is the new front row

Matt Rossetti, President of ROSSETTI, an entertainment and stadium architecture firm, is the brain behind The Inverted Bowl, which is a rethink of the traditional entertainment venue. Coupling its slogan ‘The Upper Deck is the new Front Row,’ with a eye catching introductory video, it got our attention.

We spoke to Matt about how The Inverted Bowl differs from traditional venues, and its possibilities when it comes to esports. 

Matt Rossetti, ROSSETTI

Esports Insider: What is the Inverted Bowl and how did you come up with the idea?

Matt Rossetti: The Inverted Bowl is something entirely new: a ground-up reimagining of arena design fundamentals that fuses arena excitement with the immersive qualities of an intimate setting. The upper tier of seating has been entirely reconfigured.

As a result, instead of sloping away, The Inverted Bowl leans in, with balcony-style seating that catapults viewers closer to the action. The worst seats in the house become the best viewing areas, with broadcast quality views that are as much as 50 percent closer.

This revolutionary design change opens up formerly single-use concourses and creates a range of new social spaces where fans can come together to experience the game or the show in new ways. The Inverted Bowl costs less to build and to operate, generates 20-30 percent more revenue, and—unlike traditional arena concepts—is specifically designed to integrate into urban environments. The result is a truly unique experience that immerses fans in the action in a way that has never been done before.

ESI: Have you spoken to many from the world of esports who have embraced the idea?

Matt: Those that I’ve spoken to have been extremely supportive and enthusiastic. I recently spoke at the 2017 Global Esports Executive Summit hosted by The International Esports Federation (IeSF), and I talked about the esports venue of the future.

I spoke with esports athletes, promoters and IeSF representatives from a number of different countries, and scholars and experts from both inside and outside the industry.

All of them were very receptive and enthusiastic about The Inverted Bowl and its potential for esports applications.

“The worst seats in the house become the best viewing areas, with broadcast quality views that are as much as 50 percent closer”

I think it’s clear that esports is a natural partner for The Inverted Bowl—and for other innovative concepts that prioritise an intimate, energised atmosphere and a high level of fan engagement. The Inverted Bowl was created with uses like esports in mind. The unique proximity to the stage not only allows spectators to be closer to the action, but allows the energy of the competition to really resonate.

The viewing experience is just so different, providing optimal viewing proximity to the large event screens from balcony seating in the upper bowl and at the same time bringing more focus back onto the athletes themselves. And that heightened experience goes both ways: esports athletes are excited about competing in those venues, and with this kind of revolutionary design, a sports endeavor that can be somewhat insulated and isolating has the potential to become more communal, kinetic and atmospheric. That’s exciting!

ESI: We’ve seen esports events hosted in the likes of the Bird’s Nest in Beijing to Wembley Arena in London, and the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Which venues have worked the best and provided the best experience that you know of? And moreover what are the drawbacks of some of these?

Matt: Those are all iconic venues, but as spectacular as places like Beijing’s Bird’s Nest are, esports events really shine in spaces that allow the audience to be closer to the action. There is a certain degree of prestige and publicity that comes with hosting esports events in those grand facilities, but smaller multipurpose arenas like KeyArena in Seattle have been more popular and practical for regular competition.

“As spectacular as places like Beijing’s Bird’s Nest are, esports events really shine in spaces that allow the audience to be closer to the action”

You can do a lot with video screens and VR and AR integration in larger arenas, but the viewing experience is never great: you are essentially just watching a large screen from a distance. Nothing can replace the intimacy of true proximity. The ideal venue provides both the majesty and sense of theater of a traditional arena, along with the energy and engagement of a smaller space.

ESI: In the next few years, and further down the line, how do you think VR will impact esports viewership and audience engagement at events?

Matt: VR is already such an important part of playing esports, it’s only natural that it has—and will continue to—become an important part of viewing esports. That said, the idea that both the digital and the live experience can (and, to some extent, must) be immersive is a relatively new development.

Outside of the arena environment, VR offers such a compelling and cost-effective alternative that live venues have to up their game: the live event has to keep pace with an improving virtual experience. The bottom line is that the next generation of event and live entertainment spaces need to be able to do two things simultaneously: provide a compelling alternative to the VR experience while also accommodating those VR and AR elements that can make an event like esports come to life.

ESI: When do you anticipate a number of the top esports teams having their own purpose built venues?

Matt: In a sense this is already happening in a couple of different ways. Some organisations and IP holders are building their own dedicated esports arenas, but these are typically scaled down facilities of just a few thousand seats at most. The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood has recently been retrofitted with some exciting new technology, including seating that moves and reacts to what is happening on screen—and that’s really interesting and encouraging, as well.

“What seems more likely to us than a spike in purpose-built venues designed specifically for esports is that we will see a new generation of true multipurpose arenas

As for larger, purpose-built arenas, I really think it’s just a matter of time. This year could potentially be a big year for esports, as it continues to emerge as a global force. The announcement this fall that the IOC is considering esports for inclusion in future Olympic games was enormously important, and I expect to see esports facilities continue to emerge and evolve. There’s no doubt that The Inverted Bowl is ideally suited for the intimacy, VR and AR integration, and tech-heavy presentation of esports. It’s a match made in heaven. But what seems more likely to us than a spike in purpose-built venues designed specifically for esports is that we will see a new generation of true multipurpose arenas.

As esports continues to grow and become more popular, it will create one more compelling reason for developers, urban planners and civic officials to consider a new approach to arena design.

ESI: What is currently holding back The Inverted Bowl and what challenges are you expecting?

Matt: Honestly, the only missing ingredient at this point is a developer partner with the vision and foresight to embrace this game-changing concept and bring it to life.

The key thing to remember with The Inverted Bowl is that it’s not a pie-in-the-sky theory: every element of this design has been thoroughly vetted and refined over the course of more than seven years of conceptualisation, feasibility studies and physical prototypes.

Once an innovative, forward-thinking partner willing to embrace something different commits, we’re confident that the result will redefine arena design for decades—and perhaps even generations—to come.