Esports: The New Game in Town
February 19, 2020
Esports: competitive, organized video gaming is taking Washington, DC by storm. The city’s newest Esports team, the Washington Justice, begin their new OverWatch League season and home games this month. Even DC’s traditional teams are taking advantage of this expanding sports world. The Washington Capitals have a sub brand of the team in the Esports world referred to as, “Caps Gaming” while the Washington Wizards have “Wizards District Gaming” and compete in the NBA 2K League. DC’s newest sports arena that opened in September 2018, the Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA), is home to both traditional and Esports. Even the US Navy and other armed forces branches are sponsoring Esports tournaments.
Come learn how Esports is gripping the DC sports scene and is riding the wave of the future for the Washington metro in sports, tourism, and economic development.
The program was sponsored by the NYU Tisch Institute for Global Sport, in collaboration with the John Brademas Center of New York University. This forum highlighted the Esports scene in the Washington, DC metro area and how Esports has become a microcosm of what is taking place in cities across the United States.
Please note that this program was filmed and photographed.
Mark Ein, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Venturehouse Group, LLC
Mark D. Ein is an investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who has created, acquired, invested in and built a series of growth companies across a diverse set of industries over the course of his 30-year career. During this time, Mr. Ein has been involved in the founding or early stages of six companies that have been worth over one billion dollars and has led over $1.8 billion of private equity, venture capital and public company investments.
Mr. Ein was the Chairman and CEO of Capitol 1, 2, 3 and 4. Mr. Ein is currently Chairman of the Board of Lindblad Expeditions (NASDAQ:LIND), a global leader in marine expedition travel and a private sector thought leader on environmental conservation, and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Nesco Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:NSCO), a leading provider of specialty rental equipment to the electric utility, telecom, and rail end-markets. Previously, Mr. Ein was the Vice-Chairman and Co-Founder of Two Harbors Investment Corp (NYSE:TWO), one of the largest residential mortgage REITs that today has a market capitalization of approximately $4.0 billion that was formed through a merger with Capitol 1, and Vice-Chairman of Cision (NYSE:CISN), the leading provider of cloud-based software for the communications and PR industries that was formed through a merger with Capitol 3. He is also a member of the board of Soho House Limited, one of the leading private members clubs in the world with houses across the globe.
Mr. Ein is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Venturehouse Group, LLC and Leland Investment Co., holding companies that create, invest in and build growth businesses in a range of industries. Among the current majority-owned companies in the portfolios are Kastle Systems, LLC, the country’s leading provider of building and office security systems acquired in January 2007 and VSGi, a nationwide provider of videoconferencing solutions acquired in 2001. Mr. Ein is Chairman of both companies.
Mr. Ein is the Founder and Owner of the Washington Kastles WTT franchise that has won the league championship six of its eleven years since its founding and set the record for the longest winning streak in US pro team sports history winning 34 straight matches from 2011 through 2013. In September 2018, Mr. Ein founded the Washington Justice esports franchise in the Overwatch League bringing the premier global esports league to the greater Washington, DC region. Also, in 2018, Mr. Ein acquired the Washington City Paper, the renowned weekly paper serving the Washington, DC metropolitan area since 1981. In 2019, Ein took over management and operation of the Citi Open in Washington, DC, one of the five largest tennis events in the U.S. and one of only five major tournaments in the U.S. featuring players from both the ATP and WTA Tours competing simultaneously.
A native of the Washington area, he actively supports many community, charitable and cultural organizations and currently serves on the boards of the DC Public Education Fund (as Chairman since 2010, the Fund has raised $130 million of philanthropic support for DC Public Schools), the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, DC College Access Program (DC-CAP), and DC Policy Center (Co-Founder). He formerly served on the Board of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) from 2012-2018 (serving as a Vice President of the Board from 2016-2018). Mr. Ein has been a member of the World Economic Forum since 2016, and the Gridiron Club, the oldest and one of the most prestigious journalistic organizations in Washington, DC.
He has won numerous awards including the Washington Business Hall of Fame, Washington DC Business Leader of the Year from the Chamber of Commerce in 2011 and 2019, the Jefferson Award (the nation’s highest honor for public service), Washington Business Journal Top Corporation for Philanthropy (Small Companies), Washington Business Journal Power 100, Entrepreneur of the Year Awards from Ernst and Young and the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). In September 2009, Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty presented Mr. Ein with the Key to the City, highlighting his Washington Kastles success on the court and, “for their commitment to the District’s communities and our youth.”
Prior to starting his firm, Mr. Ein worked for The Carlyle Group, Brentwood Associates and Goldman Sachs. He received his BS in Economics with a concentration in finance from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA from The Harvard Business School.
Andrew McNeill, Director of Esports, Monumental Sports & Entertainment
Andrew McNeill is the Director of Esports at Monumental Sports & Entertainment. As the organization's Director of Esports, Andrew leads the strategy and vision for competitive gaming at MSE. This includes overseeing Wizards District Gaming—which competes in the NBA 2K League, a professional esports league founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive—and Caps Gaming, an esports-focused sub-brand under the Washington Capitals that aims to foster the growth of the NHL competitive gaming community and create visibility for hockey’s esports scene. Before joining MSE, Andrew was the Head of Gaming at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, where he oversaw operations for the 3-day gaming and esports event that featured foot traffic of over 55,000 annually. Andrew also co-founded the sports track at SXSW, which focuses on the intersection of sports and emerging technology, and has become an annual staple at the popular music, film and technology festival.
Gregory A. O’Dell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Events DC
Gregory A. O’Dell currently serves as the president and chief executive officer of Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia. Events DC owns and/or operates some of the national capital’s most iconic venues, including the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and the surrounding Festival Grounds, the non-military functions of the DC Armory, the historic Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square and the Gateway DC events pavilion in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood. The organization also built and now serves as landlord for Nationals Park, the first LEED-certified major professional sports stadium in the United States.
As president and CEO, Mr. O’Dell oversees Events DC’s three lines of business: Conventions and Meetings, Sports and Entertainment, and Special Events. His primary responsibilities include oversight of the creation and promotion of hospitality, athletic, entertainment and cultural activities that generate economic and community benefits for the residents and businesses of District of Columbia. He also manages Events DC’s development portfolio, with active projects that include a new multipurpose entertainment and sports arena on the campus of St. Elizabeths East in Congress Heights, the redevelopment of the RFK Stadium/Armory campus, a comprehensive streetscaping project around the 9-block exterior of the Convention Center and the redevelopment of the Carnegie Library inclusive of a primary tenant lease for Apple’s global flagship store.
As the convention and sports authority for the District, Events DC was created in 2009 through the merger of two former, independent quasi-governmental agencies – the Washington Convention Center Authority and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. Mr. O’Dell has the unique experience of having led both organizations as part of his public service in the District of Columbia.
Prior to the merger, Mr. O’Dell served as chief executive officer and general manager of the Washington Convention Center Authority, where he was responsible for the operations of the 2.3-million-square-foot Convention Center, an award-winning facility that sees approximately one million visitors each year and has generated more than $5 billion in direct delegate spending since opening in 2003. Mr. O’Dell was also responsible for the Authority’s development efforts, having led negotiations with the selected private developer and provided oversight throughout the project lifecycle of a $520 million public-private partnership for the 1,175-room, 37-suite Marriott Marquis Washington, DC hotel. The Marriott Marquis, with a pedestrian connector to the Convention Center, broke ground in November 2010 and opened in May 2014.
Before joining the Washington Convention Center Authority, Mr. O’Dell was the president and chief executive officer of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, where he led the project team that completed the $611 million, 41,546-seat and Silver LEED-certified Nationals Park. During his tenure at the Commission, Mr. O’Dell was also responsible for the operations and maintenance of the RFK stadium and campus, inclusive of hosting various events including Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer play, marketing and sales activities, and the contract and services management related to the hosting of events at RFK. Before heading up the Commission, he was the chief development officer for the Government of the District of Columbia, where he was responsible for stimulating and promoting economic development within the District.
Preceding his move to District government, Mr. O’Dell worked for the former management and IT consulting firm BearingPoint (formerly KPMG Consulting). While there, Mr. O’Dell advanced to senior manager and practice lead for Construction Advisory Services, responsible for construction and development services to both public and private clients. After leaving BearingPoint, he served as a principal and owner of the Clemens Consulting Group, where he continued to provide consulting services to clients throughout the lifecycle of their development projects.
A resident of Ward 2, Mr. O’Dell is the Vice President of the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC). He also serves on the boards of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Washington, DC Economic Partnership; DC Surface Transit, Inc.; the Downtown DC Business Improvement District; the PCMA Education Foundation; Destination DC; Children’s National Medical Center (Washington, DC); and the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District. He received a bachelor’s degree with double major in finance and government from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Refugio Orozco, Chief of Marketing, U.S. Navy CNIC, Fleet & Family Readiness (FFR) Support Services
In this role, Refugio leads a team providing all aspects of Navy Fleet and Family Readiness’ comprehensive global network of marketing and corporate partnerships including internal and external marketing communications objectives, strategic communication, enterprise-wide sponsorships, advertising, and brand integration. Refugio has more than 10 years of marketing and sponsorship experience in commercial and federal service.
Refugio is one of the pioneers for various Military/Government Esports programs with respect to his role in the Road to TwitchCon - SFV Open (Twitch partnership) and the Esports Soldier Showdown (Complexity partnership). The worldwide esports qualifiers are held across military installations and enhance service members readiness, resiliency, cognitive skills, and showcase the talents of participants.
Mike Thomas, Meteorologist, Fox 5 Morning News
Mike Thomas is the station scientist and early morning meteorologist for Fox 5 Morning News in Washington, DC, whom he joined in July of 2014. Prior to joining Fox 5, he was a leading forecaster for Bethesda based Commodity Weather Group where his studies in weather modeling and long range forecasting helped predict natural gas volatility on the commodities market of the New York Stock Exchange. Growing up in Prince George's County in Maryland, he graduated from DeMatha Catholic High School in 2008, and Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Atmospheric Sciences/Meteorology in 2012. Outside of work, he enjoys playing hockey, lacrosse, and yes...video games! Halo and Apex Legends being his favorite. He also enjoying building custom gaming computers for friends and family.