OverActive Media plans for lakefront entertainment venue take a step forward


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OverActive Media has moved a step closer to getting its plan for a new entertainment venue at Toronto’s Exhibition Place off the ground.

The esports and entertainment company got the green light from the Exhibition Place board of governors on Friday, with approval for the plan and lease. The project will now go to Toronto City Council for final approval.

“We are hoping it will be this year,” says Chris Overholt, president and CEO of Overactive Media.

When the Library Collection of Hotels received permission to build the Hotel X at Exhibition Place, it also got the green light for a subsequent development/hotel complex there. OverActive is now working with Henry Kallan, owner of the Library Hotel Collection, on that development with its focus on the entertainment venue part of the plan.

“This is our step forward into the entertainment space … that will allow us to compete every day every week to attract the top-name artists that land in the Toronto market,” Overholt said.

OverActive, which will not be involved in ownership of the hotel, plans to partner with a company to operate the entertainment venue.

The original budget for the overall project was said to be close to $500 million. Overholt said that number will be smaller thanks to “tremendous efficiencies in venue design,” but said it was too early to settle on a final figure. The project is being privately financed.

“Toronto is one of the best entertainment markets in the world. We have worked closely with our partners to begin to realize the immense potential of this region of the city while furthering Toronto’s position as a global esports hub. Our vision is to create an unparalleled experience for fans and entertainment artists alike,” said Chris Overholt, president and CEO of OverActive Media.

Located at Exhibition Place, the theatre-style entertainment venue and hotel complex is a strategic element of the approved master plan for the region previously established by city officials.

“Today, we are embracing an exciting vision of the future by approving OverActive Media’s plan and secured lease terms,” said Exhibition Place Board Chair and Councillor Mark Grimes. “On behalf of Exhibition Place’s Board of Governors, we will continue to build on our rich history and showcase innovative spaces in our ongoing evolution. I proudly welcome OverActive Media to create an engaging space to meet the needs of our diverse and dynamic community.”

With a projected completion date of 2025, the 7,000-seat venue is designed to be a destination that will host 200 events a year, driven primarily by premium music and entertainment bookings. It will also serve to attract major city-wide conventions, corporate events and product launches, awards shows and naturally, a full slate of esports events increasing over time.

Additionally, it will provide a home for the city’s two professional esports teams, Toronto Ultra of the Call of Duty League and Toronto Defiant of the Overwatch League.  Prior to the pandemic, OverActive Media had scheduled sold-out live events for its Overwatch League franchise, Toronto Defiant. As live events continue to return, there is a demand amongst premium acts of the world for the size and type of venue it plans to deliver.

“We took a bold step forward together today toward realizing our vision to build a preeminent performance venue in the city of Toronto, one that we believe will serve as a new home for the biggest music and entertainment acts of the world and a favourite venue for today’s generation of fans,” Overholt said.

Developed by global design firm Populous, the designs are intended to create an engaging space for all fan activations, events and programming. Key design features and highlights include:

  • Located along the waterfront, the performance venue offers prominent open public space with stunning views and pedestrian access.
  • The in-bowl design caters to traditional music acts, large scale events and the best in esports competition and entertainment.
  • The hotel tower offers unobstructed 360-degree views, including Lake Ontario and the remarkable Toronto skyline.
  • Situated between the venue and hotel is a privately owned public space (POPS) – an urban room that joins the venue and hotel, allowing for additional programming opportunities and chance meetings to occur.
  • The interior design of both the venue and the hotel offer authenticity and a refined sense of style, inclusive of distinct influences which are uniquely Toronto.

OverActive’s owners include Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, music star The Weeknd, Pittsburgh Penguins part-owner Mike Kimel and tech entrepreneur Sheldon Pollack, among others. The company has raised $108 million privately, including $40 million by taking the company public on the TSX Venture Exchange in July.

“The sports, media and entertainment choices of this generation are changing right before our eyes and OverActive Media certainly expects to be in the middle of that economy and that industry opportunity in the years ahead,” said Overholt.

Exhibition Place is a 78-hectare site on Toronto’s waterfront that hosts the annual Canadian National Exhibition as well as BMO Field, the home of Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC and the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts.



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