San Francisco Shock find solution to housing challenges, partner with Academy of Arts University
The San Francisco Shock have announced a partnership with the Academy of Arts University, San Francisco which, among other benefits, sees the team use the school’s facilities both for housing and practice purposes while providing guidance for the university’s esports program. The team seeks to solve issues that surfaced in recent weeks surrounding rumours of inadequate living and practice conditions for its Overwatch League team.
Fans had speculated that the volatile practice environment had impacted the Shock’s season start. The team around MVP Kim "Proper" Dong-hyun currently sits at a score of 3-3 despite having been projected to be one of the title-contending teams for the Overwatch League’s sixth season.
In a recent interview with GGRecon, the team's General Manager Chris Chung addressed the issues the team has been grappling with, explaining the housing troubles in the pre-season. He also shared the team’s vision of how the partnership aims to resolve those issues and provide stability amidst an industry-wide downsizing of budgets during the so-called “esports winter”.
Navigating housing obstacles
Securing suitable housing for professional esports teams is often a complex affair, necessitating flexible short-term leases that align with the length of the players' stay. The San Francisco Shock found itself in a bind this season when their initial housing plans unravelled just two weeks before the ProAm with a house in Los Angeles that they had stayed at for OWL season 5.
Chung recounted the sequence of events: "I would say the week of the guys that were supposed to come - and this was like maybe two weeks before the ProAm - the landlords found a new realtor and that realtor was on a mission to sell this house." This sudden change in direction meant a revision of the leasing terms, leading to a deal-breaking year-long lease requirement.
The General Manager shared that the team reconsidered, putting the decision to relocate the roster to its home market in San Francisco up to a vote with the team. Until a more permanent solution was found, the team stayed in “at least four-star Hotels” in San Francisco, according to Chung.
Partnering with the Academy of Art University, San Francisco
Faced with this housing dilemma, the Shock turned to the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, a solution that represents an innovative approach within the esports industry. Chung argued the collegiate system’s potential for esports, citing the University of Alabama as an example of the vision.
The team's South Korean players now reside in university dorm rooms and commute to the esports facility. Chung vouched for the quality of their setup, saying, "They have better systems than they used during Grand Finals and Playoffs." He also assuaged fans' concerns about the players' living conditions, revealing that the players would soon transition into "more apartment-style rooms."
A retrospective on housing strategies
Throughout its Overwatch League journey, the San Francisco Shock has adapted its housing strategy to align with league regulations and players' preferences, so Chung shared. From a team house to individual player apartments coupled with a practice facility, they've manoeuvred the housing landscape according to each season's specific needs.
In the league's initial years, the team opted for Los Angeles-based housing to minimize travel. However, COVID-19 lockdowns scuttled the Overwatch League’s plans and significantly cut down on travel requirements. The team even spent a brief period in the 'NRG castle,' a content house from their parent company, NRG, which Chung clarified was not quite as ideal as previously believed.
The full interview with Chris Chung, which also deals with topics of the team’s underperformance and the details on its roster-building efforts, on GGRecon’s Overwatch YouTube channel.