From Online to Onstage: Making Call of Duty League History With Madison Home Series

Madison Home Series Stage

Minnesota Røkkr welcomed hundreds of esports fans to the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Madison, Wisconsin last weekend for its first Call of Duty League Home Series event of the year. Shortly before the event, Minnesota Røkkr added a new player to its roster, collegiate Call of Duty superstar Kevin “Fame” Bonano. The team’s new lineup showed up in force for a passionate crowd at Madison Home Series, claiming two dominant series wins against Los Angeles Guerrillas and Florida Mutineers. 

In an appearance on The Flank, an influential Call of Duty esports podcast, Brett Diamond, COO of Version1, described the organization’s decision to host two Home Series events this year as part of an ongoing effort to develop a more sustainable live event ecosystem in the Call of Duty League.

“It’s all about creating a path to more LAN events,” said Diamond. “If we want to try and make the local franchise model work, events like this are key to that. As an organization, we can’t just sit around and wait for [other people] to solve our problems or the problems that exist in the industry.”

“We need to try new things [if we want to] create long-term sustainability. You don’t get there overnight. Sometimes you have to prove that something like this works before all twelve teams [in the CDL] or multiple teams can do it.”

“Esports is all about competition, but this event was also about collaboration,” Diamond explains. “Without the support of the staff and players at Florida Mutineers and Los Angeles Guerrillas, hosting this event would have been impossible, and we’re incredibly grateful.”
A photo of the stage at Minnesota Rokkr's Madison Home Series esports event.

Planning an Unforgettable Experience

Organizing the Home Series show has been a labor of love for Chris Vanderbeek, Version1’s Director of Events and Business Operations. When the planning process started during the summer of 2022, Vanderbeek’s vision for the event series quickly took shape.

“Our fans deserve more than just five live events a year,” Vanderbeek explains. “The idea was to capture the core elements of what fans experience at a Major, but doing so on a smaller scale.” The Orpheum Theater was “a perfect venue to bring our concept to life,” Vanderbeek says.

Minnesota Rokkr's stage at the Madison Home Series during Call of Duty League Major IV Qualifiers.

Running a live event that plays out simultaneously in-venue and on livestream is a massive undertaking, Vanderbeek notes, and he worked closely with a number of different groups to ensure that CDL’s production crew was able to deliver a broadcast of the same quality that fans expect to see at Majors.

“Frank Productions, the group that manages the Orpheum Theater, were completely engaged throughout the entire process and working with their staff was amazing. This event wouldn’t have been possible without all the other teams we brought on board, including EsportsEngine, Blackstar Group, and Eidecom. They helped us replicate the live Call of Duty experience our fans know and love, and I’m proud of everything Version1’s staff accomplished in Madison — we truly cannot wait to bring the same caliber of experience to Saint Paul in May.”Minnnesota Rokkr staff members and players on stage at Madison Home Series.

Bringing Esports to Madison Through Strategic Partnerships

Madison Home Series also marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the city’s booming tourism economy — this is the first time Madison has hosted a large esports event.

“After Minnesota Røkkr’s Major II last year at Mystic Lake in Minnesota, we started to talk with key stakeholders in Madison who were excited about the possibility of bringing an esports event to to their city,” says Jenna Johnson, Director of Partnership Strategy and Activation at Version1.

“They realized that partnering with us was an incredible opportunity to showcase everything that makes Madison such an incredible place to visit. Madison’s cultural offerings are world-class, and we were able to deliver that message to a demographic that is notoriously difficult to reach through almost every traditional advertising channel.”

Orpheum Theatre marquee sign for Madison Home Series.

“Part of what makes live esports event partnerships especially appealing for non-endemic brands,” Johnson notes, “is the fact that these groups have sponsorship visibility for not just fans who are attending the event in-person, but the entire broadcast audience and wider esports community as well.”

“The success of Madison Home Series is a testament to the strength and quality of Minnesota Røkkr’s business relationships,” says Johnson. 

The benefits of this type of collaboration are felt by both parties, Johnson explains. “Their support meant we were able to expand our fanbase in the region by hosting an event outside of Minnesota for the first time.”

Please join us in celebrating our partners for their commitment to pursuing innovation and excellence.

Madison Home Series Local Partners 

Madison Region Economic PartnershipDestination MadisonMadison Area Sports CommissionMadison Area Technical College, Wisconsin Games Alliance

The Official Controller of Minnesota Røkkr 

SCUF Gaming

Madison Home Series Military Partners

115th Fighter Wing | Wisconsin Air National Guard
Røkkr Regiment (Sponsored by USAA) 

Bringing the Esports Community Together 

Fans are what make live esports special — and Madison Home Series was no different.

Some attendees traveled from out of state. Several used Home Series as an opportunity for long overdue reunions with friends. Parents showed up with their children, curious to learn more about their child’s interests and hobbies. One fan celebrated their birthday at the event. 

For many in the audience, it was the first time they were able to attend a live esports event.

The Future of Live Esports

As the esports industry continues to explore and experiment with live event models in the post-COVID era, Madison Home Series serves as a potent reminder that fans, professional players, and organizations have a wealth of shared interests.

One of these can be easily traced back to the grassroots origins of the entire esports industry: everyone wants more in-person LAN events where teams compete in front of fans. 

Tickets are still available for our second Home Series event on May 6th at the Palace Theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Visit ROKKRTICKETS.GG to learn more and buy tickets.