Esports center to open in October to facilitate in-person games | Sports
An unassuming beige building sits on the side of the Golden State Highway with a cavernous warehouse looming behind it. The building still features signage from its previous owner, the Bear Ag Farm Equipment Store.
But Jason Maples is well on his way to being the new meeting point for the competitive gaming community in Bakersfield.
Maples, owner of a local pizza place Papa John’s, hopes to unveil the Bakersfield eSports Center at 7104 Golden State Highway on October 1. He plans that the facility will contain around 40 offices with computers to facilitate video games, several virtual reality setups, tables for board games and analog cards, and an “event center” in the warehouse with a stage for large-scale competition. The website already offers weekly tournaments for Valorant and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
“There is a need in this city for something big,” he said.
Maples, who said he had been a manager since he was 18 or 19, previously operated a local video game store and is passionate about the community: “I love the industry, I love the people who play. to video games because any generation just keeps you young.
Since the warehouse can accommodate up to 250 people, the centre’s leaders hope to make it available for the organization of small events, even beyond esport, although their main goal is to take the pass. primarily time away from the game and turn it into in-person entertainment.
“It’s about taking what generally looks like stigmatized activity,” said Spencer Lawhon, who is marketing for the center, “and putting it in a more structured and positive environment.”
Lawhon, who coaches esports at West High School, has led efforts to build partnerships for the center. Maples said he was trying to strike a deal with Pepsi to provide drinks for the establishment, to complement its player-inspired food offerings like Hot Pockets and Cup Noodles. The warehouse layout is also designed with sponsorship in mind, with space on either side of the stage for vendor booths – or, if the hub can persuade a dealership to sponsor a Rocket League tournament, cars .
The center is also studying charitable partnerships, such as with Boys and Girls Clubs or CASA.
“We’re looking to partner with children’s charities, we’re looking to partner with anyone here in town who does good to the community and fits in well,” Lawhon said, “but it also gives traditional businesses the possibility of getting involved in these events.
A priority is to take care of children and adolescents. Even though Maples points out that the majority of the esports audience is between the ages of 18 and 34 (“They might be a little offended if you call them little kids,” he said), he said security of children was at the forefront of his concerns. mind – for example, he researched a foolproof lockdown program to prevent unauthorized use of the centre’s computers.
Max Bluemel, an esports teacher and coach (and former women’s football coach) at Frontier High School, said members of his team could use such a facility.
“We only have seasons for half of the year, so the other half of the year, these kids always want to hone their skills and work on their gameplay,” he said. “So having an esports community in Bakersfield gives them the opportunity to work (year round) on their sport, just like basketball, just like baseball, like any other sport. “
The energy of in-person gatherings, Bluemel said, helps teams collaborate and strategize.
“When we can meet in person and do it,” he said, “it has a little more weight and gravity than just playing at home.”
The center hopes its internet will be fully installed in time for the scheduled opening on October 1. As soon as the first location opens, Maples said it will start looking to establish other smaller centers, one in January or February and the other in June. The idea is to have a network of gathering places around Bakersfield with their own leagues, feeding into the major programming of the Golden State Highway event center.
Journalist Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.