There is a new type of playground in the neighborhood. Nerd Street opened the first-ever esports and gaming campus in the United States on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. Localhost powered by Nerd Street esports arena will host pro gaming events and be open to the public for hourly gameplay, tournaments and summer camps.
Wayne Kimmel, Managing Partner of SeventySix Capital, which was one of Nerd Street’s first investors, commented:
“Localhosts powered by Nerd Street are truly the playgrounds of the future and really the playgrounds of now. With more of these facilities across the country, I’d predict that in the future, the majority of professional esports players will have played at a Localhost at some point in their career.”
In Philadelphia, asphalt basketball courts birth big time basketball dreams. Across Pennsylvania, any patch of grass can be used as a football field. Dirt diamonds shine as bright as manicured baseball fields for players who love the game. Playgrounds serve as the first places you learn and start to love the game along with making friends. Now, Philadelphia is home to the first playground for esports and Nerd Street is more committed than ever to making esports accessible.
Localhost powered by Nerd Street in Philadelphia
The esports campus, “The Block,” is over 40,000 sq. ft, and home to Nerd Street’s global headquarters. Localhost is on ground floor/street level, where gamers can play or watch tournaments.
- 118 gaming computers
- About 24 consoles
- A tournament stage with seating for spectators
- Production facilities to create and stream content
- Areas for teams to train
The second floor of The Block will be home to a training facility for the Susquehanna Sonics, a pro esports team. Also opening next year, there will be production studios for Nerd’s Street’s Emmy Emmy Award-winning shows seen on ESPN and NBC Sports. The campus also will provide space and tech for some educational programs and local organizations.
It’s the first esports campus, but Kimmel is already eyeing more.
“I love that it happened here first in Philadelphia but I cannot wait to build these campuses all across the United States,” said Kimmel.
In Localhosts, Nerd Street operates a national network of esports facilities and events which create competitive opportunities for gamers.
Nerd Street Gamers CEO John Fazio said:
“There are players who got their start at Localhosts and are now pro players or college athletes. We get to see it happen,” said Fazio. “Most of those players were of a specific demographic but now with a space like this, we are going to be able to open it up to so many more people.”
Philadelphia as a hub of global esports
Founded in 2016, the grand opening of “The Block” is a big moment for Nerd Street Gamers and a part of the plan to continue to capitalize on the growth of esports.
Fazio commented to PlayPennsylvania:
“The goal of the facility is to make Philadelphia the most competitive esports city in the country as we are with traditional sports. Competition is competition. It makes you work against someone and put your skill level against theirs. I’m not saying traditional sports are going anywhere. I do think esports is going to provide this awesome supplemental opportunity.”
Nerd Street makes no secret of its vision to make Philadelphia a global esports gaming hub and host the highest profile gaming events in the world.
In 2019, Comcast Spectacor partnered with the Cordish Group to build an esports arena in the sports complex in South Philadelphia for the Fusion, Philadelphia’s professional Overwatch esports team. A groundbreaking was held for the $50 million project but due to the pandemic, was put on hold.
“Philadelphia has always been a sports-obsessed city — it’s at the very heart of our city’s identity,” said Fazio in a press release. “And now we are seeing a major boom and passionate adoption of esports here — from high schools adding esports teams to the city being chosen to host the Overwatch Grand Finals in 2019. Nerd Street is here to help local programs grow, and ultimately provide a turn-key facility that is ready to host esports events of all sizes. It’s a really exciting time for the City of Philadelphia as it continues to evolve as a tech hub, and now an esports hotspot.”
Growth and popularity of esports
- More than two-thirds of Americans, 227 million people, play video games on a daily basis
- Esports revenue is expected to pass $1 billion for the first time this year and hit $1.8 billion by 2022.
- In 2021, there are 26.6 million monthly esports viewers.
In addition to PA-based SeventySix Capital, Nerd Street Gamers has also received backing from:
- Five Below
- Comcast Spectacor
- Elevate Ventures
- angel investor George Miller
- Founders Fund
NFL stars and gamers Emmanuel Sanders and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster are brand ambassadors for the company
“This has been an incredible investment because this is truly what’s next when it comes to competitive gaming. My team and I are always proud of all our entrepreneurs who go out there and truly make the impossible possible. And this was one of those situations. From the day we met John (Fazio), he said we were going to build out a national network of esports and gaming centers and he’s doing it.”
Betting on esports
Currently, betting on esports is not permitted. However, a bill in the PA House could bring esports betting to the Pennsylvania sports betting apps.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has to make a decision. As regulations state, allowing markets on esports doesn’t “meet with the legislature’s intent of what constitutes a sporting event.”
Kimmel believes that betting on esports will eventually be legal in PA and other states.
“It’s still early all across the United States. When the time is right, there will be betting on these games. It’s coming but not yet.”
Two recent developments have pointed to esports betting gaining traction with operators and regulators.
In mid-October, sports betting and gaming operator Entain, acquired Unikrn, an esports betting and skill based wagering company.
In November, the Nevada Gaming Control Board appointed members to the new Esports Technical Advisory Committee. The goal of the committee is to facilitate betting on esports in Nevada. One of their main tasks is to provide guidance on the integrity of esports competitions as it relates to betting.
Integrity – a level playing field, fairness, and keeping players and events free from corruption – is as important for esports as it is for any other sports. It’s also why a place like Localhost will likely host global tournaments that you can bet on in the future.
In-person tournaments at Localhost have stable internet for all the players, along with the same internet speed, systems, and peripherals for all players.
All photos by Katie Kohler