Esports Gaming Center Opens in Fayetteville
The Grid Esports, an online gaming center in the works for two years, held a soft opening on Oct. 1 in Fayetteville.
A VIP opening event is set for 6-9 p.m. Thursday, and a grand opening is planned for Friday-Sunday.
The 2,700-SF center at 4155 N. Steele Blvd., Suite 30, was developed by GMS Esports Enterprises, a division of entertainment marketing firm GMS Group Inc. of Fayetteville.
“I’ve been studying this industry for a couple of years,” firm owner Dan Allen told Arkansas Business. Esports gaming is growing in popularity around the world. “We’ve tried to always be a little bit on the forefront of bringing new businesses to wherever we are. It just seemed like a good thing, and there’s a huge gaming community in northwest Arkansas, so that’s why we decided to do it.”
Nearly $400,000 has been invested in the center, Allen said. The firm plans to open four or five more of these centers, in Tulsa and perhaps in Bentonville and Little Rock, Allen said. Then it will sell a licensing package to others who want to open The Grid Esports-branded centers.
This first center will employ a dozen people and has established protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including placing dividers between gaming desks and adding a UV filter to its air-conditioning system, Allen said.
“We’re going to be the first one in northwest Arkansas,” he said. “I visited some sites that were just OK. They weren’t very well dressed out. They didn’t spend a lot of money on the gear. We’re not doing that. [We built] a real premier center right off the bat.”
The center’s features include:
- 36 “top-of-the-line” gaming computers, in Allen’s words.
- 13 console stations (Xbox, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch).
- 13 large-format televisions and a 12-foot projection screen to broadcast tournaments, live Twitch feeds, global events and ads for local businesses. Twitch is an online platform operated by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Fans use it to watch the gamers they like play games in real time, and gamers use it to interact with their fans.
- More than 100 of the most popular computer and console games.
- Branded gaming desks and chairs.
- A live streaming/podcast studio.
- Two adjoining rooms for private rental, catering to events like birthday parties, group outings and lock-ins.
- The fastest fiber optic internet service in the region. It’s averaging 1-gigabit-per-second speeds, Allen said.
Another unique feature of The Grid Esports is its tournament stage, called Conquest Arena, where local teams and solo gamers will compete against each other and gamers from across the country for cash and other prices.
This is the only gaming center in a five-state area to have a tournament stage, Allen said. “It’s something that I picked up from one I saw in Dallas. I really liked the way they did that. And they said, because they had that, that their tournaments were much bigger and a lot more players entered. And there was a lot bigger attendance because they had a real tournament stage,” he said.
Most of the region’s high schools and the University of Arkansas have esports teams that are “sort of chomping at the bit to be able play in our venue and be able to compete in tournaments,” Allen said.
In addition, he said, 200 colleges offer esports scholarships; the NCAA has an esports division.
The center is affiliated with that division and with the High School Esports League, so it will serve as a “testing ground” for student gamers, Allen said.
Leagues will pay to play, so hosting tournaments is one way the center will make bank. Another is by charging gamers hourly rates and for day passes and for memberships.
The memberships are for 30 days, 60 days and one year. They cost $12, $30 and $100, respectively. Members receive discounted hourly and day pass rates as well as additional perks.
Hourly rates for nonmembers are $6.25 for Sunday through Thursday, $7.25 for Friday and Saturday and $7.75 every day for a live streaming setup. The day pass for Sunday through Thursday is $25; it is $30 for Friday and Saturday.
The center is selling sponsorships as well. Taco Bell is its title sponsor, and the U.S. Army has also signed on as a sponsor, Allen said.
The center is offering these sponsors and advertisers access to two markets: teens and adults in their 20s and 30s who are “fiercely loyal” to brands they like, he said.