Sterling Heights

‘Esports is a growing industry’: Sterling Heights celebrates opening of Esports Arena

When you think of parks and recreation, video games might not be the first activity that comes to mind.

But video games aren’t just video games anymore. Competitive video game play has increasingly grown in popularity over these past several years, no longer referred to as video games but as Esports. There are Esports arenas, where people attend matches as they would a baseball game, colleges and universities are fielding Esports teams as they would a softball team, and even major sports broadcasters like ESPN are televising Esports competitions like they were the NBA playoffs.

To put it another way, Esports are big business — and increasingly so.

The city of Sterling Heights is getting in on the action early. On Tuesday, Oct. 5, city officials and stakeholders gathered at the Sterling Heights Community Center where they celebrated the opening of their Esports Arena with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, open gaming demonstrations, and more.

“Esports is a growing industry, and Sterling Heights is one of the first cities in the country to capitalize on the sports craze,” says Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor. “I am proud of our City for taking the lead on providing a unique recreational experience for community members to enjoy. This proves once again that we have something for everyone.”

The Esports Arena allows for drop-in, league, and tournament play. A growing list of state-of-the-art equipment includes 12 Alienware Aurora R12 gaming computers with i7 processors, and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 graphics cards. Also on site are two Nintendo Switch controllers, a PlayStation 4, and, for fans of a more analog experience, a Bubble Hockey table.

“While our junior division has been our biggest audience up to this point, we offer programs for all age levels with dedicated time to play for each age group,” says Recreation Supervisor Troy Nowotny. “With the new equipment, we can have up to 24 players at once, but we allow up to 32 to come in for drop-in. As we continue to expand our Esports program, we plan to offer special events, tournaments and leagues along with our drop-in play.”

The Sterling Heights Esports Arena was made possible through a sponsorship with Christian Financial Credit Union, which is headquartered in the city. The credit union will donate $25,000 over a four-year span and will be identified as the arena’s presenting sponsor.

“Through the partnership with Christian Financial Credit Union, we are able to deliver a quality recreation experience for our residents and Esports players, while also providing an opportunity for socialization and in-person interaction with fellow gamers,” says Sterling Heights Parks and Recreation Director Kyle Langlois. “The high-level gaming systems will help us set the standard for premium playing opportunities in municipalities throughout the state.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.