Consider it a sign of the times: An old batting-cage center has been transformed into the largest esports arena in Colorado, which opens today, December 7, at 2 p.m. Located at 1882 South Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood, the 18,000-square-foot Localhost Arena caters to gamers who are looking for a large-scale in-person gaming experience.
"Our main focus is on building community," says Ryan Barr, chief experience officer at N3rd Street Gamers, the company behind the project.
The esports industry has grown in popularity, raking in around $1 billion a year. This particular esports project has been a dream of Colorado gamers, like Barr, for years.
Barr hails from Mile High Esports, a gaming event-planning organizer that began in 2014. In October 2018, Mile High Esports merged with the Philadelphia-based N3rd Street Gamers, and together they spearheaded the Localhost Arena project.
Local gamers have been able to fill their competitive fix at Akihabara Arcade and Bar. But that space is more focused on retro fighting games, like Street Fighter. Localhost, on the other hand, is all about cutting-edge gaming technology. The venue houses 108 PCs, all of which are top of the line for gaming, according to Localhost Arena staffers. The esports arena grounds will serve both drop-in customers and monthly members, and also host top-tier gaming tournaments.
Barr's colleague, James Love, believes that Localhost Arena will also help make gaming more accessible to those who might not be able to afford a full PC gaming setup at home.
"We want to lower the barriers of entry to PC gaming," says Love.
PCs and high-performing monitors cost thousands of dollars. Playing games at Localhost, on the other hand, costs just $10 for four hours, $15 for eight hours, and $20 for the whole day. (Monthly membership subscriptions will soon be available.) Gamers have access to popular games like Call of Duty, Counter-Strike and Fortnite on PCs and Localhost's many Xbox Ones, PS4s and Nintendo Switches.
And those 21 and older will also have access to a full bar, which is set to open in mid-2019.
Staffers are in the process of installing a fifty-foot stage for tournaments, which will offer enough space for twelve gamers or two teams of five plus team coaches. Love says the space can easily hold 500 spectators, and the arena will one day expand to host at least 900. Since professional gaming squads sometimes have their own fan followings, come tournament day, a backstage lounge will be available so players can relax in between matches.
Aside from traditional video-gaming options, the arena also houses specially-designed tables for Dungeons & Dragons and plans to install virtual-reality stations.
"We're a tight-knit group, but our connections have been mainly online," Love says. "Now you can play with people right next to you."
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