Esports expands to Philadelphia colleges and beyond
It's a good time for gamers in the Philly region.
State of play: Several local colleges — including Temple, Drexel, St. Joseph's and the University of Pennsylvania — joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports Starleague last fall.
- The league was formed by Philly's Nerd Street Gamers and CSL Esports in July, and hosts multiple skill levels.
And Philly teams are drawing fanfare and investment in physical spaces.
- Drexel became the No. 1 collegiate team last month playing "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive."
- Saint Joseph's launched an esports lab in 2020 to house its team, as well as an esports classroom and recreational space.
- Nerd Street also offers teams access to in-person training facilities and competition space.
The big picture: Interest in esports is soaring across the country after many embraced the industry following professional sports cancellations during the pandemic.
- It's expected that we'll see more than 29 million monthly esports viewers in 2022.
- Colleges across the U.S., meanwhile, have been vigorously launching esports teams, with over 100 programs.
The intrigue: Esports is expanding beyond college campuses in the Philly region.
- Nerd Street opened its first esports campus, The Block, in November.
- The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department created an esports room at the Christy Rec Center last September.
What they're saying: "What we're seeing now is the cresting of the wave, and that was fueled by technology, opportunity, and the COVID-19 pandemic," said Daniel Funk, who chairs Temple's Department of Sport and Recreation Management.
- Temple is working on creating a concentration and a certification program for esports.
Jeffrey Levine, who leads the undergraduate esports business program at Drexel, said the exploding interest has led colleges to host esports to entice potential students.
- But, like football and basketball, colleges are also pursuing esports "to generate good publicity and a source of pride."
Nerd Street CEO John Fazio said over 500 schools have signed up for NACE Starleague across the country.
- "In five years from now, the current collegiate scene is going to look like the pro scene," he said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Jeffrey Levine leads Drexel University's undergraduate esports business program.
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