Philadelphia will have a new youth esports program thanks to a partnership with local tournament organizer and facility operator Nerd Street Gamers. Through the new partnership, Philly Parks & Rec will launch a multi-phase program which includes an upcoming NBA 2K tournament exclusive to Parks & Rec participants which will use local recreation centers as virtual host sites for teams. This first phase will also see tournament series held for Rocket League, Madden and FIFA.
“We reached out to…Philly Parks & Rec and [were told they] had been thinking about an esports program for a long time and what that looks like,” Nerd Street Vice President of Events Ben Schlegel told Sports Business Journal. Schlegel has worked in Philadelphia sports for a number of years, both with the Flyers and as Director of Event Services for Wells Fargo Center. He aims to take learnings from youth sports to develop a robust youth esports program.
The second phase of the program will see esports incorporated into the Parks & Rec summer camp program, offering specialty camps for 6-12 year olds and providing jobs to teens who will work as camp coaches. In the third phase, esports programming will become part of the organization’s after school offering. These additional phases are still in the developmental stage.
While Nerd Street has its foundation in Philadelphia, the company operates esports facilities throughout the nation. Schlegel said that this program could serve as a pilot for potential national expansion. “”Philadelphia Parks & Rec is one of the largest in the nation, so it’s really something unique that we’ll be able to frame up as something that we can take nationwide to continue to get more access to technology as we open up these facilities.”
While the initial stage of the program is a focused tournament event, Schlegel explained that the vision for Nerd Street’s youth program aligns with its vision of providing more access to gaming and esports technology to young people.
“It’s not just about tournaments, it’s bigger than that…There is a divide in who gets access to computers and who can get on the internet. For some folks, maybe this is the only time they get to do that.”
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