Edwards, CO – Beginning in the second half of March, Mountain Recreation will start laying the groundwork at the Edwards Field House to offer an electronic sports (esports) lounge for youth. Access to the lounge is expected to launch this June through new summer camp offerings for teens and birthday parties for the public. Later in the fall, access will be increased through tournaments, and eventually drop-in access as well as the potential for after school programming.
“We’ve all heard the pickleball craze that has exploded in recent years. What if I told you esports is just as big, if not bigger?” shares Brad Johnson, Facility Supervisor in Edwards. “Currently it’s one of, if not, the fastest growing sport in the world, and it has rapidly become one of the most watched sports in the U.S. While this is out of the box from Mountain Rec’s usual offerings, we hope this will bring valuable social connections for local teens that haven’t been fully served by us, continues Johnson.
While traditional sports continue to be dominant in society, esports has seen increased popularity and its reach is extensive due to its inclusive nature – pairing perfectly with the District’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Esports welcomes everyone, and does not require the same athletic ability demanded by traditional sports. Instead, it brings a level playing field for more to enjoy. Anyone can join and have fun regardless of physical disabilities and despite gender identity, national origin, etc.
To house the esports lounge, the current studio space running parallel to the indoor turf field will be split in two, offering space for esports and another community-driven need: additional multi-purpose community space. Work will begin in the second half of March and is expected to be completed in May. At that time, the District will open up registration for new esports summer camps, giving first access to the lounge to teens.
“This opens the door to serve lots of kids who maybe wouldn’t have stepped into our facility. It’s a new opportunity to reach and connect teens – an age group that’s notoriously hard to engage with,” says Johnson. “The lounge will let kids enjoy the same gaming they’re already doing at home, but the power of the lounge is that it will bring kids together. By having them step out of their comfort zone and meet new friends they’re establishing critical social connections at a pivotal moment in their lives. From there, more doors and more connections can open,” continues Johnson.
To ensure relevant and high-quality equipment, as well as the success of the new program, District staff have been working with South Suburban Parks and Recreation on the Front Range, to model their esports system. The community can expect four separate gaming stations, with Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles. PC gaming is under consideration and is yet to be determined. To ensure a safe gaming environment, the District will have a dedicated staff member to oversee the lounge whenever in use. Parents can rest assured their kids are safe and know who their kids are gaming with.
With esports now an officially-sanctioned sport under the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) as of the fall 2022, kids across the state are now competing and finding a sense of belonging at their local schools and among other students. Now in 2023, universities and other organizations are starting to invest in state-of-the-art esports centers and scholarships for youth.
“Traditional sports are what we’re known for. Keeping kids active and healthy is what drives us, but so is keeping them together,” shares Johnson. “Esports are beyond what many would think of as sports, and there’s no denying the importance of traditional athleticism, but we recognize that not everyone may be physically able to participate – or feel welcome in those spaces. In Esports, anyone can join. It’s bringing valuable social connections at an important time for teens in the valley, and if it’s what the kids are interested in, then I want to make sure we can provide it in a safe environment,” said Johnson.