OVERLND PARK, Kan. — Three men are putting their faith in video games during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group opened LEVELUP Esports Arena in Overland Park, Kansas’ Rosanna Square Friday.
The venue can support amateur and professional competitive video gaming.
With 100 top-of-the-line computers and several other gaming consoles, the owners call LEVELUP the country’s third-largest esports arena.
Retrofitting the old One Block South development during a global pandemic brought challenges in the supply chain, costs and timing, but cofounder Josh Garr is confident the venue will be worth the investment.
“The industry itself is constantly growing; year over year, it keeps growing. Even with the pandemic, it had a strong year,” Garr pointed out. “It was worth it to us taking the risk.”
Business partner Ryan Hughes admitted he was skeptical of the popularity of esports, not having competed like Garr. He quickly learned there is a hungry fan base and the business can support so many offshoots.
Hughes predicts LEVELUP will host tournaments and draw in competitors and spectators who stay in hotels and visit restaurants. Coaches will find new opportunities within the system, production teams will work to broadcast tournaments, and so on.
“That’s what esports is. It’s really a community and a passion like you see in other sports, like you see in soccer, like you see in football, like you see in baseball, where you have these venues that host these major tournaments. Well, we are one of them,” Hughes said.
Colleges like Park University now offer scholarships to esports athletes.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly visited LEVELUP with U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) ahead of its grand opening. She predicted the new venue will be a regional draw.
“I don’t think Kansas understands yet quite how special this is, but they’re going to find out,” Kelly said.
LEVELUP is located near 119th Street and Metcalf Avenue. You can learn more about it on its website.
We've created a Facebook group, We're Open Kansas City, where members of the community can post businesses serving their community.