Jason Maples, proprietor of a local Papa John’s Pizza, plans to unveil the Bakersfield Esports Center at 7104 Golden State Highway on Oct. 1. The facility is to contain about 40 desks with computers to facilitate video gaming, multiple virtual reality setups, tables for analog board and card games, and an “events center” in the warehouse with a stage for large-scale competition. The website is already touting weekly tournaments for Valorant and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. “There’s a need in this town for something big,” says Maples. The center is also looking into charitable partnerships.
“It’s about taking what’s usually like a stigmatized activity and kind of putting it in more of a structured, positive environment,” said Spencer Lawhon, who coaches esports at West High School and is doing marketing for the center. “We’re looking to partner with children’s charities; we’re looking to partner with anybody here in town that does right by the community and makes a good fit but then also that gives traditional businesses the opportunity to get involved in those events.”
Since the warehouse seats up to 250 people, the leaders of the center hope to make it available for hosting small events even beyond esports — though their main focus is on taking the primarily remote pastime of gaming and turning it into in-person entertainment. The layout of the warehouse is also designed with sponsorship in mind, with space on either side of the stage for vendor booths — or, if the center can persuade a dealership to sponsor a Rocket League tournament, cars.
The center is hoping its internet will be fully installed in time for the planned Oct. 1 opening. As soon as the first location is open, Maples said he’s going to start looking into establishing other, smaller centers, one in January or February and the other in June. The idea is to have a network of gathering places around Bakersfield with their own leagues, feeding into major programming at the Golden State Highway Events Center.
(All information was provided by the Bakersfield Californian)