A new business group out of Charlotte is putting together what appear to be ambitious plans to turn the city into one of the major hubs for esports in the U.S., SBJ’s Adam Stern reveals.
Rick Suarez, an entrepreneur who got into esports a couple years ago, is founder & managing director of the group, which will call itself Charlotte Esports Hub. Also involved are Envy Gaming co-owner John Brock, who is based in Charlotte, C.J. Collins, who owns the Charlotte Phoenix of the Rocket League Championship Series, and Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari.
Suarez did not reveal the amount of financial backing behind the new outfit. The group’s various investments already include running Stay Plugged In, which is aiming to become a leader in the youth/amateur/collegiate space by running esports events and creating online recruiting platforms for players and coaches.
Suarez told SBJ that the group is in the process of planning to build an esports venue in the city for pro and collegiate matches, plus host other events. “Our goal is to make Charlotte a national destination and major player in esports,” Suarez said. “We want this to be the epicenter of esports and believe that Charlotte is a prime city for it based on its demographic and location. We’ve got a couple different verticals we’re running with under the Charlotte Esports moniker .. and we want to be a global brand.”
Details of a campus project are still being developed, but Suarez said it would be “significantly sized” and that the city of Charlotte is intrigued. While Suarez wouldn’t be drawn on discussing the possibility, Panthers owner David Tepper is building a new campus for the NFL team in nearby Rock Hill, S.C., so it’s conceivable that the sides could partner there.
Among the other events the venue could host would be camps for underprivileged, women and veteran gamers who sometimes don’t have access to high-level gaming computers among other accessories and resources or have traditionally been under-represented in gaming.
Suarez also confirmed that Charlotte Esports Hub is looking at starting new pro teams, though he did not specify in which games. However, he did confirm that he is “100%” watching how Activision Blizzard’s geo-located properties in Overwatch League and Call of Duty League are developing. CDL could expand as soon as 2022.
Until it builds a permanent campus, the group is currently working out of the headquarters of Tabbris, a co-working center in the South End district of Charlotte that was founded by Brock. Charlotte Esports Hub currently has 11 people on staff, but Suarez said the goal is to get the employee count into the hundreds.
As far as growing revenue, Suarez said that is not the primary concern as Stay Plugged In and Charlotte Esports Hub have broader goals to educate and entertain the Charlotte community, but he did note that there will be surcharges for things like their live events and online products to help keep the business running and turn some form of a profit.
“Part of the reason we have our management group in play is to ensure now we really move forward and grow to be as big and successful as we can so we give the people of Charlotte teams that they can be proud of.”