As St. Ambrose University prepares to launch its first season as the only regional member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, SAU also will work to grow competitive esports locally in partnership with the Paradigm Esports Virtual Reality Training, Entertainment and Gaming Center in downtown Davenport.
St. Ambrose will sponsor The Fighting Bees Gaming League at Paradigm for high school teams throughout the QC area. Competition is expected to begin Oct. 1, with league action continuing each Tuesday. A seeded tournament will follow the league season.
High school teams will compete in Fortnite, Overwatch or League of Legends in the Fighting Bees Arena, the esports center in the $400,000 newly renovated facility at 320 East 2nd Street in Davenport. The gaming center will also feature virtual reality gaming stalls and a free roam virtual reality area.
Paradigm will host a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 9. A grand opening will be held at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10, and the first 100 persons in line will receive a one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-made-again t-shirt.
The first of a series of weekly open esports tournaments will be played beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11.
Esports is the fastest growing sport in the world and is watched by millions worldwide over a number of mediums and channels. St. Ambrose will be one of fewer than 85 NACE members, and among just 11 in Iowa and Illinois, when the Fighting Bees esports squad debuts this fall. Yet, those numbers have grown since SAU announced it was adding the sport just last spring.
"We believe college esports will be the fastest growing extracurricular activity in the country and we are proud to have the Fighting Bees Gaming League at Paradigm and the Fighting Bees Arena at Paradigm," said Steve Grubbs, founder of Paradigm.
St. Ambrose Athletics Director Ray Shovlain said the opportunity to help esports grow as a competitive team sport for QC area high schoolers is "a very exciting opportunity, given that we are at the forefront of this emerging collegiate sport. We're pleased to have an opportunity to assist local high school student-athletes and we would love to have these participating students consider St. Ambrose as a college choice in the near future."
Joshua Sides, the first-year coach of the St. Ambrose esports team, said growing the sport at the local high school level will help expand the pool of potential future Fighting Bees.
Beyond that, he said, "Anything that aids the growth of this expanding sport in the Quad Cities is welcome and important."