A new esports gaming center is in the works on North Downer Avenue near UW-Milwaukee.
The owners of an 8,362-square-foot commercial building at 3130 N. Downer Ave. have contracted Boca Raton, Florida-based Simplicity Esports and Gaming Company (WINR) to help launch the concept, which is expected to open to the public in the first quarter of 2021, according to a news release.
The 107-year-old multi-unit building is owned by Langdon Downer LLC, which is registered to local real estate investor Matt Ewig, according to property records.
The ownership group brought their idea of opening a gaming center to Simplicity Esports early this year, said Roman Franklin, president of Simplicity Esports in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee. Ewig was not immediately available for comment.
"They reached out to us essentially for consulting services to leverage our contacts, our relationships in the industry to build out that location," said Franklin.
Discussions were slightly delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but Simplicity Esports recently signed a consulting agreement that will generate approximately $250,000 in revenue "for planning, designing, and buildout" of the yet-to-be-named video gaming center, which will occupy about 3,000 square feet of the building's ground floor.
Simplicity Esports boasts the largest footprint of esports gaming centers in North America, said Franklin, with both corporate-owned and franchisee-owned locations in 15 states. The company also organizes and hosts paid-entry, online and play-from-home esports tournaments.
The Milwaukee gaming center is independently owned and operated by Langdon Downer LLC. Under the consulting agreement, Simplicity plays a central role in getting the concept off the ground-- from sourcing furniture and gaming equipment to hiring and training staff, said Franklin.
It's a new way of doing business for Simplicity, but one that holds great opportunity in a forthcoming post-pandemic era.
"We expect quite a few additional consulting contracts as the world opens up, as a result of vaccines and some degree of return-to-normal traffic," he said. "We believe there's a lot of pent up demand for esports gaming centers and this (style of) concept..."
Those looking to capitalize on esports demand are owners who have both the financial resources and the interest in esports, but lack experience in developing retail gaming centers.
"We believe that's where there's a need in the market that we can meet," said Franklin.
What's more, he believes that the Milwaukee area is fertile ground for esports investments, pointing to its close proximity to Chicago.
"We like the area -- the demographics are something that we think are strong and supportive of this type of business... We believe the whole upper Midwest is an area that's ripe for growth for us," he said.
While some competitive gamers may prefer to play their favorite games from the comfort of their own home, others venture to esports gaming centers for the superior technical equipment, faster internet, and sometimes the social environment, said Franklin. But for the casual gamer, especially in the era of COVID-19, there's just as much demand for private events such as birthday parties, bachelor parties and corporate events.
"The private parties have become more popular lately (amid the COVID-19 pandemic) because you can come in, everything is fully sanitized and you're bringing people that you know, often times family members, and you've got the entire place reserved," he said.