West Michigan Hosting First Esports Event This Month

30 Jan, 2020

The latest sports tournament coming to Grand Rapids doesn’t take place in the physical world. But that doesn’t make it any less popular, competitive or exciting to play (and watch). The West Michigan Sports Commission hosts its first esports tournament, Grand Rapids Rift Clash, Feb. 7-9 at Celebration Cinema GR North, 2121 Celebration Dr. NE, Grand Rapids. And while the competition happens all on screen, there will be plenty of real-world excitement as fans cheer on their favorite university and high school teams.

“Esports is so popular worldwide that the potential for our region is immense and represents a growth area for the sports commission,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “This trend will only increase, so it makes sense to create our own event to establish ourselves as an esports community so we can bid on these types of events in the future. Our long-term goal is to grow this event to the point where we’re filling Van Andel Arena with a tournament.”

Created by the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) with support from the esports programs at Aquinas College, Grand Valley State University and East Kentwood High School; and in partnership with Celebration Cinema GR North, the competitive gaming tournament features teams of five (plus a coach and alternate player) playing the popular “League of Legends online video game in which teams battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes. Developed by American video game developer Riot Games, Inc., “League of Legends” celebrated 10 years in 2019 and has the world's largest online gaming community, with more than eight million gamers logged on at one time per day during peak hours. More than 100 million people globally watched the 2019 “League of Legends” World Championship.*

So far, eight college teams have registered to participate: Aquinas College, Central Michigan University, Davenport University, Grand Valley State University, Jackson College, Michigan State University, Indiana Tech and Ohio Northern University. East Kentwood High School is the first registered high school team. The goal is to register 16 high school and 16 college teams total from Michigan and neighboring states.

"The task force members and I who are assisting the West Michigan Sports Commission in hosting this tournament are thrilled to show off West Michigan to the growing esports industry, and we hope this event will bring larger events and crowds to West Michigan in the future as more companies explore the esports space," said Adam Antor, head esports coach at Aquinas College and a member of the Rift Clash organizing committee. "Hosting an esports tournament at Celebration Cinema is the first step to position West Michigan as a destination for esports.”

Esports is a broad term to encompass “competitive video gaming” or the act of playing video games in a competitive nature, whether alone or on a team. It is estimated that more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide offer esports programs (including Aquinas College, Davenport University and Jackson College, which all added esports athletic programs in the 2019/2020 season), and they are actively recruiting students for these programs. As of January 2020, more than 180 colleges and universities across the country offer scholarships for gamers to compete for their schools in esports, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). That number has more than doubled over the last year. In Michigan, six colleges and universities awarded esports scholarships during the 2019-2020 academic year (including Aquinas College and Davenport University in West Michigan) – and for 2020-2021, that number will more than double.

Esports has grown significantly in recent years in both viewership and sponsorships. According to the Newzoo 2019 Global Games Market Report, the global esports audience was estimated to reach 453.8 million in 2019, with the number of global esports viewers growing to 645 million and generating $1.8 billion by 2022. These numbers also are prompting major corporations to sponsor these events, including West Michigan-based Herman Miller who signed a deal last fall as the seating partner of Complexity esports team owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Tournament Rules - The Rift Clash competition field is limited to 16 high school and 16 college teams in a pool play format. Based on full capacity of registered teams, pool play will be randomly divided into four divisions for both high school and college levels. Each team will play the other three teams within their respective division (three-game minimum for all teams). Half of pool play games will take place on Friday night, alternating between high school and college matches (see schedule below). The top eight teams in high school and college advance and begin championship play Saturday evening.  Teams will be seeded 1 to 8 based on pool play records and tie breakers. Semi-final matches and tournament finals take place Sunday, Feb. 9. The college team winner receives $2,500, and the high school team winner receives $1,000 awarded back to its esports school program.

Team Registration Information - High school and college teams wishing to compete (6 players max per team) must register here by 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1. The fee is $200 for a high school team and $300 for a college team. Once registered, teams also must register on Riot Games. To avoid the online service fee, teams can send payment to the West Michigan Sports Commission; 300 Ottawa Ave NW- Suite 240; Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Information is at grriftclash.com.

Spectator Ticket Information and Schedule - Spectators can pay $2 at the door for a one-day pass or $5 for a weekend pass to watch this round robin-style tournament. (Participants and coaches do not pay an entry fee.) Teams sit in V-shaped seating of five against five with separate PC screens, with a large spectator screen behind them. Each match lasts an hour or less. The event takes place on the second floor of Celebration Cinema GR North, with most events in the Wave Room. The college finals are Sunday, Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. in Theater 1. See the tournament schedule online (subject to change).

For more information, visit grriftclash.com

*Business Insider, Dec. 18, 2019

About the West Michigan Sports Commission - The non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) identifies, secures and hosts youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 833 events attracting more than 1.4 million athletes and visitors, generating almost $400 million in direct visitor spending. Visit westmisports.com, Facebook.com/WestMichiganSportsCommission and @westmisports on Twitter and Instagram for more information.


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