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Nerd Street Gamers and Philly Parks and Rec are partnering on youth esports programming

To start, they'll kick off an esports tournament for local teens on Feb. 16.

Nerd Street Gamers' Localhost. (Photo courtesy of Nerd Street Gamers)

Esports company Nerd Street Gamers announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the City of Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation department to introduce a host of community programing.

Nerd Street — with a new HQ on North Broad Street — aims to bring the competitive esports experiences, including tournaments, to Philly’s youth.

The first phase of the partnership includes an esports tournament launching in February. The Philadelphia Parks & Rec NBA: 2K21 Spring League will play out over six weeks, with one tournament per week per console, the company said. Any resident between the ages of 13 to 18 can register and will receive three free months of the newly launched Nerd Street+ digital subscription.

The Sixers Youth Foundation will supply prizes for tournament winners and runners up. The competition will be capped at 256 participants, and registration is available starting today on a first come, first served basis. Recreation centers will be used as virtual host sites for tournament teams, the company said.

Tuesday tournaments are designated for XBOX One players and Thursday tournaments are designated for PlayStation 4 players. Xbox Series One and PlayStation 5 will not be permitted in the tournament, Nerd Street says of the event series.

Nerd Street CEO John Fazio has long talked about the company’s mission of making esports more accessible, and how the industry, like other pro sports, has a high barrier to entry.

“It’s a privileged industry,” Fazio told Technical.ly last year. “I think the reality is there’s a lot of folks who would love to get involved but they can’t afford consoles.”

That mission is in line with some of the company’s recent moves to set up esports facilities in cities around the country (including a new location near Nicetown), its partnership with affordable retailer Five Below and in introducing its digital subscription service. When Nerd Street announced it would be opening a new HQ, it included plans for esports enthusiasts — including high school and college students — to gather for tournaments and other events.

Fazio said in September that he feels a key goal of the company is to makes its infrastructure accessible to the larger community. In its early days, its Localhost hub for gameplay on North Third Street was a host to local hackathons, Code for Philly projects and TechGirlz trainings.

This ongoing community programing follows the same vein, as Parks and Rec Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said in a statement.

“We share a common goal with Nerd Street Gamers: Level the playing field for kids and families who deserve access to positive recreational opportunities, new technology, and booming industries,” she said.

The second phase of the partnership will incorporate esports into Parks & Rec’s summer camp programming, offering a specialty esports camp for 6 to 12-year-olds at Localhost facilities and summer jobs for teens working as esports coaches. Phase three of the partnership includes after-school esports programming for young gamers.

Upcoming phases are still in development and share the goal of helping kids develop their skills, meet other gamers, make friends and practice critical thinking, all while considering esports as a career.

Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed.

“Our mission since inception has been to provide those opportunities by lowering the barrier to entry to esports, and this partnership with Parks & Rec is a key step to doing that on our home turf in the Philadelphia region,” Fazio said in a statement.

Registration for the 2K21 Spring League is open through Feb. 15 and will start Feb. 16. and run through March 25.

Companies: Nerd Street / City of Philadelphia / Parks and Recreation

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