(Image courtesy of Nerd Street Gamers)
Nerd Street Gamers, which first grew its presence on North Third Street in Northern Liberties, is planning a move to a 40,000-square-foot HQ and esports facility on North Broad Street, the company announced Tuesday.
The esports campus, to be called The Block, will function as the company’s corporate headquarters, and will have dedicated areas for practice sessions, video and content creation, streaming, educational spaces and a potential Localhost training facility. The company has secured multiple floors at 401 N. Broad St., owned by Netrality, operator of fiber-dense data centers that allow for super-fast internet.
That internet connectivity was a big factor in the company’s scouting options, CEO John Fazio told Technical.ly; having that speed is extremely important to a gamer. But its central location — a few blocks from City Hall and with access to multiple public transit options — really sold the deal.
“401 North Broad is the quintessential location for the world’s first esports campus,” said Jerry Marshall, CEO of Netrality Data Centers, in a statement. “We pursued Nerd Street Gamers knowing that the immense connectivity options within our property would ensure near-zero latency for competitive gamers, both on and off-premise.”
Fazio hinted at some major growth when we checked in with the esports company at the beginning of the year. It’s also in the midst of raising a $35 million Series B round, following its $12 million Series A later last year. But there was no way to predict how a pandemic would effect those plans. Indeed, the project’s been pushed back from its imagined date because in-person gatherings and even in-person workplaces have been disrupted for the time being.
“But on the other hand, it’s become an increasing need, there’s a larger percentage of people and students who don’t have internet,” he said of the pandemic. “It’s really shed light to the fact that not all of us have the same access to technology.”
The HQ is under development by architecture firm Populous, and part of its development includes providing access and equipment to organizations throughout Philadelphia. Nerd Street Gamers is planning partnerships with institutions like Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, the Police Athletic League, Comcast’s LIFT Labs, Team Altimus, Aim Lab and TechGirlz.
The esports startup is also partnering with Jefferson Health’s Center for Autism and Neurodiversity to launch programming and initiatives to bring the talent from the autism community into the esports industry.
“Esports is in a unique position to provide new social and job opportunities for people with autism, and this esports campus in Philadelphia is an incredible launching point for the entire industry,” said Wendy Ross, center director, in a statement.
The company’s previous home in Northern Liberties turned into its first Localhost facility, and eventually the team moved into WeWork in the same neighborhood; Nerd Street Gamers’ name was born out of N3rd Street, a collection of tech companies along North Third Street through Northern Liberties to Old City. It’s moving out of the neighborhood, yes, but the name comes less from the location and more from the community and what it came together to do anyway, Fazio said, which was to gather and make a competitive space for video games in Philly.
And Nerd Street Gamers is holding on to that original location for now, the CEO said.
“Not only did we simply just need more space to grow, but also it was really about planting our flag and growing a home,” he said. “We had a significant number of jobs we intend to create, and people we’re going to hire to run this company.”
Phase one of The Block will open at some point this fall, and will eventually be a space where esports enthusiasts — including high school and college students — can gather for tournaments and other events.
Fazio said he feels a key part of the company is leveraging the infrastructure it has to benefit the larger tech community and ensure the groups that were already there have the access they need to technology. In its early days, the Localhost on North Third Street was a host to local hackathons, Code for Philly projects and TechGirlz trainings.
“It’s really about doing that and hey, if we bring gamers over — that’s great, but we’re not really fighting to make gamers. There’s plenty of gamers,” Fazio said. “We’re fighting to take gamers and get them to look at these community initiatives. We’re taking gamers and getting them to think about careers in STEM.”-30-
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