Esports combine announced as latest convention to choose Indy amid pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In a city economy built on group business and conventions, downtown Indianapolis is eager to see new events sign on to host their attendees in Indy. Come September, that could mean thousands of gamers.

Indiana Sports Corp is partnering with Harena Data to put on an Esports combine in the Circle City. The convention will give prospective professional gamers a chance to be scouted by professional teams, sponsors, and colleges. There are hundreds of schools that offer a scholarship to gamers.

“On our platform, we have helped over 300 players get about $400,000 worth of scholarship,” says Shawn Smith, Chief Product Officer at Harena Data.

Hotel occupancy across the country is at lower rates than the Great Depression. Patrick Tamm is President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association. He says downtown restaurants rely on group business, conventions, and sporting events to make up 50% of their revenue. During the pandemic shut down, it has been devastating. Tamm praises Visit Indy for doing everything within their power to keep events coming to Indy.

“A lot of our groups in our August, September, October time frame have not canceled,” explains Tamm.

“We’ve got a lot of venues that could be useful for doing this stuff,” says John Robertson who is the co-founder of the Indiana High School Esports Network, “If kids can see what it means to be a professional, and what it takes to be a professional, that’s good for them.”

Robertson, who also coaches Tipton High School’s Esports team, has had players gain college scholarships for Esports. He says students often enter the Esports world expecting it to be like playing at home, only to realize it takes the same commitment as a traditional athlete to be successful.

“I use it as a tool to teach my kids how to market themselves,” adds Robertson, “You have to put together a portfolio, and show them why they should want you.”

“We need more opportunities for these players to develop in farm systems,” describes Smith, “Take our tests. We will put you through some tournaments where specifically there’s some tests, opportunity to evaluate that and pass that onto scouts.”

Smith says organizers have contingency plans in place should there be another spike in coronavirus cases. Since much of their competitions take place online, they can scale up or scale down in-person activities to remain safe.

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