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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – With traditional sports sidelined because of health restrictions, the Columbus Recreation and Parks department is offering a remote alternative. By Friday, May 8th, Rec. and Parks is opening up registration for its inaugural adult esports league. 

“Everybody plays right now, currently at home, so we’re just going to tap into those systems,” explained Jack Castle, the sports administrator for Columbus Recreation and Parks.

Popularity is exploding for the video game competitions, with esports quickly becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry. Castle believes Columbus will be among the first cities to incorporate a league into a local recreation and parks department.

Participants will use their home video game systems and an internet connection to play. During this first season, they can compete in Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer and NBA 2K games. Castle explained the season will cost $10 and run in a tournament league style, with eight games over a three-week period. He expects the league to be a permanent addition.

“Right now, you know when we’re playing softball, basketball and volleyball. So, we want this to be the same thing, our customers know when we’re going to offer eSports,” he said.

Eventually, the sports department plans to expand the competition in several phases. After it establishes seasons for the competition, it will introduce a youth league for participants ages 14-17. The youth league will also incorporate an education component, teaching teens about future careers in esports.

Rec and Parks is looking into community partnerships with esports gaming centers to host larger events.

“Much like a softball tournament, we want to have an eSports tournament and have everybody come into a facility with spectators and everything,” Castle explained.

Castle said, like traditional athletics, esports still offers a social connection, which is something many are currently craving.

“Yeah you get to play in a competitive game, but you’re basically with your friends, hanging out and enjoying life,” he said. “So, they miss that aspect of it. So, we’re trying to create different ways to do that.”

Visit the Columbus Recreation and Parks sports page for information about registration.

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