Initial plans for the future use of one of downtown Des Plaines’ most iconic structures, the former Huntington Bank building at the southwest corner of Lee and Ellinwood streets, indicate development of a ground floor area stocked with electronic games, monitors, computers and other equipment, and a restaurant and bar on the second level.
The high-tech operation will provide a venue where electronic sports enthusiasts can not only play the games, but also against competitors in different parts of the world.
The buyer of the building, George Bousis, a 32-year-old entrepreneur who grew up in Northbrook, is the owner and chairman of Riot Squad Esports, an “organization founded by gamers for gamers,” according to the company’s website. “Our mission is to build the gold standard for the next generation of competitive gaming.” It’s believed that Bousis established Offline Gaming LLC to become the official buyer of the property. Its address on official documents is 118 E. Erie St., Chicago.
Bousis is also the founder of gift card marketplace Raise, a company that began operations in 2013. Raise is an e-commerce marketplace that assists people who have unwanted gift cards to take control and get cash for those cards. According to reports, Raise has evolved into a retail payments company that has generated more than $1 billion in card sales and raised tens of millions of dollars from investors.
City officials and architectural representatives of Riot Squad Esports and Offline Gaming LLC met about three weeks ago to discuss anticipated changes in the 92-year-old, white marble former bank building and future concepts of the business and property.
According to Des Plaines Economic Development Coordinator Parick Ainsworth, gamers will rent space and equipment inside the building to compete with other gamers for prizes and awards. Ainsworth said Bousis visited the site before he purchased the building around early January.
“They want to move forward with their plans soon,” Ainsworth explained. “They want to take a bank and turn it into entertainment use.” He added that he is unaware of a specific timeline for interior redevelopment of the building or when the operation will open. It is also not known whether the exterior of the structure will be altered. “A lot of behind the scenes work has to be done,” he said.
Over the last decade, esports and electronic gaming competition have grown significantly attracting attention and competitors from around the world.
Several recent attempts by the Journal & Topics to contact Bousis for comment were unsuccessful.