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Noah Hajec, with the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, shares why rec centers should make space for esports in community recreation.

In recent years, esports has become a growing trend and some rec centers have started implementing it in their facilities.  One of these facilities is the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, located in Chico, California.

“Esports has been growing exponentially over the last several years, with high schools and colleges developing programs,” said Noah Hajec, the recreation supervisor at the Chico Area Recreation and Park District. “It has been giving a large population an opportunity to not only participate in an activity that they enjoy, but also open an avenue for career development.”

The Chico Area Recreation and Park District decided to jump on the trend because they said it creates an inclusive environment where age and physical ability don’t deter participation. Hajec believes a large part of their community plays video games and they’d like to bring them all together in a fun, competitive and safe environment. Additionally, an esports program provides kids and teens the opportunity to work on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

According to Hajec, rec departments have the responsibility to provide recreational outlets for their community, and their goal is to offer programming that is varied and inclusive of their diverse population.

“Historically, teens have been the toughest group for rec departments and centers to reach,” said Hajec. “Esports is an opportunity to get that population back into the mix. It also provides a social outlet and safe place for people to go and participate with other like-minded individuals.”

The esports program at the Chico Area Recreation and Park District is still in the very early stages, but Hajec recommends other recreation facilities get on board.

“I would suggest to any rec agency who is on the fence to find one or two people who have esports knowledge and just take the leap with one program — in our case, a tournament,” said Hajec. “The three main things to have in place are location, equipment and at least one esports expert. Once we decided on a program, a Madden Tournament, we proceeded as if we were running any new recreational activity.”

While esports in community recreation may be an out-of-the-box program for your facility, it can get teens back into your facility, where they feel both wanted and included.

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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