A look at a selection of bowling lanes inside the National Bowling Stadium in downtown Reno.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve wants the future of the downtown National Bowling Stadium to include the formation of University of Nevada, Reno bowling and esports teams, plus a renovation of the 27-year-old facility to include technology to host large national and international esports tournaments , she said Aug. 25 on Nevada Newsmakers.
“My hope is to change the bowling stadium into the Wolf Pack Bowl and make that part of their home,” Schieve told host Sam Shad. “And who knows? Maybe, possibly, we’ll see a collegiate bowling team and then an esports team and things like that because we really want to stop the brain drain. We really want to (keep) these young kids who are so talented and so smart – with all the innovation that is coming out of the university – we want them to stay in Reno.”
Schieve has long been a proponent of esports tourism and research suggests that esports can benefit tourism and college recruiting.
Large crowds have been flocking to major arenas worldwide to watch and play in the international online gaming competitions and Schieve wants in on the action.
In pre-pandemic 2019, the global esports industry was estimated to be worth about $1.1 billion, with $34 million in prize money, according to various reports. Its fan base is estimated to be about 454 million.
“I have been pushing esports for the last five years,” she said. “I am a big believer in esports and I just know that this is for the future.”
She wants renovations to the bowling stadium to help attract esports tournaments.
“That’s a great place (for esports),” she said. “You have the bowling lanes and the screens. You could actually turn those screens into esports screens and you can have them be interactive and you could put a console right there. So it is really a great multi-purpose facility that has never been used for anything other than bowling.”
Esports can be a tourism driver with Gen-Z and millennial audiences and can also help attract college talent, according to research published by Destinations International.
“Our research suggests that in-person esports events are critical to the overall growth of the (tourism) sector,” wrote Tyler Othen, DI’s project manager, Conventions, Sports and Leisure.
“We’re also seeing colleges and universities leverage strong esports programs to attract students, particularly those in the STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) sectors,” Othen continued. “We’re also seeing economic development and chamber of commerce organizations look to a broad esports market strategy to help attract businesses and highly skilled employees.”
At the collegiate level, 175 US colleges offer varsity esports teams and some offer esports scholarships, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports. Some of the schools having esports varsity teams include Boise State, Miami of Ohio, UC-Irvine, Oklahoma, Montana, North Texas and the University of Utah, according to NACE.
Many communities are already way ahead of Reno when it comes to esports, according to published reports. Some cities and colleges are building facilities – even small arenas – to host esports events, according to the Indiana Daily Journal.
South Bend, Ind., next to the University of Notre Dame, turned a little-used auditorium in a convention center into an esports facility and has been hosting events for more than a year, according to the South Bend Tribune. It helps fill up area hotels when the Notre Dame football team plays away games, the Tribune reported. However, Notre Dame is not included in the NACE list of school that offer esports varsity programs.
Schieve’s view on esports was further crystalized earlier this summer when Reno played host to the US Conference of Mayors.
“This new generation is really embracing it and obviously, the new technology speeds those things up,” she said. “If cities are not looking at ways that you can bring in new demographics, then they are really going to lose out. The cities that will have the competitive advantage are those who are looking at the technology, innovation and esports.”
Esports is already widely popular in other parts of the world, including Asia and Europe, according to reports.
“You should see it in Europe, the amount of people flocking to esports is really unbelievable,” Schieve said.
Also, as the University of Nevada campus keeps inching south toward downtown, the bowling stadium should cater to a younger clientele, Schieve said.
“It is so close to student housing, we want to activate the bottom (floor of the bowling stadium) with a great coffee house and also a brewery and those kind of things,” she said.
City and university officials have been working together as downtown and the university blend together.
“We’re really working closely and it is nice to work with (University) President (Brian) Sandoval to really bring them into the downtown core,” she said in an interview taped Wednesday. “We are changing the name of Center Street into University Avenue, which is really kind of exciting. But also, look at the amount of student housing that is coming into downtown.”
The synergy between the university and downtown is helping plug the “brain drain,” Schieve said.
“Now more than ever, we are seeing our kids from the university want to live, work and play here,” Schieve said. “Before they were like, ‘Oh, I need to go get a job somewhere else.’ (Now) they are all staying here. Things have changed dramatically.”
Although college bowling is sanctioned by the US Bowling Congress, Nevada does not have a bowling team in its athletics department. However, the bowling stadium is scheduled to play host to the 2025 women’s collegiate championship.
Schieve, keeping with the theme of technology, wants the City of Reno to join the “metaverse,” a virtual-reality space where users interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.
The metaverse was another topic from the US Mayors’ meeting in Reno, Schieve said. It could attract many citizens who do not normally engage with City Hall.
“The United States Conference of Mayors is really looking at innovation technology and what is happening in the metaverse,” she said. “And it is because we know we can pull in a different demographic and people who might not now be typically engaged with their government. I think that is important. You could eventually go into the metaverse and get a business license and those kinds of things And maybe it is a lot easier and more approachable, in that sense, to engage with City Hall.”