FARMINGTON – Gamers and esports players have a new facility dedicated to the burgeoning sport, as one of the region’s only esports facilities opened last week.
Nemesis 5 Esports, near the corner of Sullivan Avenue and Main Street, officially opened Nov. 22, yet owners Rocky Bridges and Tammy Simpson-Bridges began developing the business in January. The couple renovated the building, which sat empty for three years and previously was home to a series of restaurants.
“There’s nothing like this anywhere,” Simpson-Bridges said. “There’s not really a place like this to host any event.”
While many participants compete from libraries, schools or their own personal computers, Nemesis 5 Esports is designed and constructed with esports specifically in mind. The facility was retrofitted with 58 PCs, 20 televisions and a system that runs on fiber optics, according to the owners.
Simpson-Bridges said they’ve heard positive feedback from local teams that have organized meetings at nontraditional locations like EntertainMart or Walmart. “It’s not like your standard sport where you can find a football field or softball field – this has to be specifically made for them,” she said.
While some facilities build their computers to only run certain games, Nemesis 5 Esports designed its computers to be able to run multiple games. “You can sit down at any computer and play any game,” Bridges said.
The new business opened as esports gains in popularity across the country. Egaming or esports have been around in various forms since the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the past few years that large-scale tournaments for games such as “Fortnite,” “League of Legends” and “Call of Duty” began drawing a large crowd of participants and fans. Since January, over $190 million have been awarded in 4,129 tournaments with over 21,000 players, compared with 10 years ago, when $4 million was awarded at 655 tournaments, according to esportsearnings.com.
The attraction of esports has even spread to high school athletics.
Bridges and Simpson-Bridges said they hope Nemesis 5 Esports will host a few of the high school esports teams. Farmington, Piedra Vista, Aztec, Kirtland Central and Shiprockhigh schools all have their own teams through the New Mexico Activities Association, a nonprofit that regulates interscholastic programs for high schools in the state. Simpson-Bridges said NMAA officials are scheduled to visit the facility in December.
The NMAA wrapped its first season of esports in April, after the board of directors voted to sanction the sport in 2018, according to Dusty Young, associate director with the organization. Throughout the state, 30 high schools and over 400 students took part in the inaugural season, and over 50 high schools have registered for next year’s season, according to Young.
“The facility in Farmington is the first of its kind (in the region) that I know of,” he said.
The rising interest in esports extends across the state line too. Although Durango doesn’t have a dedicated gaming facility, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department included mention of a possible egaming program in its draft master plan this year. Although, Cathy Metz, Durango Parks and Recreation director, told The Durango Herald they are not currently pursuing egaming.
In addition to the main gaming room, there are two party rooms that can be rented out for events, said Simpson-Bridges. Gamers will have the option of an hourly rate or memberships that comes with certain perks such as discounts on retail and snacks, Bridges said. The owners said their first tournaments will be Dec. 6 and 7.
While Young said this rising popularity was one reason the NMAA decided to sanction the sport, the organization also liked the idea of providing more education-based activities. Instead of playing games alone, students who participate in esports at the high school level work together in a team and have a coach or sponsor to work with, Young said.
“Kids really enjoy it because it lets them participate in something they love, but they can do it in a community,” he said.