Posted: June 13, 2013

State of the state: eSports arena goes big

Eric Peterson

A blue glow emanates from 50 well-oiled computers, each loaded with 70 of the latest and greatest games and fronted by a flat screen display and ergonomic mouse and chair. There’s a big screen TV streaming professional gamers on one wall and big beanbag chairs in the center of the room. Then there’s the energy drink bar, with a stupefying menu that includes 125 flavors and varieties.

This is not your older brother’s video arcade.

Clutch Gaming Arena in Arvada is not only one of the best such facilities on the Front Range; it is also among the nation’s top gaming arenas.

Justin Moskowitz and Jake Dahlman co-founded Clutch with Luis Moreno and Luisa Molina in January.

“The games are getting more team-oriented,” says Moskowitz. “You can sit at home and play alone or you can come here to play with friends and high-five each other.”

Dahlman’s previous job was running Geeks LAN Center, a similar facility with a third of the hardware and few of Clutch’s bells and whistles. “There’s nothing on this scale,” says Dahlman.

And there’s nothing on this scale in the tech mecca that is the Bay Area, says Jae Kim, a former pro gamer who lives in San Francisco and frequents Clutch when in Colorado. “There’s nothing even close,” he says. “I cannot figure out a better way to utilize this space.”

Dahlman and Moskowitz did some serious research before opening Clutch. “We wanted to take it to the next level,” says Moskowitz, who traveled to gaming arenas in California, France and Korea. The latter country “stands out,” he adds, as both the world capital of pro gaming, a.k.a. eSports, and inspiration of the club-like look.

Clutch is attracting big crowds for its League of Legends tournaments, a game that pits teams of superheroes and supervillains against one another. “During our tournaments, we have a commentator,” says Dahlman. “He’s on the Internet live and most of our customers tune in if they can’t make it in person.”

eSports is big business. League of Legends is the most popular game today, with a whopping 70 million players worldwide, and sometimes 5 million of them online simultaneously. Moskowitz says there are thousands of e-athletes who consider this their profession. The biggest tournaments have purses that exceed $1 million, as Game companies sponsor top players.

“That’s one of the reasons it’s the right time for a place like this,” says Moskowitz.

Daily passes cost $10 to $15. The facility has garnered 300 members since it opened and players range from “a well-behaved 11-year-old,” says Dahlman, to a tattooed biker in his 50s.

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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Readers Respond

I recall in Vancouver seeing similar style gaming centres. One called Playdium. It went belly up big time. I see the difference though. These new concepts involve team gaming. Big difference. Most of the hard core gamers realize online isn't quite the same when you take lag into consideration. If you see the new Xbox One and PS4 Controller consoles it makes you wonder if the online play is going to threaten these gaming outlets. Technology always improves and changes. Less laggy online multiplayer for example. That said, the facts are Clutch Gaming Arena is making it work. Make money playing game? Who wudda thunk it! -Sid By Sid Drysdale on 2013 06 15
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