State of the state: eSports arena goes big

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.