The addition of an eSports room and an adventure fitness course at a community recreation center in Westerville, Ohio, are examples of the kinds of trends operators are pursuing to get their communities engaged.
Rich Dolesh, vice president for strategic initiatives at the National Recreation and Park Association in Virginia, told The Columbus Dispatch that rec centers have expanded their thinking beyond the cookie-cutter facilities of the past.
“It’s based on what the community needs and wants,” Dolesh said. “It’s no longer about just providing balls in the gym.”
Randy Auler, Westerville’s parks and recreation director, says the renovation is focused on being inclusive and bringing in as many residents as possible.
“We’re not following fads. We’re looking for trends,” he said.
The eSports trend doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, with some valuing the industry at $1 billion this year. Major universities are getting in on the action, with Marquette this year becoming the first Division I school to launch a varsity eSports program.
Dolesh says that while eSports might not seem like a good fit for community centers, it’s a good way to attract young people and then expose them to new experiences once they’re in the building.