Panel discussion highlights the rise of Esports

Written By Emma Christley, For The Globe

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Last Tuesday, the Sports, Arts, and Entertainment (SAEM) Club hosted their annual Emerging Trends conference, emphasizing the future of Esports and highlighting the ticket industry of the other three professional sports leagues found in the city of Pittsburgh.

With sessions featuring keynote speaker and CEO of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Len Komoroski, an emphasis on Esports and the future of the sports industry in regards to the growing digital age was prevalent.

Other sessions included a panel offering a crash course on the growing of Esports that featured students and industry leaders. Following was a second panel held by ticketing representatives from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers and Penguins.

Pittsburgh native Komorski spoke to students about the economic impact QuickenLoans Arena, also known as The Q, has on the city of Cleveland. According to Komoroski, between the 200 ticketed events and 1,400 private events, two million patrons were brought through their doors in 2017. Komoroski said The Q is the largest driver of economic activity in Cuyahoga County, Oh.

Komoroski cites $177 million in direct spending was brought into the city and $47 million in state and local taxes. In addition, the arena provides 2,500 jobs to local residents and The Q has been a huge driver of development and innovation in Cleveland’s downtown area.

Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, also owns several properties in the Downtown Cleveland market and is looking to continue to update and renovate these properties. Gilbert is also putting $6 million into removing blighted homes from the area. This makes him one of the few franchise owners to put a heavy focus on community engagement.

With all of the renovation planned for the Q in the upcoming year, which Komoroski detailed to students, the arena has also become a great source of pride for Clevelanders. A study held in 2012 by Destination Cleveland found that only 34% of Cleveland residents would recommend the city to a friend for tourism or hosting a conference.

Following the 2016 Cavaliers championship win and the hosting of the Republican National Convention, when polled in 2017, the percentage of Cleveland residents that would recommend the city to a friend grew to 77 %.

“This industry can move cities and lift cities up better than anything I’ve ever seen,” Komoroski said to students before opening the floor for questions.

Earlier in the day, a panel was held that featured speakers such as Halina Malik, the manager of Content and Marketing for the Cavs Legion 2K Esports team; Matt Roche, Corporate and Strategic Partnerships Manager with the Pittsburgh’s own Esports team, the Pittsburgh Knights; and Steven Spohn, the Chief Operations Officer with Ablegamers. The panelists were also joined by Marcyssa Brown and Matt Whitaker, two Rowland School of Business students and Steve Tanzilli, Dean of Rowland School of Business, who moderated the panel.

Earlier in the day, a panel discussion that featured the speakers of manager of content and marketing of the Cavaliers Legion 2k Esports team, Malik, corporate and strategic partnership manager for the Pittsburgh Knights, Roche and chief operations officer of Ablegamers, Spohn.

Moderating the panel was Rowland School of Business students, Marcyssa Brown and Matt Whitaker along with and Dean of the Rowland School of Business, Tanzilli.

Some topics discussed in the panel were the challenges these professionals have overcome in working in such a new sport and the excitement surrounding the expected growth and development of Esports. The panelists also discussed the role Point Park will play in Pittsburgh’s first ever Esports tournament that is slated to occur this May.

The final session of the day was another panel. This featuring speakers of Doug Vanderheyden, director of ticket operations with the Pittsburgh Pirates; Kristen Lewandowski, director of ticket and premium seating sales and retention with the Pittsburgh Steelers; and Danny Gardner, manager of database marketing with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ashley Ranich, who is a senior marketing services specialist with ShowClix served as moderator for this panel.

With a big push away from paper tickets and towards mobile ticketing, the panelists discussed how each of their respective teams are working on making the transition to exclusively mobile tickets. Expecting mobile ticketing and apps to become the norm for the future of live sporting events, the panelists discussed positives and negatives of this growing trend. They also discussed new and better ways to implement this in their individual venues.

“With this only being the second year, we can already see [the Emerging Trends event’s] success growing: increasing our number of external attendees and even partnering with local high schools during the morning Esports session,” Jessica Martin, a graduate assistant in the SAEM department who helped plan the event said.

Students shared takeaways upon the conclusion of the event.

“One of my major takeaways from the event is that I never really saw myself going into sports, but I have recently found myself leaning more toward sports-related opportunities and to hear what Kristen [Lewandowski] had to say about her journey switching from journalism into sports really hit home,” Jocelyn Bankson, sophomore SAEM student said.

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