For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Kim Skeltis, APR; (616) 419-8385; kim@blueblazepr.com     

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., UPDATED Feb. 3, 2020 – The latest sports tournament coming to Grand Rapids doesn’t take place in the physical world. But that doesn’t make it any less popular, competitive or exciting to play (and watch).

The West Michigan Sports Commission hosts its first esports tournament, Grand Rapids Rift Clash, Feb. 7-9 at Celebration Cinema GR North, 2121 Celebration Dr. NE. And while the competition all happens on screen, there will be plenty of real-world excitement as fans cheer on their favorite university and high school teams.

“Esports is so popular worldwide that the potential for our region is immense and represents a growth area for the sports commission,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “This trend will only increase, so it makes sense to create our own event to establish ourselves as an esports community so we can bid on these types of events in the future. Our long-term goal is to grow this event to the point where we’re filling Van Andel Arena with a tournament.”

Created by the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) with support from the esports programs at Aquinas College, Grand Valley State University and East Kentwood High School; and in partnership with Celebration Cinema GR North, the competitive gaming tournament features teams of five (plus a coach and alternate player) playing the popular “League of Legends” online video game in which teams battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes. Developed by American video game developer Riot Games, Inc., “League of Legends” celebrated 10 years in 2019 and has the world's largest online gaming community, with more than eight million gamers logged on at one time per day during peak hours. More than 100 million people globally watched the 2019 “League of Legends” World Championship.*

East Kentwood High School is registered to participate, plus nine college teams: Aquinas College, Central Michigan University, Davenport University, Grand Valley State University, Jackson College, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Indiana Tech and Ohio Northern University.

"The task force members and I who are assisting the West Michigan Sports Commission in hosting this tournament are thrilled to show off West Michigan to the growing esports industry, and we hope this event will bring larger events and crowds to West Michigan in the future as more companies explore the esports space," said Adam Antor, head esports coach at Aquinas College and a member of the Rift Clash organizing committee. "Hosting an esports tournament at Celebration Cinema is the first step to position West Michigan as a destination for esports.”

Esports is a broad term to encompass “competitive video gaming” or the act of playing video games in a competitive nature, whether alone or on a team. It is estimated that more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide offer esports programs (including Aquinas College, Davenport University and Jackson College, which all added esports athletic programs in the 2019/2020 season), and they are actively recruiting students for these programs. As of January 2020, more than 180 colleges and universities across the country offer scholarships for gamers to compete for their schools in esports, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). That number has more than doubled over the last year. In Michigan, six colleges and universities awarded esports scholarships during the 2019-2020 academic year (including Aquinas College and Davenport University in West Michigan) – and for 2020-2021, that number will more than double.

Esports has grown significantly in recent years in both viewership and sponsorships. According to the Newzoo 2019 Global Games Market Report, the global esports audience was estimated to reach 453.8 million in 2019, with the number of global esports viewers growing to 645 million and generating $1.8 billion by 2022. These numbers also are prompting major corporations to sponsor these events, including West Michigan-based Herman Miller who signed a deal last fall as the seating partner of Complexity esports team owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Tournament Rules

There will be two pools of five teams, and each team plays the other four within their pool, with each match consisting of two games. Pool play games are Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The top two teams in each pool (four teams) advance to Sunday’s tournament. Teams will be seeded 1 to 4 based on pool play records and tie breakers. Semifinals are Sunday starting at 9 a.m., and finals start at 1 p.m. The winning team receives $2,500.

Spectator Ticket Information and Schedule

Spectators can pay $2 at the door for a one-day pass to watch this round robin-style tournament. (Participants and coaches do not pay an entry fee.) Teams sit in V-shaped seating of five against five with separate PC screens, with a large spectator screen behind them. Each match lasts up to two hours. The event takes place on the second floor of Celebration Cinema GR North, with most events in the Wave Room. The finals are Sunday, Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. in Theater 1. See the schedule online and below (subject to change):

Friday - Feb. 7

5-8 p.m.               Team check-in and optional practice

Saturday - Feb. 8

8 a.m.                  Spectator and team entrance opens

9 a.m. – 10 p.m.   Pool play matches

Sunday - Feb. 9

8 a.m.                  Spectator and team entrance opens

9 a.m. – 12 p.m.   Semi-finals

1 – 4 p.m.             Tournament finals (winner of semi-final matches) - Theater 1

For more information, visit grriftclash.com.

*Business Insider, Dec. 18, 2019

About the West Michigan Sports Commission

The non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) identifies, secures and hosts youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 833 events attracting more than 1.4 million athletes and visitors, generating almost $400 million in direct visitor spending. Visit westmisports.com, Facebook.com/WestMichiganSportsCommission and @westmisports on Twitter and Instagram for more information.

Media Contacts

West Michigan Sports Commission:

Katy Tigchelaar

Kim Skeltis, Blue Blaze PR

Meijer State Games of Michigan:

Eric Engelbarts, II

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