game on

Popular esports tournament powers up at NRG Stadium with a historic twist

Watch elite gamers face off in League of Legends. Photo by Jamie McInall/Pexels

Heads up, gamers. The most popular esport is coming to the Bayou City. The League Championship Series (LCS), will host its marquee championship event at NRG Stadium (8825 Kirby Dr.) on April 23 and 24, the organization announced.

Not only is this the first time the tournament will be held in Texas, it’s also the first time the prestigious League of Legends competition — the LCS Spring Finals — will be hosted in an NFL stadium. For the uninitiated, League of Legends is a wildly popular, team-based multiplayer strategy game.

Houston fans are invited to attend both the pregame Fan Fest celebration and the LCS Finals, a first since the pandemic. The Fan Fest starts at 10 am Saturday, April 23, and the first match starts at 2:30 pm.

As the league’s first seasonal championship event of the year, the competition will see North America’s top three teams vie for an LCS trophy, a banner in the LCS Studio rafters, and an invite to the international Mid-Season Invitational in Busan, South Korea next month, per a release.

Developed and run by influential and prolific developer and publisher Riot Games, this championship will be held in North America across four cities — Mexico City, New York City, Toronto and San Francisco, a first since 2016, a release notes.

As the most-watched esport in the world with 12 international leagues, the 10-year-old LCS is actually the third-most popular major professional sports league among 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S., per industry insiders.

For some perspective, more than 465 million people watched esports in 2021. Esports generated more than $1 billion in revenue, according to a Newzoo report.

For more information on the Fan Fest and tournament, visit the official site.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kerri Smith of the Rice Alliance joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss Rice's Clean Energy Accelerator. Photo courtesy of Rice

Kerri Smith knows accelerators. Through her over 18 years at Rice Alliance, she's been responsible for overseeing several and was on the founding leadership team of Houston's first energy tech startup accelerator, SURGE. After years of focusing you accelerating Rice University's student-focused program, Owl Spark, she's transitioned back into the energy tech space.

"I've worked with many types of founders. There's not one unique characteristic that everyone has," Smith says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Our goal is to help move them along and help them move the needle. At the end of the day, we want them to have a good experience and to meet their goals and objectives."

The Rice Alliance's Clean Energy Accelerator launched last summer with its inaugural cohort of 12 cleantech startups, which represented energy sectors from solar and wind innovations to hydrogen, geothermal, and more. Smith says the startups represented a wide range of stages and were from all over — only two companies were from Houston originally. The out-of-town companies were able to make critical partnerships in town and set up a presence and a home here.

"We were able to build a family-like culture among our group, and that was something that was wildly appreciative," Smith, who serves as executive director of the program, says.

Applications for Class 2 of CEA are open until May 31. While the program will offer the same access to mentorship and opportunities, the program will change slightly. CEA will focus on seed and series A-stage companies and will be a hybrid program. Throughout the 10 weeks, which begins in the fall instead of the summer this year, founders will visit Houston three times at the beginning, middle, and the end of the accelerator. Each startup will receive a grant to cover the expenses of the equity-free program.

CEA is just one part of a greater ecosystem of innovation under the umbrella of Rice University, which includes the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The Ion Houston, Owl Spark, and more. All these entities also play into the greater Houston area's innovation ecosystem.

"Rice Alliance has a strong history of demonstrating collaboration with a number of organizations," Smith says. "I think one of the primary benefits that we have in these collaborative opportunities is to ensure that we are collectively building a capable and diverse pipeline of talent to solve for these problems and provide them with access to experiencing all of the benefits of our ecosystem."

With CEA specifically, some of these collaborations include working with Greentown Houston, which is just next door to the program's home at The Ion, and the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative.

"We're a cog in the wheel. We do really well with that. We play well with others – in ways that the founder has a good experience and can benefit," Smith says.

Smith shares more about what she's looking for in the second cohort of CEA on the podcast episode, as well as what she sees as Houston's role in the energy transition. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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