There is no shortage of sweating opportunities for the sneaker-smackers around Loyola University’s Edgewater campus. Various flavors of sportsball are available to one and all. But what about the big nerds on campus? That’s the play being waged by a developer that wants to put up an e-sports arena at 6431 North Sheridan Road.
E-sports is what used to be charmingly called “video games,” and its becoming big business in small circles.
A New York company called Vindex wants to build a series of Belong Gaming Arenas at or near colleges in the Chicago area. The one at Loyola was planned to be the first. But there’s a bit of a snag.
Earlier this year, Belong asked the Department of Planning and Development if it was kosher to open its doors at the Sheridan Road location. The plan was for a 108 video game stations, some bleachers, a party room, and a bit of small-scale retail. A snack bar/gift shop kind of thing.
In July, the DPD told Belong to set phasers on stunning, with a letter reading in part, “It is our opinion that the proposed Belong facility is an indoor participant sports and recreation use and is permitted.” And there was much 3D gaussian shaderpunk fireworks all around.
A month later, like a spawncamper in the shadows, the plan got ganked. Hard. Another letter went out to Belong’s lawyer stating that, “the department is withdrawing its formerly issued letter.” Why the change of heart? Someone somewhere noticed that Belong is charging people to play. In Chicago, if you have more than four amusement machines in one location, and you charge people money to use them, then that friends and neighbors isn’t just an e-sports arena. It’s a good old-fashioned arcade. And zoning regulations do not permit arcades on Loyola’s property.
For those of you who weren’t yet alive back when the world was still black-and-white, the advent of arcades became a big problem when they swept across America. Because of that, arcades are quite closely regulated in most of the older cities, including Chicago. (Think mobsters, gambling, and otherwise worthwhile men blowing an entire paycheck on the way home from work while mother and baby go hungry.)
Now it appears that Loyola University has decided to get directly involved, if it wasn’t already. One of Loyola’s lawyers sent a letter to the DPD that we haven’t seen. But we have seen the response, which was sent to Loyola a couple of weeks ago. It simply reiterates what was written to the other lawyers: “Belong’s proposed gaming facility is not allowed.”
We’ll let you know if we see any other checkers move in this game.