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ESports Could be the Next Big Thing for Fairs
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Video game competitions have been popular since the 1980s – the film “The Wizard” comes to mind – and may be the next big thing at fairs and carnivals in the very near future. Indiana-based MiLBooM Esports is hoping to pave the way for the merger to happen. 

Owned and managed by Vernon Patrick Chmielewski, the company launched in 2017. According to its website, the business enables fans, brands, events and venues to live in the same space that millennials do, connecting everyone through Esports. MiLBooM Esports develops Esports experiences and partners with shows, conventions, festivals, concerts and tours to help strengthen brand and attendee relationships. One example of how this is done is through live gaming opportunities which can be streamed for gamers, fans and sponsors, allowing them to participate in and socially share all their games and branding. 

Agencies can hire MiLBooM Esports to brainstorm or put their own ideas together. Venues can work with MiLBooM Esports and utilize Jumbotron style TVs, hold gaming “watch parties” or feature hourly play days where participants pay $5-$8 an hour for gaming experiences. Each game offered is based on a sport, and up to eight different sports can be featured in a four or five-day event.

“We can have championships, tournaments, event series et cetera,” Chmielewski shares. “We are also looking into doing things like Fortnite tournaments – which is very popular right now – or bringing in elements such as cosplay.”

The agency also rents out stages, trusses, esport equipment and other unique event equipment. 

A primary business goal of the agency when working with venues such as fairs is to create a space that keeps millennials at the fair longer, which will, of course, benefit a number of food and beverage vendors. 

“In general, a millennial will spend about 2.5 hours at a festival,” Chmielewski says. “With something like free gaming, this will turn into 4.5 hours. It can be a big benefit to fairs. We are working on a millennial park experience that incorporates onsite and digital music and gaming. We actively look for ways to help cultivate engagement and create a reason for millennials to stay.”

MiLBooM Esports has participated in several fair conventions, including the Indiana Association of Fairs Convention, and Michigan Festivals and Events Association, where Chmielewski and staff introduced the concept of Esports. The business was subsequently approached by several fairs for more information.

“We are now brainstorming ways to best serve fairs, while thinking of all the 'what ifs' and what can be developed,” Chmielewski says. “We want to find ways to communicate, engage and complement what's already being done.” Sponsors desire something new to connect with their fans. Esports is young, global, digital and diverse, and the newest marketing platform for fairs and festivals to entice sponsor participation.

One issue fairs revealed they have been struggling with is the lack of attendees visiting the 4-H competition buildings. MiLBooM Esports was asked how they might be able to help remedy the situation.

“At various events, we can virtually and digitally do a lot to help,” Chmielewski says. “We think of how we can drive traffic in. For this issue, we thought one solution might be to use monitors near the concession stands to stream the 4-H competitions live. Every place is convertible.”

Given enough time, Chmielewski is confident that Esports could definitely turn into something big in the fair world, especially since the space is not taken at present. He says that it pays off to have patience, which he's learning with his new endeavor.

“It's the first time business hasn't come as aggressive to me as it used to,” he admits. “But we are doing something quite unique and it takes patience and being education-minded. I have never been comfortable in business, and this has equaled success,” he adds. “When you are comfortable, you become complacent. When you are uncomfortable, you can get creative, challenge yourself, and look for new ideas.”

And Chmielewski certainly has a lot of them.

Born on the South Side of Chicago, he attended George Williams College where he pursued a double major in teaching and psychology. During this time, he also began organizing beach volleyball events. After graduation in 1986, he started working with area park districts and formed a sports and social club, which ran from 1987 until 2002. The social club started with a five team volleyball league, which became a massive 5,000 participant weekly beach volleyball league, 300 softball teams, five divisions of basketball and golf and tennis leagues. After selling this business in 2002, he says he opened a maritime hospitality company that provided services such as pontoon rentals, yacht chartering and dock parties.

In 2010, Chmielewski went on to Ohio University to obtain a Professional Master of Sports Administration. It was after graduation he says he began searching for the next big idea, even though he'd been a seven-time entrepreneur by this point. He agreed to mentor a group of students who had a new project on their radar which revolved around Esports.

“I did some deep dive research to learn all about Esports for six months,” he shares. He reached out to festival organizers that were his peers and inquired about how the millennials were being considered at their events. He realized there were significant deficiencies. Those boomers at the head of their organizations were comfortable, and while attendance numbers were dropping, no consideration was being taken to offer a more youthful program. Gaming was it. As he further reflected on how to bridge the gap between millennials and baby boomers, the idea for MiLBooM Esports was born.

As the only self-proclaimed “boomer” involved in MiLBooM Esports, Chmielewski prides himself on his 38 years of sports and entertainment business expertise, experience, and resources he has to offer. He looks forward to what the future holds for his agency.

“We want to be a good partner,” he says. “If something is not working, we want to sit down and talk about the challenges and discover how to better the situation.”

Another goal the company strives toward is being the first one to execute an idea. 

“That's a marketable claim,” Chmielewski says. “Being the first county fair to host an Esports competition is 'builduponable.' Esports has a three-year incubation period like any other event idea. A fair or festival who makes the multi-year commitment starting in 2019 lays the foundation for their own future, and MiLBooM Esports will be with you every step of the way.”
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