Belong Gaming Arenas, a subsidiary of global gaming and technology company Vindex, will form a partnership with Williamson County Schools to help establish scholastic esports programs and support the nationwide development of the amateur esports ecosystem, per a release. 

Tapping into its network of local gaming centers, Belong will provide dedicated practice and competition space for approximately 40,000 students, including another partnership with a school system in Dallas. 

“Scholastic esports and gaming is a fast-growing sector of the industry and provides students with educational and social development opportunities but accessibility is a frequent barrier,” said Mary Antieul, VP of Strategy, Belong Gaming Arenas. “As schools continue to build esports programs around the country, Belong Gaming Arenas has a unique opportunity to support schools and students to get involved in the space.”

Belong Gaming Arenas operates over 30 gaming centers in the United States and United Kingdom, each outfitted with high-end gaming equipment – including PCs, consoles, and peripherals – to accommodate both competitive and friendly gameplay, per the release. 

Belong's partnership will provide local elementary, middle and high school students with a place to play the latest game titles and compete in official scholastic tournaments in its Franklin-based arena. The partnership will see Belong lean on its digital platform to facilitate interscholastic competition as well as against local teams from cities across the Belong Arenas network, per the release. 

"For Williamson County, esports helps workforce development in the technology sector," said Jeremy Qualls, WCS' Executive Director of College, Career and Technical Education and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. “Middle Tennessee has exploded in the tech sector and we want to be on the frontlines of a workforce pipeline, and esports helps exposure into careers. With Belong, we can immediately offer students an entry point into this space and develop a sense of community between students and schools."

Currently, 20 percent of K-12 and higher education schools worldwide have an esports program, but about 71 percent of schools are considering creating a gaming program. The partnership is set to provide resources for schools to launch and expand existing esports programs, serving Belong’s larger vision to increase accessibility of gaming nationwide and help open doors for students interested in pursuing opportunities in higher education, including competitive gaming scholarships.

Belong will continue to establish relationships with local school districts and higher education institutes throughout 2022 and beyond, using its gaming centers and digital platform to accelerate scholastic programs and competition.

Belong anticipates opening several new Arenas in the U.K. in 2022, with 300 locations to arrive stateside over the next several years, enabling the company to reach more consumers and expand opportunities to support budding community-based esports programs with industry-leading facilities.