Susquehanna Esports brings first pro teams to Harrisburg
The capital city is now home to a small crew of professional esports players, one that the sport's local backers hope will only get bigger.
As the first professional esports organization in Central Pennsylvania, Harrisburg-based Susquehanna Esports has signed up two teams, with each playing a different game.
Both will be known as the Susquehanna Soniqs.
One is an experienced five-member team that plays Rainbow Six Siege, a tactical shooter video game.
The other is an established four-player team that competes in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, also known as PUBG, a multiplayer online battle game.
"This was a no-brainer for us," said Darren Moore, general manager of Susquehanna Esports, which formed in January. It is led by a group of regional investors, including Select Medical Corp. executive chairman Robert Ortenzio.
Moore had been looking for established esports teams to bring into the new organization and wear the Soniqs logo.
The Rainbow Six players — Seth Hoffman, Scott Webber, John Ackerly, Lauren Williams and Jason Luu — moved into downtown Harrisburg last week and will begin competing in league play on Thursday. The players previously competed together and individually for other professional organizations, including Las Vegas-based Rogue.
The team will have league matches every Friday evening.
The players on the PUBG roster — Alex Smith, Landon Bartula, Tony Vargas and Stephen Lash — play remotely. They previously played together as Team Gates, a professional team that Moore managed last year.
Hoffman, who is from Dallas, organized his team last year and called coming to Harrisburg a unique experience for him and the other players.
"It's not something you normally have the opportunity to do, get in from the ground up," he said, adding that he hopes his team's success will attract other pro teams to Harrisburg.
So does Moore, who said he was drawn to Harrisburg from Georgia by the vision and nationally recognized success of Harrisburg University's collegiate esports program. University President Eric Darr, who said recently that HU has pumped about $2 million into its program, is an adviser to Susquehanna Esports.
Susquehanna Esports started out with an initial investment of $2.5 million — seed money needed to recruit professional teams and players as well as additional staff to develop and promote the organization. Officials declined to say how much the organization spent to bring in the first players.
The group envisions making Harrisburg a hub for esports on the East Coast by developing professional teams and starting a training academy for players and coaches eager to compete at the professional level.
Part of the early focus has been securing teams that compete in the existing game scene and capitalizing on the popularity of other games, like Fortnite.
Moore also is filling out his staff, hoping to have five or six people on board over the coming months to help him grow the organization and support the players through social media and team management. He said he could see the organization growing to about 20 people.
In addition to creating and managing its own tournaments, Susquehanna Esports plans to form a production crew to help deliver technical production services to support other professional esports teams.
"There are a lot of career opportunities in esports," Moore said.
Susquehanna Esports has a temporary home at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, where it could host professional esports events. Whitaker also is home to HU's team, known as the Storm.
But Moore said the organization also is looking at real estate in the city for its own training facilities for its teams and for spectators to watch the Soniqs compete.
Moore said his goal is to add another Soniqs team or two this year to compete in other gaming titles. He believes the development of the training academy could help spawn more local professional players in the future.
The collegiate programs also could create a pipeline of players and coaches for Susquehanna Esports.
"We want to be the place that people come to play esports," Moore said.