The city of Lenexa is hosting its first ever tournament for Rocket League, an increasingly popular esports game that fuses soccer and rocket-powered cars.
The tournament, which takes place Dec. 30 at the Lenexa Rec Center, marks the city’s first attempt at getting into the esports world.
“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” said Logan Wagler, deputy director of parks and recreation, noting the “exponential growth” in popularity of esports in parks and recreation programs, high schools and colleges across the country.
The tournament is being put on through a one-time partnership with Microsoft, which will provide equipment to help the city host and run it. Wagler said that eventually, they would like to run leagues and host recurring tournaments in the future.
Chase Wurdack, a 10-year-old gamer from Lenexa and student at Manchester Park Elementary, was one of the first to sign up for the tournament. He’s been playing Rocket League for the past four years. He also joined a new club soccer team, The Rampage.
“I think it’s a cool concept,” Wurdack said. “I like soccer, I play soccer, and it’s cool that you’re using cars to hit a huge soccer ball.”
Wurdack said he’s looking forward to the competition because he can meet other players. He already met one who signed up early as well, Nick Chiappetta, a Lenexa resident and sophomore at Lutheran High in Kansas City, Missouri.
Chiappetta has been playing Rocket League for the past two years.
“It’s competitive, there’s esport leagues,” he said, noting he is hoping to start one at high school. “It’s like professional gaming that you can play Rocket League with.”
Now that he goes to a different school, he stays connected with his friends in Lenexa by playing Rocket League with them after school.
Wagler said they hope to foster social settings for esports athletes who may find themselves playing at home alone.
“What we’re really trying to do is bring kids in that are interested in this thing, put them in a social setting so when they’re not playing, they’ll socialize, they’ll meet people that maybe have similar interests of theirs, and just get a neat experience,” Wagler said. “People recreate in so many different ways. This is probably going to tap into a group that we have not really had access to in the past.
“Maybe they have accessibility issues or maybe sports just aren’t their thing because of a physical barrier or something else, but this is an interest of theirs, it’s something that they can really take pride in. It really gives them an opportunity to come out and enjoy that community approach to recreation.”
Prizes included giveaways from Microsoft and the city of Lenexa. The deadline to register is Dec. 28. The Lenexa Rec Center is located at 17201 W. 87th St.