It was only about eight months ago that I met Josh Richardson and his team at Command Post Gaming in Pineville. At that point, the idea of transforming Charlotte’s infrastructure to support an esports league was just planted — hadn’t even sprouted — but Richardson had big plans to grow it.
Since that time, Richardson has already turned many of those plans into reality. Since launching in October 2018, CLT Esports has added three gaming teams, hosted a multitude of cash prize tournaments and begun planning Charlotte’s first competitive gaming convention. Though no details are yet finalized, Richardson has been in talks with Charlotte officials and organizers of the Raleigh-based Playthrough gaming convention to bring a similar event to the Queen City in 2020.
Despite this massive growth in a short amount of time, there’s still more growth ahead for the up-and-coming esports league.
“We’ve made it past that initial three-month phase where people just give up. Now we’re going into month eight, people are taking us a lot more seriously,” Richardson explained. “It’s still not nearly where I want it to be by any means, but we’re getting there.”
The next event on CLT Esports’ docket is a $2,000 winner-take-all cash prize Call of Duty tournament on May 25. Richardson teamed up with MyComputerCareer to host the LAN tournament at the company’s technical school in southwest Charlotte.
While Richardson and CLT Esports has a lot on the horizon — planning a convention, partnering with different companies and organizations around town and training with the three gaming teams on CLT Esports’ roster — he’s keeping a level head to ensure the league grows organically through grassroots efforts.
“When big money comes into esports, it could go sideways,” he explained. “If you have a lot of money coming in and you have big sponsors and big investors throwing all this money at it, they don’t care about the community at all. They don’t care about getting the experience, they’re really just about the [return on investment]. That never works.”
But why should the city get excited about esports now? After all, it was just two years ago that esports powerhouse Team EnVyUs left Charlotte behind — along with plans for a cutting edge training facility and competitive gaming venue — for a multi-million-dollar deal in Texas.
According to Richardson, things went bad for Team EnvyUs in Charlotte because the city wasn’t ready to support the esports industry.
“When [Team EnVyUs] left Charlotte, they left Charlotte because they had millions and millions of dollars telling them to go to Texas,” he said. “It was probably more lucrative for them to do that. That’s also because Charlotte wasn’t ready for a team like that and having the infrastructure and the support needed.”
Richardson also believes that the community-driven, homegrown, grassroots aspect of CLT Esports will give it an advantage as the organization grows in the city — as opposed to bringing in an already-established team for a large chunk of change.
“We’re a no-name [organization] coming up through the grassroots community. We’re doing it a different way and it seems to be paying off. We’re creating the infrastructure for esports,” Richardson said.
In the future, it seems entirely possible that CLT Esports will face Team EnVy Us — now named Team Envy — in a tournament. The team just has to put in the work and get there.
“We are definitely going to be Charlotte’s next franchise esports owners. There’s no doubt about that,” he stated. “We want to play in the big leagues, we want to play against the big dogs.”