BLOOMINGTON – Competitive players will soon have their own corner of the Twin Cities.
A year after Illinois Wesleyan University launched Bloomington-Normal’s first esports program, including turning part of the Hansen Student Center into its own esports arena, Normal Gadgets plans to open a similar space but many more ambitious for audiences when it moves southeast later this month. Bloomington.
“We hope it can be a place where people come to have fun, and maybe it becomes a kind of powerhouse for esports (area),” said Terry Ballantini, CFO of Normal Gadgets. , about his new side business, PlayNormal Esports. “We know this concept is working in other markets, and we think there’s a big opportunity for it in Bloomington-Normal.”
Customers can sit at one of 50 stations, each equipped with a high-end gaming computer or video game console, and play for one hour, three hours, or all day. The company will also offer snacks and party rooms.
Ballantini acknowledges that this is an ambitious concept for Normal Gadgets, which will move October 29 from 2103 N. Veterans Parkway, Suite 112, in Bloomington, where it has been seven years, and will hopefully open the parallel business on the same day.
Both will end up being at 802 S. Eldorado Road, still off Veterans Parkway.
“We’ve been in the service business for seven years. Now we’re moving into the entertainment and restaurant business, and throwing parties,” said Ballantini of Normal Gadgets, which specializes in computer and phone repair. laptops. “It’s new to us. … But theveryone we talk to seems excited.”
The move will increase normal gadgets from 1,200 square feet to 4,200, though most will be used by PlayNormal, Ballantini said. The company is also adding more employees, growing from six to eight and hopefully four more in the future, with five full-time employees.
“The challenge has always been a bit of (indoor) space and (mostly) parking space,” said Ballantini, owner of Normal Gadgets with his wife, Angie. “WWe have three places (now). Over there, there are 30 and 40.”
Shops will operate at different times. Normal Gadgets will still be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, but PlayNormal will be open noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
Ballantini said he hopes to attract customers from Springfield, Champaign and Peoria, but he already has an interested party just down the road.
“We’re really excited for the place to open,” said IWU esports team coach Callum Fletcher. “It gives us the opportunity to spot local talent that we might not have noticed otherwise (and) an extra place in town to use as a competition space.
“I think it’s a really cool opportunity for the (community) of Bloomington-Normal to have a place where players can really take ownership.”
Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh