Nexus Esports hopes to create Waco gaming mecca on Washington Avenue

A group conversant with esports nomenclature have plotted to take over space in Washington Avenue’s 1600 block, where they now labor in shadows but soon will open a triple-threat attraction combining Nexus Esports, Save Point Sandwich Shop and Competitive Card Co.

All in good fun, say protagonists Ben Bruton, Aldo Jefferson, John Solis and Zach Krizan, household names in Waco’s contribution to electronic gaming. Sitting in a semi-circle Wednesday afternoon, crowded by stuff, they talked of rebooting Nexus Esports and making their 8,000-square-foot digs the mecca of gaming hereabouts. They talked excitedly about a ringer recruited from another state, Emerae Hoylman, a renowned esports event organizer.

The whole shebang is moving to Washington Avenue from 600 Columbus Ave., where Nexus discovered its nexus a few years ago. Cramped for space and pursuing better synergy, the three entities packed up their PCs, consoles and other gear to move about eight blocks up the street. Another factor was the desire to escape escalating lease rates, Krizan said.

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An opening had been scheduled May 1, but a visitor Wednesday would have questioned that timetable. The parties involved said the unveiling will arrive mid-May, movement picking up as capital arrives with new investors.

“We’ve made a lot of progress the last week or two,” Krizan said.

He estimates the team will spend $150,000 renovating the space it leases from Waco businessman Cory Dickman, who has brought his own style to development downtown and beyond with Waco Escape Rooms, Waco Pedal Tours, Cultivate 7Twelve and the Triple Win Waco career and technical education program.

Dickman also was involved in introducing Nexus Esports to Waco, opening in a 1920s-era building at Sixth Street and Columbus Avenue. He announced in 2017 his electronic gaming business would become the first tenant of the structure whose lineage includes time as a Studebaker dealership, a law office and the home of the McLennan County Appraisal District before going vacant in 2006.

Developer Marshall Stewman acquired the building, located near the McLennan County Courthouse, and launched plans to remodel its interior. Dickman and Krizan signed a lease on 5,000 square feet and announced major renovations to the floor, the Tribune-Herald reported at the time.

It was there Nexus Esports got its foot in the gaming door. Now, growing Glory Bell Church dominates the first floor, taking in space Nexus Esports previously occupied. It holds worship services, and opened a coffee shop.

Several guys and a gal conversant with Esports nomenclature have plotted to take over space in Washington Avenue’s 1600 block, where they now labor in darkness but soon will open a triple-threat attraction combining Nexus Esports, Save Point Sandwich Shop and Competitive Card Co.

Bruton talked about his own evolution as a gaming advocate, as well as his prior involvement with Nexus Esports. He said he owned Lansharx Gaming, which he described as “the staple of Waco gaming and entertaining up until I sold to Nexus and got out of the scene for a few years.”

“But I’m back to help Nexus usher in a new era,” Bruton said, listing features the new location will afford. “Nexus will have private streaming stations; a stage for tournaments and gaming-themed events; a coaching and strategy room for private, high school and collegiate teams; and party rooms.”

Save Point Sandwich Shop, which operates in Union Hall downtown, also will have a presence.

Krizan said gear near to gamers’ hearts will include 13 Nintendo Switches, 22 personal computers, and 20 new-generation consoles.

Growing to 48 PCs is the ultimate goal, Krizan said.

Solis said he envisions tournaments attracting 200 to 400 gamers to downtown Waco. The diversion is becoming incredibly popular, and he expects demand for spectator passes when events unfold, he said.

Cards, in the case of Competitive Card Co. joining the Nexus operation, refers not to images of sports figures — a Lebron James rookie card, for example — but to Pokemon currency of the realm, to name one. These cards can be bought, sold or traded, and what better marketplace than that at 1603 Washington Ave.

One might call that block the fun-and-fuel zone, as it serves as home to Waco Axe Co. and two java joints, Be Kind Coffee, and Casket and Cauldron.

The Nexus business partners say they want their venue to become “a gym for gamers,” a place to have fun with like-minded individuals. As Jefferson put it, gaming at home with a younger sibling entertains only so long. Competition among peers gets the juices flowing. The team said someone each day will test the “vibe” the place is generating, factoring music selection, lighting and ambience.

“People coming to Waco … if you ask them, ‘Have you been to Nexus?’ they must get the feeling they’ve missed out if they answer no, if they didn’t come by to make their own vibe check,” said Solis, laughing.

Bruton said esports have become so popular, some colleges offer coursework in the discipline. Businesses serve as sponsors and provide apparel. High schools form teams to compete in tournaments.

“It has become a billion dollar ecosystem,” Krizan said.

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