McNabb youth troubleshoot Knox Esports gear

By Ken Leinart

Gamers, you now have a state-of-the-art venue to show off your skills at Knox Esports, 108 N. Peters Road.

Josh Witt and Chris Castleberry saw the need and took on creating the venue. Knox Esports opened its doors Saturday, Dec. 16.

“It’s the first fully dedicated esports gaming center in Knoxville,” Castleberry said. “There’s a big gaming community here and there wasn’t a good place to gather, to host tournaments, or a base spot to host leagues.”

Castleberry said he sees the future of Knox Esports as the “hub of gaming in East Tennessee.”

A big part of getting Knox Esports ready for opening day involved testing the equipment.

Castleberry is on the board of directors of the Helen Ross McNabb Center.

The McNabb Center is the region’s leading nonprofit provider of mental health, substance use, social and victim services. The Center offers a large variety of programs for youth including the Children’s Crisis Stabilization Unit at Children’s Hospital, a Family Walk-In Center offering care seven days a week and Elevate Recovery High School for students struggling with substance misuse.

Castleberry reached out and about 30 gamers who are enrolled in the McNabb Center came out to help test the equipment at Knox Esports prior to the grand opening.

The reaction of the kids ranged from jaws dropping to high fives and hugs for Castleberry and his staff.

“We needed some groups to come in and help test the equipment, all the software, all the control mechanisms,” Castleberry said. “We worked with Helen Ross McNabb to get some high schoolers and middle school age kids to come in and just play.”

“It’s great to see the East Tennessee community supporting our students. We have a lot of ‘gamers’ in our group, and Knox Esports is providing a sober, fun experience to build a positive community among youth. They’re going to have a blast,” says Lauren Bobrowski, senior director of DCS Programming for the McNabb Center.

Castleberry said Knox Esports is “set up to game.” The equipment is state-of-the-art, the internet is “faster than what anybody can get at home,” and the games themselves … Well, if it’s not in the system already, Knox Esports can download it.

“You basically never have to buy another video game, ever,” Castleberry said.

There are day and night passes, as well as memberships available.

Castleberry said it’s a safe, family friendly environment. There is also a “party” room for birthday celebrations, tournaments, even business get-togethers. There are two party rooms, but a door can be opened between the two rooms to make one room, expanding the number of consoles from 10 per room to 20.

Knox Esports is open from noon – 10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday; noon – midnight on Friday; and 10 a.m. – midnight on Saturday.

Esports is one of the fastest growing markets in the United States.