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“HUE Fest” in Harrisburg hosts collegiate eSports teams from across the country

HARRISBURG, Pa. --- In less than a year, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has gone from starting a varsity eSports program to hosting a collegiate eSports tournament.

"It’s just incredible seeing the university that I already attend for a great computer science program transform their resources into something that’s probably the biggest esports event on the east coast,” said Grayson O'Connell, a Harrisburg University Senior and player on their Hearthstone eSports team.

32 Overwatch and League of Legends teams from 21 colleges and universities around the country converge on Harrisburg for "HUE Fest."

One of which being from around the corner at Lebanon Valley College.

“I want to make LVC proud...We were a little doubtful like two weeks ago. Then, we really started to pick up our game and play as a team and now we’re feeling confident. We’re trying to come in as like a sleeper,” said Cade Kassay, an Overwatch player for LVC.

A potential sleeper team versus the likes of traditional Big Ten Conference heavyweights, Penn State and Ohio State.

Some schools coming to Harrisburg University from as far as Washington.

“It was a 14-hour drive, we did it over the course of two days...They’d be in their room playing video games so this brings them out of the dorm room, together in a shared environment where they can learn and grow as a team and get a lot of the same benefits that you would get from traditional varsity athletics,” said Michael Jones, head coach of the varsity eSports program at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri.

Technical preparations for a little over 200 gamers included “stress testing” internet lines specifically dedicated to this tournament.

“We had a bunch of people, playing as many games as possible all at the same time to see how it acted,” said Chad Smeltz, Harrisburg University eSports program director.

However, third-party communication and power troubles delayed the start of pool play on Friday by roughly three hours.

“Unless you’re hooking up 150 things at once and using them all at once, there’s no way to tell without actually doing that and we’ve already learned that lesson...I think it’s something we can accommodate for next time or tomorrow, for example, going day to day," said Smeltz.

Harrisburg University President Eric Darr said they’re learning the logistics now because the future of HUE Fest is only at the tip of the iceberg.

On Saturday, musical performances along with national and local vendors will line Market Street.

Darr said they're expectation is to host roughly 10,000 people.

“How do you throw a part for 10,000 people? Maybe next year, it’ll be 20,000. Who knows, right? Take over other parts of the city. We’re already thinking ahead to what next year might be," said Darr.

$50,000 in prize pool money is on the line Saturday for the quarter, semi and final rounds of the Overwatch and League of Legends Tournament at the Whitaker Center.

The event Saturday is scheduled to go from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.