Professional sports ventures into virtual realm

Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-12 19:05:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Athletes are taking their sport to a virtual level.

While these men and women are not holding bats, kicking balls or shooting baskets, their skills as an athlete are tested in the growing industry known as e-sports.

Video games like Riot Games: League of Legends, has major parallels to traditional professional sports.

“We filled out an Olympic soccer stadium in Korea a couple of years ago and the energy of the fans is just the same,” said Josh Leesman, who covers e-sport athletes.

As they compete, Leesman said, the games are in front of live audiences and streamed to millions online.

The top e-sport athletes can make up to seven figures a year.

“We've seen the cost of players double, triple every six months because of the amount of revenue that's being unlocked into the industry,” said team owner Steve Arhancet.

To get the most out of his investment, Arhancet requires his players to live and practice together online and outdoors.

Arhancet’s team is trained by former NFL players.

“If you have a healthy body and mind, it makes you play better and have a better attitude towards your teammates and other players,” e-sport player Hai Lam.

Lam is one of the most talented e-sport athletes in the world.

Some international players are receiving athlete visas to come to the United States to play. Colleges around the country have also announced intents to offer scholarships for an e-sports team, hire a coach and build an e-sports arena.

Industry experts estimate e-sports revenues could hit a half billion dollars this year.