By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Northern Liberties gaming center is going all-in on the eSports craze.

Nerd Street Gamers on North Third Street has seen rapid growth over the past five years. So much so that co-owner Rob Hilsky says they’re ready to expand. It recently doubled its size by acquiring the property next door.

“We’re gonna have a legitimate stage with 12 computers, a big screen and our play-by-playcaster analyst desk in the corner,” Hilsky said.

untitled110 Philly Gaming Center Creating Big Impact On eSports

(credit: Paul Kurtz)

That’s just the latest indicator of the explosive growth the industry has enjoyed in recent years.

“I would say our 6th Counterstrike event was when we really popped,” Hilsky said. “We had teams flying in from Brazil, teams flying in from Europe. That was when our first international taste of competitors were coming in.”

Last fall, Nerd Street Gamers got a big investment boost from a Radnor-based venture capital firm whose partners include former Phillies great Ryan Howard. It’s now preparing for the next big event on Jan 20, a Starcaft tournament known as Cheesadelphia.

“That is one of the largest open StarCraft events in the world currently, meaning that anyone can sign up for it,” Hilsky said. “We have competitors flying in from South Korea and all over the US and Canada to compete in that. Now imagine being a 15-year-old old who’s good at the game and you realize that you have the opportunity to beat a professional at this tournament.”

And that, says Hilsky, is what makes Nerd Street unique.

The company’s endgame is to build a thriving eSports minor league and help develop the next generation of fast twitch professionals.