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Midland University unveils new eSports Arena

Midland University, the first college in the region to elevate eSports to varsity level competition, unveiled its new eSports Arena Wednesday afternoon.

Located on the third floor of the Olson Student Center, the eSports Arena was especially designed with competition in mind. Warrior eSports team members are able to compete on an elevated level, allowing spectators to follow all the action from below. LED lighting that can be adjusted for optimum viewing of screens has been installed in the three-tier tray ceiling. A “smart board” is available for Head Coach Ben Nabity to map out strategy, released information from the university says.

Overall, there are 20 workstations with 10 set up with dual monitors, allowing team members to follow the action of more than one competition at a time. Each workstation comes equipped with Arozzi gaming chairs, which feature ergonomic design inspired by championship motorsports, and headphones and other gear supplied by Accessory Power.

Midland recently began its second season, competing this year in “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone.” There are 21 students on the Warriors eSports roster.

One of the fastest growing collegiate team activities, eSports has been gaining popularity since Midland first introduced it as a varsity level team in 2016. At the time, Midland was one of five colleges across the country to offer athletic scholarships to participants. That number is expected to reach 60 by the end of the year.

One of the biggest stigmas that must be overcome is the belief that eSports is not a real sport. Because while a good deal of the physical components encompassing a traditional sport may not be present; the mental preparation, teamwork, strategy and scouting involved is just as thorough and rigorous as any other sport.

There’s the hours of practice students put into mastering their craft, and contrary to what many believe, hardcore gamers can actually injure themselves competing; acquiring carpal tunnel and tilting; entering a state of actual mental confusion and frustration.

“The games that we play and the games that are chosen and selected for eSports are games that require team play, team coordination, team communication and team discipline,” Nabity said during a Wednesday interview with the Tribune. “And you have to practice all those things in order to be good. And when you are a competitor in any sports, these are things you do with your team.

“I know there is this physical boundary that people have trouble getting by, but in these video games there is this huge mental handicap that you have to get through in order to play these games competitively, and stay competitive, because it really does take an emotional toll on people.”

Nabity said that recruiting for eSports can be a bit tricky. Much of the time he visits high schools and learns about their gaming clubs, and who some of the top-tier gamers are within the program.

“Every single player that plays one of these games online has statistics that are online, so I can see those stats, so that’s important first and foremost,” Nabity said. “And then I will have them come in and I will have them play with some of my players, and have them (his players) analyze what their decision making is like, how emotional they are during the game, and other stuff like that.”

In the second year of competition, there is still a bit of a learning curve for everybody involved, but eSports is gaining more notoriety and respect, and with a new eSports Arena, the team has a place to call their own.

Sharing what eSports is all about with the Greater Fremont community was exciting for Nabity and his team.

“It’s a huge milestone for Midland University and for eSports as a whole to be able to bring people from this community to the lab and show them that this is real,” he said. “And so being a part of that is just really fantastic.”

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Park fountain effort underway

It began with some conversation during the John C. Fremont Days festival.

Festival-goers were talking near a replica of an old-time covered wagon in John C. Fremont City Park. During their conversation, some longtime Fremonters began reminiscing about a fountain that had once been in the park.

About 10 years ago, a group of local residents organized with the intent of having another fountain, but that goal never materialized.

Now, a new effort is underway to have a fountain constructed, said Fremonter Don Cunningham.

In conjunction with the Fremont Parks and Recreation Board and Friends of the Fremont Area Parks, the effort is intended to raise at least $20,000 to have a fountain in the downtown park once again.

A few lights would be added for celebration of national holidays. The project would include benches and landscaping. A splash pad, shooting streams of water for children during the summer, would be an added bonus.

Cunningham said the grassroots effort is challenging 1,000 Fremont residents to contribute $20 each to build a park centerpiece which townspeople could enjoy for decades.

“To complete the project, we must provide funds to cover maintenance expenses,” Cunningham said. “We will work diligently to achieve both goals, funding and fiscal preservation.”

Cunningham believes a fountain could be another signature piece for the park.

“I think it would really make a statement,” Cunningham said. “I love fountains, the idea of water that’s active and is moving. I find it calming and peaceful. I think it would be a great place to go and sit in the summer and relax. I think it needs to come back and I think that feeling is shared by others.”

Cunningham pointed out other places in town that have fountains.

“Midland has a nice fountain,” Cunningham said. “It just draws people together.”

First Lutheran Church also has a fountain.

“It’s a wonderful accent piece,” he said.

Cunningham said the park fountain would need to be designed and built so someone wouldn’t fall into it head first or try to use it as a shower or bathtub.

“But I think we can get that done,” he said.

He notes that the proposed project still needs to go before the Fremont City Council.

He’d like to have the fountain built before the next John C. Fremont Days festival.

“I don’t think that would ever happen, but wouldn’t that be fun?” he asked. “I think it probably will take longer than that unless there’s a real push for this and a lot of people suddenly step up. Now’s the time to do it.”

Cunningham said people hope to be part of something larger than themselves and which will leave a legacy.

And the fountain would be around for a long time.

Those interested in donating may do so via a gofundme button on the Friends of the Fremont Fountain page on Facebook. Contributors also may send a check to: Friends of Fremont Area Parks, Inc., c/o Stacy Gibney, First State Bank and Trust, 1005, E. 23rd St., Fremont, NE 68025.

Friends of the Fremont Area Parks is a 501c3 nonprofit group. Donations are tax deductible.

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Council votes in favor of, has second reading regarding Duke Estates zoning change

The Fremont City Council during its Tuesday evening meeting voted in favor of, and had the second reading of an ordinance that would shift the zoning of a proposed housing development in south Fremont.

By a 5-1 vote – Council President Scott Schaller wasn’t present – the Council voted in favor of the request from Derek Kovick, owner of approximately 89.5 acres located at 1045 W. South St, to make a zoning change from RR Rural Residential and R-2 Moderate-Density Residential to PD Planned Development.

A third vote and reading will be needed for the ordinance to be passed, and implemented 15 days after the passage.

During a Sept. 26 Fremont City Council, several community members who live adjacent to the proposed development site and also at Rainbow Lake spoke out against the zoning change. If passed, the zoning change would greatly alter the landscape of the rural residential area, many highlighted.

During a Sept. 18 Planning Commission meeting, the commission voted 5-3 against the zoning change. One of the people who voted against the zoning shift was Brian Wiese, who owns property at Rainbow Lake. During the Sept. 26 Council meeting, Kovick made it a point of emphasis to tell the Council that Wiese voting on this matter with the Planning Commission was a clear-cut example of conflict of interest.

Wiese has since resigned from his seat on the Planning Commission.

Ward 4 Councilmember John Anderson was the lone no-vote in regard to the zoning change, saying that he believes the Council should generally rely on the Planning Commission’s judgement when making a decision. Once the Council goes against the commission’s suggestion, it’s easy for a domino effect to take place, and it’s also possible to lose more good county representatives like Wiese, Anderson added.

Duke Estates’ development plan calls for a mixture of single-family residential housing, attached single-family residential, townhouses and cottage single-family residential homes ranging in price from $145,000 to $200,000. One of Kovick’s major speaking points has been that while industry has been growing in Fremont, opportunities for affordable housing have not.

Opponents of the development have spoken about numerous issues relating to the project; including more pressure on sewers, flooding concerns due to the area being in the floodplain and the property needing to be elevated with fill, as well as heavy traffic flow in and out of an area with already narrow roads and numerous children walking to and from Washington Elementary School.

Ward 1 Councilmember Mark Legband said that these issues are certainly valid, but that this vote simply is in regard to the proposed zoning change. If zoning is, in fact, moved to a PD then the developer would have to do his due-diligence in terms of coming up with viable solutions to an assortment of problems before the Council would give any sort of go-ahead for ground to be broken for the Duke Estates project.

“I totally agree that there are lots of major concerns – and rightfully so,” Legband said. “Those are issues that have to be addressed, but tonight we are just voting on the zoning request only. I agree with your concerns, and I don’t know how all of this will work out, but tonight we are only voting on that zoning request, and then those other concerns will have to be addressed; I totally agree.”

Meeting attendee Kyle Wiegert spoke about how in his opinion, it’s an incredibly flawed attitude to approve a zoning change before a full plan of attack is in place to solve these problems.

“I just don’t understand the thinking that goes on here,” Wiegert said. “With all due respect to Mark, when you say we are going to have problems A, B, C, and D, and then you say, ‘I understand that there are going to be problems, but this is just a rezoning and we will worry about that later.’

“That kind of reminds me of the young couple that runs off right out of high school to get married, and the parents say ‘well you don’t have a job, you don’t have a place to live and you haven’t finished your schooling.’ And then the kids’ response is ‘oh, we will worry about that later.’”

During his time at the podium, Kovick said that he and his colleagues will continue working with Council and the public to make sure that I’s are dotted and all T’s are crossed.

“We want to make this the best fit for our community that we can,” Kovick said. “We’ve had housing studies during that last 10-15 years that tell us that we are short on that target range, between $140,000 and $200,000 homes.

“As a home buyer coming out here I looked at 30 homes and couldn’t find anything new, and had to settle for a house that needed a lot of work. I commute every single day into Omaha. I love the small town feel, and I know that if you aren’t growing you are dying. We are addressing the job issues here in Fremont but we’ve never addressed the housing.”