Monday, April 3, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Children playing at the former Charleston Heights Park in the Historic Westside would be mostly limited to playground equipment.
Now, they are also engaged in the video game Minecraft and learning how to work 3D printers as part of a makeover to the park that debuted Saturday. It was renamed Ernest & Betty Becker Family Technology and Recreation Park.
The upgrades include a 5,783-square-foot community center, new parking lot, basketball court, new playground equipment and walking paths. The highlight of the park lies inside its community center, though.
State-of-the-art technological equipment was installed to allow residents the ability to create computer games, participate in esports and produce videos in front of a green screen, officials said. Some of this includes gaming laptops and 3D printers.
Hieu Le, leader of the Nevada Esports Education League and one of the collaborators behind the facility, said this technology center isn’t just about gaming.
It’s also about preparing kids for an increasingly tech-savvy world where new inventions are always hitting the market, Le said. Children will need to start acquiring the skills now to handle the quickly developing industry.
“As technology gets more integrated into our daily system … we need someone who’s ready, and these kids are going to be the next future,” Le said. “I know that the city is already thinking that these kids are going to be our next pathway, and they need to know what technology is.”
With the growing tech industry in Las Vegas, officials said that expanding the access to technology — especially for children — was “natural.”
The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance’s “2022 Workforce Blueprint” showed that software developer was one of the most sought after careers. By comparison, it ranked No. 123 in the group’s 2019 report.
In 2019, roughly 26,406 people were employed in the information and communications technologies field. The alliance is hoping to add almost 10,000 more people to that field by 2028.
“(This center) represents a future; it represents a model that we can take all of what we can and what we learn (about tech) and keep on going,” Le said.
The $5.7 million project was funded through the Residential Construction Tax, bonds and the general fund, city officials said.
The city last month hosted various groups to preview the park. Le said the feedback, especially with children, was exciting.
“The kids have been really liking it so much,” Le said. “They love talking about (video games), and what’s really admirable is that they also ask all of us — as leaders who are gamers — what are the career paths, how do I actually get a job? They’re responsive, they’re just really into it and they really want to know more.”
The park’s technology facility is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Activities are mostly tech-related, and will range from drone soccer matches to Cybersecurity Scams for Active Adults classes.
The Nevada Esports Education League will host workshops to help people learn how to find economic success in the world of esports, Le said. They will instruct how to create business proposals, use Microsoft applications and other business skills that will help them in the workforce.
The city, in a statement, said “it was natural to have a center in the city focused on technology.”