Esports arena to be built in Recreation Center

Tom O’Connor, Staff Reporter

Eastern administrators have pushed forward on a proposal to build an Esports arena in a classroom on the second floor of the Recreation Center at an estimated cost of $60,000. Paul McCann, the interim vice president for Business Affairs, said school administrators have not yet finalized an exact amount, but the club will be geared to compete in an arena this coming fall.

The Esports club, which launched earlier this year, will match up against other schools in the Ohio Valley Conference online, a setup that eliminates the need for travel arrangements.

Theodore Lailean, who brought the club into existence, said the funds would offset the costs of gaming stations, each of which are fitted with a 24-inch monitor, keyboard, mouse and headset.

Paul McCann said the projected cost, up from the previously agreed upon amount of around $42,000, increased after the number of gaming stations needed for competition jumped from seven to 13.

“I think the idea that we are going to do it has been finalized,” McCann said. “We’re still trying to put the whole picture together. We know a little bit about a lot of different things, but trying to make sure that we have got enough money, that the computers are right, that we have got somebody to supervise, we’ve got all of those things are still kind of being worked out.”

One possibility would be for the president and vice presidents, all of whom receive a budget from which they can allocate funds, to share the expense, setting aside money to build the arena.

Another potential option would be to appropriate the money through use of gift funds, which are endowments supplied by university donors, but McCann stressed that they have not agreed upon the source as of yet.

The idea spawned from a conversation between Lailean and President David Glassman at a robotics tournament in Eastern’s School of Technology. Josh Norman, the associate vice president of Enrollment Management, joined in the conversation, intrigued by the arena’s ability to attract students to the university and retain them each fall.

Contemplating the introduction of a competitive Esports squad, Norman thought about how, according to research studies he has stumbled across, one of the greatest predictors of student outcomes is involvement on a team.

He also considered the amount of exposure competitive gaming could generate, as the League of Legends Tournament, viewed by 143 million people worldwide, enabled him to understand the extent to which the activity has prospered.

The Esports competitions will be streamed online, Norman reasoned, and would offer prospective students with yet another reason to attend Eastern, particularly if it ascended the ranks of competition.

Glassman consulted with other presidents of OVC schools, amazed by the number of institutions that already have competitive teams. Norman emphasized that those conversations were a key selling point for the president. Glassman could not be immediately reached for comment.

“Students who are looking for that outlet, it’s not currently here; we don’t have an Esports team, we don’t have an Esports arena,” Norman said. “So we develop that, and then, all of a sudden, we become a priority option for college-bound students who are interested in Esports.”

The arena will be furnished with desks, chairs, computers and an area designated for spectators, which, for the time being, will seat four or five people.

As the arena becomes more firmly established, Sarah Daugherty, part of the group responsible for the design, said the addition of bleachers would not be out of the question.

“As I interact with students in the classroom, so often I find students that are spending a lot of time in their room playing video games,” Norman said. “This, for me at least, is an opportunity to get those students out of their rooms and engaged in a team environment.”

Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].