Ribbon cutting to show eSports arena

Analicia Haynes, Senior Reporter

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Eastern is unveiling a new eSports Arena Sept. 23, a project that has been in the making for less than six months.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will be at 3:30 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center, and the arena will be in room 2710, just to the left of the washrooms on the second floor of the Rec.

The arena has gaming computers equipped with monitors, mice, keyboards and headsets where students will be able to play games like “League of Legends.” There are also gaming consoles such as a PlayStation 4, an Xbox One and a Nintendo Switch where students can play games like “Super Smash Bros.” There are also two TVs and furniture throughout the room.

The Cost for the Arena

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, said there is a $60K budget put into place for building the arena and to cover the startup costs.

Those upfront costs include buying things like tables, computers and the screen gamers will look at when they play, McCann said.

The money for the budget came out of local funds, McCann said, such as student fees that were left over from fiscal year 2018 and 2019. It did not come out of appropriated funds.

But, he said they have not spent what they budgeted for yet. There are still a few things that are needed like some consoles, wires, mice, keyboards and programs, and as of right now they spent about $53K or, as McCann said, the low 50s.

Josh Norman, the associate vice president for enrollment management, said although the arena did cost money, it was part of the annual strategic enrollment plan.

“So you always build out priorities for that plan, and the majority of those action plans don’t have resources assessed but (building the arena) did, and that budget was built out by Sarah, so she has all the budget data and info, and that was proposed to the (President’s Council),” Norman said.

Norman said this arena and the new eSports RSO was a priority because of how it will benefit recruitment, retention and student success.

Moving forward, though, McCann said there is some chance of using student fees or creating a student fee to continue to maintain and upkeep the arena in the future.

However, he said the university is “not there yet” in determining if that is needed. He said it all depends on what the arena and RSO end up being; in other words, if involvement increases or participation doubles, that will create a need to have the arena running for longer hours, and then they will have to look at those options.

But McCann said this is a recruiting tool and the vision came from students, and since it made economic sense because they did not have to charge a fee, they ran with the idea.

“It’s nice to get this far off the ground,” McCann said. “It’s a neat idea.”

McCann also said he is hopeful that students will use the arena and that it will be successful in achieving its purpose.

But McCann said this is a recruiting tool and the vision came from students, and since it made economic sense because they did not have to charge a fee, they ran with the idea.

“It’s nice to get this far off the ground,” McCann said. “It’s a neat idea.”

McCann also said he is hopeful that students will use the arena and that it will be successful in achieving its purpose.

How It All Started

Norman said he had the idea to bring eSports to campus but it was not until he spoke with Theo Laleian, a senior computer information technology major, that the idea started to take its shape.

Norman and Laleian met at a Robotics demonstration hosted by the School of Technology in the Spring 2019 semester, and Norman said that was when the conversation on eSports started.

“We just happened to start talking about eSports,” Norman said. “It was on my radar and so often if I have an idea, I need a passionate advocate to really throw the gas on the fire, and that was Theo.”

After that initial conversation, the idea was brought to the President’s Council, and Norman said it did not get traction until Eastern’s President David Glassman had a meeting with OVC participants.

Norman said Sarah Daugherty, interim director of campus recreation, put together the budget for the arena, and Daugherty said she jumped at the chance to be able to provide that opportunity to have the arena in the Rec. Center.

“If our room was suitable for development, I thought this was a very good place to have the arena because we can provide the space, we can provide the access control, we’re open 102 and a half hours a week so there’s a lot of opportunity and availability,” Daugherty said.

A New Home

Daugherty said the mission of campus recreation is to provide recreational opportunities for all students regardless of their interests and ability, so by having the arena in the Rec., it is opening a whole new area of recreation to a group of students that were not previously served.

“I’m really excited about more people being able to use this facility and come into the Rec. Center and maybe there’s more to it, maybe they find something else that they enjoy to do,” Daugherty said. “I’m thrilled that we can serve a larger population of our students.”

Daugherty also said this is an opportunity for the university to be involved in recognizing eSports and be able to say to students that there is something for them.

“It is already something that we can say, ‘Here’s something we offer that may be the reason a student chooses to come to Eastern or the reason a student chooses to stay here too,’” Daugherty said.

Norman and Daugherty said there is already a lot of interest in eSports on campus and from students at different schools.

Norman said 50 people have signed up for the eSports RSO at the last student involvement fair and Daugherty said there are people who have asked if eSports was something the university had available.

For Daugherty, she said it is hard to narrow down what she is most excited about.

“I’m really excited about seeing more people here in the facility, about new people, about exposing people to something they may never had seen before to an entire world of competitive gaming that is as big as any physical sport we provide too … that’s what’s really exciting and (also) what the potential is moving forward,” she said.

What You Need to Know

Daugherty said the arena will be free to use by anyone with a Rec. membership. That includes a full-time student with a Panthercard taking on-campus courses.

Daugherty said the arena will be open whenever the Rec. Center is open; however, people will not be able to use the arena during certain hours because the eSports registered student organization will be practicing during that time.

Those hours are from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Daugherty said students who want to use the arena will have to swipe their Panthercard at access control when they first enter the Rec. Center. Then if they want to use the gaming consoles like the Xbox One, they will have to check out controllers for those consoles at the Campus Recreation office. They will also have to check out the headsets to use with the gaming computers.

There is a two-hour time limit on everything, and Daugherty said this is because they want to help students learn effective time management.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].