USC Aiken Dedicates New Esports Gaming Center
Aiken, SC (10/14/2020) — The University of South Carolina Aiken celebrated the opening of its new Esports Gaming Center on Monday.
The approximately 1,000 square-foot center features 24 spaces in total for members to practice and compete. The competition arena is a partitioned room within the center and is equipped with seven state-of-the-art gaming consoles and gaming chairs for Peach Belt practice and competition.
The esports gaming center has its own A/C to ensure that the equipment does not overheat, and a new electrical power supply ensures there is adequate power for all the electronics. The total cost for the renovation of the space and furnishings was $208,000. Technology costs-such as computers, network equipment, TV monitors, wiring, cabling, and network equipment-totaled $77,000.
College varsity esports has continued to grow in popularity over the last five years. Investing space and resources helps to celebrate the diversity of interests on campus and attract new students. Nearly 200 U.S. colleges are offering scholarships for the eSports elite. More than 475 esports clubs are flourishing on college campuses, and the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) boasts more than 3,000 student-athletes and 130 member schools with varsity eSports teams. Recently the NCAA was considering adding intercollegiate eSports to its roster and holding esports championships.
In her opening remarks, Chancellor Sandra Jordan explained that esports is an economic reality. "Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2022, the eSports industry will have 300 million viewers, on par with the NFL. Esports is recognized as a bonafide industry projected to be worth 1.8 billion in 2022, according to New Zoo. That is why cities like Atlanta are building eSports stadiums that can hold thousands of enthusiasts which stream eSports competitions on big screens for spectator viewing," Jordan said.
"But that does not explain why we are interested in esports. Our mission is educational, and there are some genuine reasons why we wanted to up our game," Jordan continued. "Educators know that taking part in extracurricular activities and connecting to others outside of the class experiences boosts student success. They are more likely to complete a degree and graduate at a higher rate."
Currently, the university has two competitive sports teams, League of Legends and Overwatch. In 2019, the League of Legends teams took home honors as the Peach Belt Conference champions. In June, the team took two of the conference's top three honors.
The new center is located in the lower level of the Pacer Commons residential complex. Kevin Kerr, UofSC Aiken Housing and Residence Life director, says the new center is vital to developing residential life on campus.
"Having a state-of-the-art gaming facility located in one of our residential areas is an amazing amenity, one that few campuses across the country can claim. I believe that it will become an important part of a residential living-learning community that we are developing for the 2021-2022 Academic Year."
Samuel Boyd, student government president and League of Legends team captain, believes the gaming center will provide a space for players to connect and "cultivate a true team spirit."
He also says the new center will give students a unique opportunity to get involved on campus.
"It opens the possibility of collegiate gaming to students that don't have the means to afford a gaming laptop and all the equipment necessary to be competitive. Many students have expressed an interest in the team but didn't have their computer on campus."
In addition to the two competitive teams, the university has approximately 60 students who make up the esports club.
The Esports Gaming Center will be open 24/7 and is only accessible via an ID card access swipe. The competitive players will have access to the center for the remainder of the fall semester, and all competitive and club members will have access beginning spring 2021.
UofSC Aiken, a comprehensive university in the University of South Carolina system, offers undergraduate and master's degrees to approximately 3,700 students in 50 programs of study. U.S. News and World Report (2021): #1 Regional Comprehensive Public College in the South. This 2021 distinction marks UofSC Aiken's 23rd consecutive ranking among the top three in this category. The university has won the first place ranking fifteen times.