University opens new Esports Arena
Assistant Mosaic Editor
Reporters and deep-pocket donors jammed the hallway of Perkins Student Center on Friday morning as they excitedly awaited the grand opening of the new Esports Arena. Among the eager spectators, varsity gamers in newly-minted jerseys worked the floor by showing off their gaming skills at individual PC stations.
The arena serves as the official playing ground for the university’s recently-established varsity esports team. It features 1,800 square feet of the newest gaming technology, including 33 high-performance HP Omen PCs, a broadcast booth, a strategy room for team meetings and a stage for competition.
The team will compete for several leagues, including the Electronic Gaming Federation, Tespa and Collegiate Starleague. Within the 35-person roster, four separate games divide the players: Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League and Hearthstone. Each team has its specific players, positions, coaches and practice times for the specific game they are competing for.
John Kim, a senior studying sports management, was one of the students who played an integral role in forming the League of Legends roster. He was identified by the university as a top contender for the team as an active member of the club video game team.
“Coming into it, the university didn’t know much about esports or how to assess talent,” Kim said. “They wanted to learn about the game, learn about what they should be looking for and they wanted my advice on how to run the trial stuff, which I ended up taking over.”
Since then, Kim has formally been named the League of Legends captain. The League of Legends team is currently 14-1, with their only loss coming last week to a team with several professional players.
In his official opening remarks, University President Dennis Assanis celebrated these recent successes, pointing to esports as a way in which Delaware can be a competitive force across the world.
“Esports is spreading very fast around the globe and this is a place where the UD spirit will come alive,” Assanis said. “We’re going to create a new type of formidable UD competitor. I see we are already winning in a lot of matchups and our players are highly ranked in their respective leagues. It’s no surprise really because Blue Hens are winners.”
Assanis hinted at future developments to the university’s involvement in esports, indicating that the university would soon be introducing a gaming science major to accompany the already established gaming science minor.
“This is the University of Delaware’s new esports Arena, the first one, but I can tell you today, not the last one,” Assanis said. “We’re going to have many more … This is going to become a major this year, a major leading to careers, scholarships and so much more. So we’re super excited, we will work with our Faculty Senate to make sure this becomes a reality soon.”
Scattered among the university affiliates and gamers were many principals, superintendents and student body representatives from neighboring schools. Due to the rapid increase in esports’ popularity, schools across the country are trying to quickly and efficiently implement their teams, particularly at middle schools and high schools, where the students can begin honing their skills in hopes of getting recruited for a professional college league.
Jason Kotch, the director of technology for the Avon Grove school district in Pennsylvania, was one such attendee who described a desire to create similar esports teams in his K-12 schools and expand on the success of some small, student-run startups that have already begun forming in his school district.
With current projects predicting viewership of esports to reach 495 million people in 2020 and a 2019 revenue growth of over 34%, one thing is quite clear: esports is booming.