By Rebecca Schweitzer
With esports growing in popularity worldwide, KU is strengthening the university’s esports program by investing an estimated $75,000 into turning an MSU conference room into a training room and changing the club’s title to an Elite Club Sport.
“This could be a cutting-edge discipline for the university,” said President Hawkinson. He said that he hopes that growing esports at KU will help with student recruitment.
Esports are like traditional sports—football, basketball and baseball, for example—with two teams competing for a winner and a fan base rooting for “their” team.
Esports, however, compete digitally; they are video games. Some common ones are League of Legends, Overwatch and Fortnite.
“It’s like their football,” said Troy Vingom, the assistant vice president of information and technology services, who is working on preparing all the IT needs for the room. He is excited to help grow the sport at KU to give these kids a home within the university.
Plans for the new conference room were assembled in the Fall 2019 semester, said Vingom. The work was completed over winter break.
The new training room had its opening for the Esports Club on Jan. 21.
The estimated $75,000 for the room came from the Student Union Fee Budget, which comes from students’ tuition, said Leah Cassellia who is the senior director of the McFarland Student Union and student involvement; she is overseeing operations with the new room, since it will be in the MSU.
The room design is symmetric with two sides and a retractable divider, so two different games can practice at the same time or so there is a separation between schools during competition.
The room has 14 computer set-ups, two 65” televisions and some décor. Each computer set-up includes a gaming computer—meaning there is extra processing for graphics—keyboard, mouse and high-speed internet, said Vingom.
The Esports Club already made one advancement during the Fall 2019 semester when the Student Government Board voted to change their club status from maroon to gold. The change means increased funding from the SGB.
“[Esports] has shown steady initiative since becoming an on campus organization,” SGB President Braden Hudak said in an email. He said the club is inclusive, and SGB is proud of the staff and students who have brought esports to KU.
Now, the club’s title has changed again to an Elite Club Sport, meaning it will be on the same level as rugby at KU. This change is decided by the university, not SGB.
Ellis said funding will now come from club sports instead of SGB.
A little detail Cassellia put emphasis on is that KU will invest a portion of the room’s budget to handwarmers, so the team members can warm their hands to gain dexterity before playing.
Ellis explained the necessity by asking, “Have you ever tried to type with cold hands?”
Both Connor Ellis, a fourth-year student on track for a master’s in computer science information technology and the current president of Esports, and Cassellia suggested the university may eventually get either volunteer or hired coaches for the teams.
They also said that one day there may be scholarship money available for prospective team members.