The Esports Club at Radford University has been the largest club on campus since 2018, boasting over 200 members annually. Because of this, the university began discussing how to capitalize on the growing popularity of esports and create a designated space for gaming and learning.
D.J. Preston, the director of Recreation and Wellness at Radford, shared the Esports Club had to outfit rooms that were not made for gaming and use personal equipment and technology to accommodate the club’s needs. “It became clear the student body needed a space designed for this new type of engagement,” said Preston. “We proposed the Esports Center and were supported by the university to bring the idea to life.”
To move the creation of the Esports Center forward, the university focused on underutilized space for the location. Preston noted the area had to be large enough to accommodate at least 20 PCs and a lounge space. “Through several rounds of feasibility and discussion, an 1,800-square-foot academic location near food, parking and pedestrian traffic was selected,” he shared.
When it came to designing the space, Doug Benedict, the assistant director of Esports, said they looked at all the needs associated with an esports program. “High-powered PCs, console gaming space, gameplay viewing and reviewing — we fit a lot into one space,” said Benedict. “We ended up with 40 PCs to accommodate the high population of gamers, a central projector and several wall-mounted TVs so everyone can watch our teams play, a 4K Ultra HD console gaming TV, and a 78-inch touchscreen TV for interactive game replay review.”
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For departments considering a dedicated esports facility on campus, Benedict said to include students in the planning process. “We all have plenty to learn and, in this case, students definitely know best,” he noted. “In addition, make sure you have a powerful HVAC system in the room. Spaces like this heat up fast.”
Further lessons learned include giving yourself plenty of lead time on setting everything up and keeping the space spotless. “There is always some small thing that will go wrong,” added Benedict. “As always, cleaning is key to longevity — a space like this gets dirty fast. Plus, don’t allow food.”
Looking ahead, the Radford Esports program partnered with the campus departments of Recreation and Parks & Tourism to create a minor in esports that started in Fall 2022. Classes under the degree include introduction to esports, applied issues in esports services, commercial recreation and more. Since then, the team has been working on the creation of an in-house studio/media production space. It will allow them to produce professional-level esports casting and content.
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