Correction on Monday, Nov. 25: This story incorrectly stated that the upcoming esports lounge will be 12,000 square feet. It has been updated to reflect that the lounge will be 1,200 square feet.
A new esports lounge equipped with 25 computers is under construction on the ground floor of the Erb Memorial Union and is set to open winter 2020. It will be a place where students can hang out in their free time or play games competitively.
“We wanted a place where they [students] could connect as a community,” said EMU Director Laurie Woodward, “they could get to know each other [and] where competitive teams could practice and compete.”
The esports lounge will be a 1,200-square-foot space open to any student gamer. There will be 25 computers available; 15 will be “mid-level” PCs, ones that are probably better than most people have at home, and 10 will be esports-tier PCs, the best of the best. There will be a small fee for the use of these computers, Woodward said.
There will also be consoles like Playstation, Xbox and Switch available to play on television screens.
The lounge is an indication of the growth of esports at UO. Last year was the program’s first year as a club sport, said UO esports program director David Gugliotti. UO esports program director. Before then, the club was originally formed to play League of Legends, an online multiplayer capture-the-flag strategy game created in 2009.
There are currently five varsity teams at the university for the games League of Legends, Hearthstone, Call of Duty, Rocket League and Overwatch. But despite the growth of the esports club, these teams didn’t have a dedicated building to play in.
“We were on ESPN last year, and we were getting made fun of because we didn’t have the jerseys,” said Gugliotti said. “We didn’t have the stuff that the other schools had.”
With the club’s growth, it needed a place to host that wasn’t the cramped UO dorms, Gugliotti said.
“We have this house now for us to be in instead of last year when we were scattered out in our apartments and residence halls and hoping the Wi-Fi in Barnhart stayed up,” Gugliotti said.
Now that the lounge is being built, UO has big plans for the future of the esports program that goes beyond competitive gaming.
Gugliotti said professors are partnering with the program to do doctoral studies on ethnography, and Duck TV will have a class dedicated to covering esports as well as helping the program with content creation.
“Whether you want to work in esports or not, you can attach to our program and find a way to get something on your resume that’s going to help you get an internship or a job after you graduate,” Gugliotti said.
The room where the lounge will be, a former call center near Falling Sky, is under construction. When it is finished, it will feature the gaming computers, many gaming consoles, couches and a backlit wall decorated with fir trees as shown in an early concept art.
There are high hopes for the esports program, hopes that extend far into the future.
“We want it to grow,” Gugliotti said. “We want it to be bigger and better, and we want to be the premiere esports university in the country.”