Esports players face-off in a gaming competition. Photo via wikimedia.org
A college in the region is spending $500,000 to establish a video gaming center and club.
Western Michigan University is establishing a club for esports, or competitive video gaming.
The group will be treated the same as club-level sports like women’s hockey or rugby.
Students will try out to be on the esports team and compete with clubs from other schools.
WMU is equipping an undetermined existing space on the campus with 22 gaming stations—including computers, seating and large screens — that can be used for competitions and skill development.
WMU plans to open its gaming facility this fall and make it available in the future to community groups.
The program is meant to “enhance the out-of-class experience” for students in the growing esports industry and potentially lead to the development of academic programming.
Esports is projected to become a $1.5-billion industry by 2020.
"In this case, we're recognizing a trend that is already strong on our campus and choosing to make it part of our infrastructure," WMU President Edward Montgomery said. "Rather than a solitary activity, the organized competitive aspect allows the campus to embrace, sanction and leverage gaming as a community activity."
Montgomery set up a Transformational Initiatives Fund last fall.
He issued a call for "good ideas" from the campus grassroots community during his first “State of the University” address in October.
He urged campus community members to develop proposals for initiatives that would improve retention and six-year graduation rates, develop alternative revenue streams to reduce reliance on tuition and state funding and make WMU the school of choice for students, faculty, staff and community organizations.
The request attracted more than 60 proposals developed by faculty and staff.
Montgomery is providing $250,000 for the Esports @ WMU initiative, which has been matched.