Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
All too often, we have seen situations where the university’s administration and its students stand on opposing sides of a proverbial battlefield. Whether it involves road closures, dining fee hikes or Testudo’s strange operating hours, rifts have often emerged between the bureaucracy of the university and the population they’re employed to serve.
Every once in a while, however, there are moments when moves are made that benefit each party mutually, magnificently aligning our mindsets and goals. Today, this opportunity has come in the form of the world’s ultimate unifying force, gaming.
In the decommissioned diner on North Campus, University Recreation and Wellness has envisioned an expansive new esports studio, with spaces for casual and competitive gamers alike. Now, Recwell is awaiting approval from the Board of Regents to begin the renovations, which would propel the university and its esports programs to new heights, benefiting students, faculty and administration alike.
For the Board of Regents, this choice should be a no-brainer. As such, it is imperative that the Board of Regents votes to approve the plan to turn the old diner into an esports facility.
For the students and staff of the university’s fledgling esports scene, the benefits of an expanded space would propel them to a level befitting of a Big Ten flagship program. Boasting a roster of nine competitive teams, 22 SGA-sponsored gaming clubs and more than 1,700 gamers on the campus, the program is due for a significant investment from the school.
Factoring in the recently announced $25 million plan to build eight new athletic facilities under the school’s “Building Champions” initiative, there is no reason to keep esports athletes boxed into their current home in Knight Hall’s Studio C, which holds only 20 people comfortably. The university’s disproportionate investment in student athletic facilities over the rest of the student body is perhaps a topic for another column, but a key investment here would be a step in the right direction.
From a purely financial perspective, the new esports facility would help the school tap deeper into a nearly $2 billion industry, which continues to see yearly growth. Television deals, top recruits, media intrigue and untold amounts of ticket sales await schools that are willing to embrace the market. Sound familiar? It’s similar to traditional collegiate athletics, except for the fact that it took only a decade to become a global mainstay.
When Amazon purchased the massively popular streaming platform Twitch for $1 billion in 2014, they hopped on a rainbow that led them straight to the one of the largest pots of gold in the industry. Twitch, now worth $15 billion, commands a massive section of the streaming market and is nearing genericide — such as Kleenex, Google and Xerox. To put it lightly, the benefits for institutions willing to invest in esports have often been lucrative.
For the university, it’s no longer a matter of getting ahead of the curve so much as it is about catching up. Esports programs and facilities at fellow Big Ten powerhouses such as Ohio State and Rutgers are already miles ahead of ours, but a significant investment here could change that.
Beyond reaping the benefits of being a larger player in the industry, the university would be providing students across several disciplines with new opportunities. Whether they are seeking careers in business management, television production, broadcast or written journalism, graphic design, videography or content creation, esports can provide an outlet from which to learn and grow.
On top of everything, it’s quite fun.
As the school deliberates Recwell’s proposal, imagine the alternate trajectory that could await the university through a project like this. Imagine students and professors playing alongside each other after class. Imagine new roommates bonding over a round of Valorant in a well-air conditioned gaming sanctuary. Imagine a litany of new course offerings across a range of schools covering streaming, marketing, design and production, all taught out of an expansive, state-of-the art facility. Truly, the possibilities are endless — and Maryland students deserve nothing less.
Joey Barke is a sophomore journalism and government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org