Located in the basement of Scripps Hall, the $722,746 esports arena will officially open during the 2022 fall semester. The opening date for all students will take place on national video game day, Sept. 12.
It’s complete with Xboxes, Nintendo Switches and 30 high powered PCs, and is a place for students to meet, play games, learn career skills and for the club’s varsity teams to compete.
Jeff Kuhn, director of Bobcat ESports, said he has been working on the arena with the students in the club for four years. Kuhn said they started with drafting layouts and plans with different architecture teams looking for approval from the students.
OU’s board of trustees approved a $650,000 budget in January 2020, which was increased to $750,000 in August that same year.
According to a previous Post report, by fall of 2021, the arena was almost complete except they were unable to purchase computers because of a global computer chip shortage as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those computers arrived in the facility in March 2022. Kuhn said they are still putting the finishing touches on the arena and completing the tryouts for the varsity teams.
Once the arena is up and running, any OU student will be able to swipe in during operating hours, which are not set yet, but will likely be from early to late afternoon six days a week to make sure the equipment stays safe.
There will also be a limit on how many hours a student can be in the space each semester. Kuhn said hour limits are common practice and will make sure all students have a fair chance to use the area. In an email, Kuhn wrote they are planning on 90 hours per semester, but that number is still subject to change.
There are around 350 to 400 students in Bobcat ESports with over 1,000 people in their Discord server, which also includes prospective students, alumni, faculty and staff. Kuhn said having the physical space in Scripps will encourage growth in the club after digital burnout.
“I think that's the coolest part about it. The Bobcat ESports club is not really dictated by if you're a student or not,” Kuhn said.
The arena is also an experiential learning space to help students gain skills needed for a career in eSports. There is a broadcast station that includes an announcer's desk and a production and editing room to oversee livestreams on Twitch or Youtube.
Kuhn said right now they are prioritizing students getting jobs as event organizers, broadcasters, analysts, coaches and league operators.
“Video games and eSports are billion-dollar industries that have grown exponentially in the last five to 10 years, yet the number of trained employees for jobs in this industry do not meet the demand of it,” Kuhn said in an OU press release.
Those stations will also facilitate a large jump in production value for the varsity team as every match can now be live streamed with ease. Kuhn said that in the past competitions would be streamed sporadically with whoever had a Twitch account and good enough internet.
It will also make activities for the varsity teams much easier. Bobcat ESports has four varsity teams — Rocket League, Valorant, League of Legends and Overwatch. Those teams will be able to schedule practices, have meetings, draw up plans and watch over the game in a central location, which is something Dalen Gevedon, a sixth year student studying biochemistry and vice president of Bobcat ESports, said he is very excited for.
Gevedon, a long time member of the club, has been there since the beginning and helped pick out the layout of the arena. He said he and other students were all in the loop and had a lot of say in how the arena turned out.
“It's definitely been worth the wait,” he said.
Gevedon said the experiential learning aspect will be important because he’s already seen many OU alumni get jobs in eports already.
“I'm really excited to see what we can be pumping out once we have the structure in place,” Gevedon said. “It's like having a football team with no football stadium and then giving them a stadium and saying alright here you can play now.”