The new Ball State Esports Center will be a classroom, esports venue and community space for the campus.
Construction on the former testing center began in November 2020 after the contract for the renovation was given to Attlin Construction. When construction finished in March 2021, university staff furnished the space with various features ranging from gaming PCs players will use in competition to the production equipment for tournaments and other events.
The Esports Program was established with a budget of approximately $400,000, said Paaige Turner, dean of the College of Communication, Information and Media. Turner attended the ribbon cutting ceremony April 5 and spoke briefly about the options the space will provide the university.
“This space has several different components that will be used for every college and every academic unit across campus,” she said.
Turner said multiple academic colleges at Ball State have shown interest in the center for its capabilities as a classroom, including video production, marketing and animation.
Some of the amenities provided by the center include stadium seating for 50 people, an elevated gameplay platform that will accommodate 6 vs. 6 gaming competitions, an interactive classroom with a smart display and a control room for live events, according to a university press release.
The Department of Telecommunications also plans to add an esports production major, said Dan Marino, director of esports and Cardinal Esports head coach.
“I'm really excited for [the esports production major] because — not only will it give us more exposure — but it will get more students here that aren't just interested in playing [esports], and are interested in the whole picture and the other related disciplines,” Marino said.
Marino, who was brought on as director of esports in November 2020, said the space is “a fantastic home” for the esports program.
Not only will the Esports Center be used for the varsity team and as a classroom space, but the 3,611-square-foot venue will also be used for casual players who are more interested in the club side of Ball State Esports, Marino said.
“We’ll have a lounge area for casual gamers and the plan is to eventually have consoles,” Marino said. “Once we get those in there, we'll have even more connection to the casual player and offer the ability for students to connect to each other through the medium that they enjoy.”
Julian Thomas, senior computer information systems major and varsity Rocket League coach, has been a longtime supporter of esport on campus. Thomas said the idea for an Esports Center was pitched two years ago, but he never thought it would actually be built until about eight months ago.
“Seeing five years of work towards [esports] getting put into a physical space that's going to be here permanently for the next 10 to 20 years, I don't know if you can really put words into that, besides feeling rewarded or feeling fulfilled,” Thomas said.
The center is an upgrade from what the team was using before, as Thomas said team members used to rely on renting out rooms for administrative meetings and online tournaments.
“The fact that this Esports Center is even here right now is a major step and a dream come true for so many people that you might not even realize,” Thomas said. “There's really no words to describe how happy I am.”
Nate Valdez, president of the Cardinal Esports club, said approximately 652 members can benefit from the space. Valdez, a senior technology and engineering education major, said he is excited to put the new Esports Center to use.
Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns also attended the ribbon cutting and said the Esports Center will offer resources to a variety of students in different disciplines.
Mearns said, “We want to instill in all of our students a sense of teamwork, problem solving [and] the discipline and determination that we know it will take to succeed in life thereafter.”
Over time, Marino said he hopes the new Esports Center will bring in many new students to the world of esports, whether it be from the club, varsity team or the academic side.
“There's a lot of cogs all turning at once,” Marino said, “and [the Esports Center] will hopefully establish Ball State as a leader in esports, not just in Muncie, but hopefully the entire state and eventually the region.”