Friday the Western Michigan University debuted the institution’s dedicated esports arena on the Kalamazoo campus. The arena was built thanks to the Transformational Initiative Fund, established by WMU President Edward Montgomery last year. Of the $1m (£761,768) fund, Esports@WMU received a $500,000 (£380,884) grant to renovate the Little Theatre on campus to house the arena.
The arena features a stage with 26 gaming PC’s, 12 of which are dedicated to live competitions, two projector screens and seating for about 200 spectators.
When the theatre was selected as the location for the arena earlier this year, Esports Director Scott Puckett stated using the theatre would give WMU the opportunity to focus on community interaction and hosting competitions rather than solely a practice area for the teams. Whereas other institutions are creating facilities for practice and casual play, WMU’s arena in the Little Theatre will only be used by the school’s official teams. However, President Montgomery stated there is interest to open it to high school and community teams for use in the future.
Montgomery told Wood TV8 there is also interest in expanding passed competition: “My secret hope is that not only is it an activity that’s students can feel part of and have a community, but that we find a way to get in to the academic part and get into training students to make the games and produce the games, not just to play the games.”
Western Michigan University is located in Kalamazoo, MI and has two separate teams, the Thunderclaps and the Electroshocks that currently have established chapters in Tespa and uLoL for Overwatch and League of Legends. According to a release, the university will compete in other games in the future in inter-collegiate and intramural competitions.
Esports Insider says: WMU now joins the likes of Ohio State, the University of Akron to establish dedicated esports spaces for its teams. One major difference from WMU is the emphasis on spectating, as it’s built inside an actual theatre. Not only will this open up opportunities for the university to have a dedicated competitive space, but the ability to host events and bring more people to campus.