Level up

Kansas Esports welcomes new facility, new teams

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New to Esports at KU? Read our 2019 story on the launch of the program.

With Esports such a constantly growing and changing industry, it’s no surprise Kansas Esports is leveling up again.

The KU Memorial Union hosted the grand opening of a new Esports room Aug. 26. The expanded space fits more computers (from six to 16) and includes a room for streaming production.

The move proved necessary with two new teams added in 2020. Kansas Esports originally only competed in the video game League of Legends. Since then, teams have formed to play Overwatch, a team-based multiplayer shooter, and Rocket League, best described as soccer played with rocket-powered cars.

Bailee Myers, Kansas Esports program director since July 2020, is impressed with the students on the team.

“The stereotype of the gamer student is much different than what they actually are,” says Myers, b’17. “They are highly intelligent, very determined, amazing students, and I’m so excited to be working with them. Also their commitment to the game is very similar to athletic sports. They can go pro in it, so it’s awesome to see them chase their dreams.”

In addition to more computers, the space also features a dedicated production unit room, with the goal to have students host broadcasts of competitions. “We’ll be able to stream on our Twitch channel and offer a more elevated experience for our students,” she says. Team members now can learn how to shoutcast, the Esports version of calling the play-by-play.

Esports’ influence on campus is spreading beyond the team itself. The School of Journalism offers a new class this fall, Livestreaming Media & Culture. The course will cover Esports and shoutcasting and offer an option to stream competitions with Kansas Esports.

Danny O’Connell, b’21, has witnessed the program’s growth. He got involved as a freshman by playing Overwatch on the club level, saw the club become a team registered with the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), and now has a full-time position as program coordinator. 

While teams for this year are full, O’Connell is always looking for ways to raise awareness and get more students involved. “There are times we get juniors and sophomores coming in saying they didn’t know about us. That’s part of the reason for the production space,” he says. ”With how big streaming has gotten, having a strong online presence will really help us grow our recognition.”

Sponsorships help fuel expansion. AT&T donated a scholarship fund worth $2,500; coaches will choose a player of the month, and each student will receive $500.

“Down the line, there are a lot more opportunities for this program to grow,” O’Connell says, “beyond the increase in physical space. More sponsors, more players, more teams, more scholarships—this thing is primed to keep growing.”

Photographs courtesy KU Union

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