Lakeland University will add eSports to its varsity athletics lineup in the fall of 2020, and the university is creating an eSports arena on campus for use by this new team and for all students.
Lakeland's co-ed team will be a member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), which serves as the governing body to more than 150 colleges and universities and sets standards for eligibility and conduct for collegiate eSports.
ESports are multiplayer video games played online competing against other NACE colleges across the country in both a fall and spring season. Lakeland's team will compete in games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, Paladins, Rocket League, Smite, Fortnite, CSGO, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate and League of Legends. Additional games will be added in the future based on student interest and additions made by NACE.
"Competitive gaming is one of the nation's fastest growing activities, and Lakeland is excited to formally add a team to our athletic department," said Lakeland Vice President for Campus Life David Simon, Jr. "The timing is right for Lakeland to join the growing number of colleges and high schools who are adding competitive eSports and to expand eSports opportunities for all our students."
Lakeland will renovate a 3,000-square foot existing space on the southwest portion of its campus where the team will practice and compete. The arena will feature 18 gaming stations, six consoles, a lounge area and space for spectators to enjoy the action.
The arena will also be open to all Lakeland students during designated hours for intramural programs and individual student use.
Lakeland currently has an eSports club and more than 30 students are involved, and that interest helped fuel Lakeland's decision to create a varsity team and an eSports facility.
"We will be stressing with all students the benefits of involvement in eSports including improvement in communication, teamwork, social and analytical skills, self-evaluation, critical thinking, determination and mental toughness," Simon said.
"We know that a large segment of students in this generation identify themselves as gamers and they're enjoying our club and playing these games in their rooms. Between our varsity team and the opportunity for other students to use our new arena, we know this facility is going to be a popular spot."
Lakeland will be launching a search for a head eSports coach.