Durham College opens 'first-of-its-kind' esports gaming arena on campus

The 3,000-square-foot facility will serve as a training area for the Durham Lords, the college's varsity electronic-sports team, and as a hub for gamers on campus.

Arena features lounge that can accommodate up to 120 spectators for esports tournaments

The esports gaming arena at Durham College features 46 gaming computers. (Supplied/Durham College)

Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology is breaking new ground in the collegiate gaming world by opening a brand new esports arena at the college's Oshawa campus.

The 3,000-sq.-ft. facility, which opened on Tuesday and is described by school officials as the "first of its kind," will serve as a training area for the Durham Lords, the college's varsity electronic-sports team, and as a hub for gamers on campus.

The school's varsity esports team was established in 2018 and competes in tournaments with teams from across North America.

Arena manager Sarah Wagg has been working in the industry for six years. She says a facility like this is breaking the stigma around esports and proving that it is a viable career path.

"With a collegiate push behind it, it's becoming a household term," she said. "We're showing that there are initiatives for college students so they can learn, grow, and hone their craft."

In a press release, Durham College president Don Lovisa says the arena will provide students with the skills and experience necessary to prepare them for the global electronic-sports industry, which is expected to surpass $1.6 billion by 2021.

Wagg adds the burgeoning industry has many job openings.

"It's a great opportunity for us to teach our students how to succeed in that industry," she said.

"From a varsity athletic standpoint, if we're catering to our traditional sports students, we shouldn't be neglecting our esports students. We should be providing a home for them as well."

Sarah Wagg, the manager of the esports gaming arena, says the new facility shows the field is a viable career path for students. (Supplied/Durham College)

The college repurposed an old pub and converted it into the arena. Through a combination of school capital, private and corporate donations, the facility features 46 gaming computers with full broadcast and streaming capabilities, and a lounge that can accommodate up to 120 spectators for esports tournaments.

Additionally, students, employees and alumni can pay to play recreational and competitive esports by the hour.

Social benefits

Wyatt Johnston, a second-year digital video production student at Durham College and a varsity esports player, says he's been gaming since he was 16, but never imagined he would play on a team representing his school.

"I've found so many like-minded individuals that love playing games and want to compete at the best level they can," he said. "Now a lot of us hope to carry that on after we graduate"

Johnston says the new arena allows for a traditionally lonely experience to be more social. Now, rather than using online chat forums and headsets, he and other players have a place to go and play together.

"Instead of having to go home and do it by yourself, the arena gives you a lot more sociability of seeing actual people around you instead of sitting at home by yourself," Johnston told CBC Toronto.

Durham College president Don Lovisa, right, poses with guests at the esports arena grand opening on Tuesday. (Supplied/Durham College)

'Undisputed leader' in gaming

Lovisa says the arena is positioning the college as an "undisputed leader" in the Canadian gaming industry.

He says in addition to programs like sports management, that up until now focused solely on physical sports, the esports facility will benefit students in other programs like broadcasting and IT.

"It serves as an academic enterprise, an experiential learning enterprise, but most of all it serves as a really cool place to go and game for people who are gamers," Lovisa said.



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