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SLU Launching Varsity Esports Program, Building Gaming Lab Where Students Can Play

In response to growing student demand, Saint Louis University is taking steps to launch a “varsity-level” program for competitive video gaming, also known as esports.

Artist's rendering of the new Esports Gaming Lab, which will feature 12 stations for computer gaming and three large TV monitors.

An artist's rendering of the new Esports Gaming Lab, which will feature 12 stations for computer gaming and three large TV monitors. Hastings + Chivetta rendering

SLU will join an ever-increasing field of competition. In a span of just five years, around 125 higher education institutions have created varsity collegiate esports programs. Among them are Maryville and Fontbonne universities in St. Louis, as well as fellow Jesuit institution Marquette University, whose program began this fall. 

"I don’t have to know how to play esports to understand that this program makes students excited to learn and feel a deeper sense of belonging in the SLU community. That is what matters most," said University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.

SLU has started recruiting students for a varsity esports team that will initially compete in three of the most popular games today: Overwatch, League of Legends and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. 

Students who are selected for the varsity team will be eligible for up to $2,000 in scholarship. Scholarships for as many as 12 students will be available in the spring semester when the program formally launches. SLU’s Division of Student Development is providing the resources to start the program. 

“Esports have become a part of student life at many universities, and the trend is escalating rapidly,” said Kent Porterfield, Ed.D., vice president for student development “We are pleased to be able to support this new opportunity for students at SLU. Our approach is to provide different avenues for students to be involved, including open recreation, intramurals, club teams and the varsity team.” 

To give the new varsity program a home, the University is converting a space in the lower level of Busch Student Center into an Esports Gaming Lab. The lab will feature 12 stations for computer gaming and three large TV monitors. The space will be open for general student use when the varsity team isn’t practicing. 

An advisory group of students, faculty, staff and administrators has been formed to help guide SLU’s esports efforts. Senior Nicholas Chiu – who founded SLU’s club esports team in 2017 – is serving as the varsity program’s director. He said the club team will continue for students who want to compete at that level. 

“From having nothing on campus for the gaming community to having a varsity team in the four short years that I've been here is absolutely amazing,” Chiu said. “It's crazy how much support I've received and I am excited to show off how powerful the gaming community is to SLU.” 

For more information about SLU’s varsity collegiate esports program, email Chiu at Students can also join SLU’s esports group on Discord, a popular communication tool for online gaming and streaming.

Related: Opening Ceremony of the 2019 LCS Spring Split Finals in Chaifetz Arena (video)

Players competing at Smash Out videogame tournament in 2018.

Players compete in Smash Out 2018 in December 2018 in Busch Student Center. The gaming tournament raised money for Extra Life, a program that helps children hospitals around the world. The next charity Smash Out tournament takes place Nov. 16, in the Wool Ballrooms of Busch Student Center. Submitted photo