Redbird Esports is moving to a new home next fall.
In October, the Board of Trustees approved a $5.95 million renovation for the Bowling and Billiards Center (BBC) that will transform the event space on the south side of the building into an esports arena and gaming area. The completed space will be one of the largest of its kind in the nation at over 11,000 square feet and will feature 72 high-end gaming PCs, dedicated team presentation rooms, the most popular and latest generation of game consoles, table games space, a broadcast and production booth. , and student support rooms.
Dawn Pote, Executive Director of Campus Recreation, said the BBC was a natural place for Redbird Esports to set up its headquarters.
“The BBC is a great building for bowling and billiards, and this gives us the opportunity to turn the activity space into something that will really meet the needs of students and universities,” she said. “And to be able to do that at the main entrance to the campus is simply phenomenal.”
The new project ensures that as many Redbirds as possible can participate in the rapidly growing program. Redbird Esports quickly outgrew The Vault, a high-tech gaming space in the Student Fitness Center, and the Digital Innovation, Graphics, and Gaming Studio (DIGGS) in Julian Hall. In addition to the three varsity esports teams, there are 18 registered student organizations (RSOs) that fall under the Redbird Esports umbrella, with a cumulative membership of more than 1,000 students. The Vault also serves as an academic classroom space for the School of Kinesiology and Recreation and the Creative Technologies Game Design program. Both spaces will remain in use by Redbird Esports and other campus organizations after the arena opens.
“One of the things that the Vault and DIGGS allow us to compete at a high level by removing some of the barriers and accessibility issues for high-end equipment,” said Redbird Esports Program Director David Kirk. “What it won’t allow us to do is provide space for all students interested in gaming.”
The new arena will enable Redbird Esports to fulfill its vision by addressing the program’s four pillars: competitive, club, casual and career. Competitive focuses on building the already successful Redbird Esports varsity teams; club supports the RSOs; casual involves players of all skill and interest levels; and career gives students looking to enter the gaming and esports industry the tools they need to succeed and set them apart from others. The final design will be flexible enough to quickly transform from an esports arena to a community event space to a high-tech classroom.
“Across the board, we looked at the multi-purpose aspect of the space and tried to take into account the needs of all our different users,” said Pote.
The development of the space will also create new opportunities to host regional and national esports events at Illinois State University.
“This space is really suited to not only accommodate our student population, but is flexible so we can start looking at bringing in the Collegiate Overwatch Championship, the Collegiate League of Legends Championship, or even some professional events,” Kirk said. .
The BBC closed on November 20 ahead of construction, which is set to begin in mid-December. The BBC will also undergo several improvements to make it a more accessible space for students, including toilets for all genders, a double door entrance and adapted reception areas. Construction is expected to continue through summer 2022 with an expected opening date of fall 2022.
“We were really deliberately identifying and removing barriers to participation with the goal of creating a welcoming environment,” Pote said.
Kirk and Pote are excited to see the arena become a reality and engage students in an esports experience only found in the state of Illinois.
“Having a facility like this does a lot for every aspect of our program,” Kirk said. “Having such a robust space and being able to host esports events across the country are big selling points for recruiting students to play on our varsity teams and students looking to get more involved in the industry.”
“From the beginning, we talked about this program being an opportunity for student success inside and outside the classroom,” Pote added. “The addition of this facility allows the program to grow in ways that we have not yet explored. Exciting days are coming.”
Redbird Esports currently supports Overwatch, League of Legends, and Rocket League at the varsity level. They also support a number of other club-level game titles, including Rainbow Six Siege, Call of Duty, CSGO, Fortnite, and more. To stay up to date with the Redbird Esports program, you can follow their announcements and updates at Twitter. They also stream most of their competitive matches on their twitch channel.