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Mia White

Jan 10, 2024

Esports Arenas x NJCAAE

Generally, esports arenas are indoor event centers dedicated to esports and gaming competitions. At the National Junior College Athletic Association Esports (NJCAAE), many of our members have taken the time to build their esports arenas at their respective schools. Many esports arenas differ in the details, but there are a few essentials including PCs, gaming chairs, the internet, and last but not least, student participants. 


“I know it can be difficult lobbying institutions for a dedicated space, but it really has been integral to the success of our program. Being able to hold in-person practices and meetings is a game changer,” said Andrew Goforth, Head Esports Coach at Marshalltown Community College (MCC).


At MCC, the arena is comprised of two rows of six computers, originally intended to seat up to a team's capacity for Overwatch 1, with two pods of three and three. They also have an instructor's station and a handicap-accessible station with an automated table that can be raised and lowered. 


“We put together a team of people that included myself, the administration, and the IT department and went over different blueprints for the space,” said Goforth, “The arena was designed for the purpose of both security and functionality. We wanted to be able to house as many students gaming simultaneously as possible. Our arena is keycard locked, so only our student work-study arena supervisors, team captains, and coaches can enter at any time. The space is open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, from noon until midnight. We also have in-person spectator seating and lockers.”


Can you go into more depth about your handicap-accessible station?


“We wanted to make sure that our lab was as accessible as possible. Our chairs are weight rated to 500 pounds and we have a handicapped table that can be raised to make it accessible for automated wheelchairs. Gamers can take up a lot of different shapes, sizes, and levels of physical ability so we wanted to make sure we were prepared,” said Goforth.


MCC’s renovation took nearly nine months from design to completion. The room had to be gutted and rebuilt for the purposes of the arena. The biggest challenge for them was when the network boxes were placed in the wrong spot, so the floor had to be torn out twice. However, Coach Goforth said it was all worth it because the best part was finally seeing it put together completely when all of the work was done.


Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 miles away, Catawba Valley Community College had a different experience. Head Esports Coach, Cody Dalton, had asked the school president for a designated space and was given a vacated cafeteria area.

“At this same time, we won a contest through RESPAWN Products for gaming chairs. Both of these lit the spark for our program. There has been a lot of renovation with the space, including after some flooding in the Spring of 2022 due to a leaked pipe, but it's transformed wonderfully,” said Dalton.


Originally, the school started with just eight gaming stations, but now has 13 stations, including one dedicated solely to streaming. There are also TVs mounted on the wall solely for console gaming and they have all three gaming consoles - Xbox Series X, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.


“It's taken several years, but it's slowly come together. With the demand of now having 42 students (we started with two students), we're looking at expansion, which will be interesting,” said Dalton, “There has been talk of opening up a larger space on our campus, but nothing yet has been determined.”


A lot goes into designing and constructing an esports arena. Justin Kogge, Founder and CEO of Game Arena, and Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Esports Foundry, has developed a step-by-step methodology. 


“There’s a ton of work to it but ultimately it is broken down into ideation phase, financial phase, building phase, opening phase, ongoing operations phase. Each step is very hard and can seem like any of those phases can doom a gaming arena and you have to do every step very well to be successful,” said Kogge. 


Kogge went on to explain that there are many things to avoid when developing a gaming arena. The first “no-no”, in his opinion, is to never open up a gaming center without food or drink. Another would be to never open a gaming center with at least six months of expenses in reserve. 


“I don’t like outlining the walls with computers if I can avoid it. I always want a spot for competitions and production,” said Kogge.


What has been the best arena you have seen and why?


“Game Arena in Columbus, Ohio. It is pound for pound (sqft and spend) the greatest gaming center. Other than ours, I like Ignite in Chicago a lot. They don’t run esports events but are a true day-to-day gaming center that I really enjoy going to,” said Kogge.


Many of the NJCAAE members have gaming arenas, all similar and all different in their own ways. The main takeaway from these spaces is the community and the way it brings gamers together. See below for a highlight of many NJCAAE member’s gaming arenas.


 


Marshalltown Community College

Bergen Community College

Northwest College

Kirtland Community College

WSU Tech

Onondaga Community College

Herkimer College

NJCAA Esports Alternate Logo

National Junior College Athletic

Association Esports

8801 J.M. Keynes Drive - Suite 450.

Charlotte, NC 28262

(719) 590-9788

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