Butler to start construction on esports center after pandemic delay

Butler University is set to begin building a 7,500-square-foot esports and technology space on the first floor of an existing parking garage—a project that was first announced in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic.

Butler officials, who have not released a price tag on the project, say it will be finished in time for the 2022 fall semester.

The multi-use space in the Sunset Avenue parking garage will be known as Butler Esports Park. It expands the school’s investment in esports, which started with opening an esports and gaming center in Atherton Union.

The new space will include high-performance gaming PC’s and consoles, event and coworking spaces, a cafe, office areas for partner organizations, and a studio and production room. In addition to esports, the center will be used as a hub for the tech community, Butler officials said.

And it already has its first tenant. Challonge—a software-as-a-service company for esports competition management—is owned by Logitech and led by Butler graduate Matt McIntyre.

The firm is already housed at Butler’s campus on the first floor of Bill and Joanne Dugan Hall, a space it moved into earlier this year, and will move into the esports center when it’s completed. Challonge will be creating opportunities for student engagement, community events, and more.

“Butler Esports Park will become the epicenter of esports in Indianapolis,” McIntyre said in a statement. “It is uniquely positioned to benefit Butler’s rapidly growing esports program, and it will serve as a community asset capable of drawing major events to the city.”

Butler has had an esports club team since 2017. It competes with other schools in games such as Rocket League and League of Legends through the Big East Conference—the same conference in which Butler competes in varsity sports.

But it has also been working on ways to implement esports into its curriculum and other programs. This fall, it introduced an 18-credit-hour minor that provides students with a foundation in esports production, communication, business and marketing and allows students to choose a focus area from among multimedia graphics, leadership, sales, entrepreneurship or media analytics.

“We strive to be a leader in building a culture of innovation, equity, and operational excellence that supports our students and their learning—both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Frank Ross, Butler’s vice president for student affairs, in a statement. “Even through a challenging year due to the pandemic, Butler engaged our students, faculty, and staff through esports in meaningful ways—adding a new academic minor, and pivoting to adapt recruiting, planning, and event executions, as well as creative opportunities for community engagement, to advance our holistic vision for esports.”

The Butler Esports Park has been designed by Populous, an architectural firm known for its sports-focused spaces, including soccer stadiums, basketball arenas and training centers. In addition, Populous designed the new Fusion Arena, a standalone gaming center, in Philadelphia, and a 100,000-square-foot esports stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“It is truly a pleasure to be on the front lines of the esports facilities movement across North America,” said Brian Mirakian, Populous Esports Director for the Americas. “Esports and gaming are becoming widely accessible to audiences more than ever before. By bringing together gaming, innovation, and a dynamic creator environment, we are setting the stage for a new paradigm for student life and collegiate esports.”

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