USF Esports’ original plans to create an in-person space, the Living Lab, have been delayed. The space is expected to be available in August, but that date remains uncertain due to the amount of funding and the construction process.
In September, Deputy Esports Program Director Antonio Gonzalez said the recreation and wellness center expansion was originally scheduled to open in the spring of 2022.
“We wanted to be very careful about increasing the space until we knew everything was in place and there was no chance that we would disappoint students with false deadlines or that we would not can’t finish the project,” Gonzalez said in a Sept. 21 post. Oracle article.
“It’s as safe as we’ve ever been and we’re thrilled to see this project come to fruition.”
The setback was attributed to funding for the project, provided by the Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF). The project originally applied for space funding in 2018 through the Tech Fee, but this was dropped in the summer of 2021 when the project was approved for the CITF.
“State funding has been delayed to some extent… It takes time for this process to materialize, due to the fact that it was not an internal source of funding,” Gonzalez said. .
The funding, currently estimated at $368,000, will be used to organize 40 PCs in space for casual and competitive gaming, watch parties and content creation. The 2,500 square foot space will be part of the Rec.
To supplement funds provided by the CITF, Gonzalez said he is considering sponsorships from other companies, such as those involved in gaming. This includes software, hardware companies and the gaming community in Tampa as well as internationally.
“We are keeping our options open and pursuing a myriad of different opportunities that may be able to help [funding the project],” he said.
Renderings of the space are being created and will likely be available by March, according to Gonzalez. At this point, they can move forward with creating the final plans for the space, which will depend on the final amount of funding they can secure.
Gonzalez said there was some consternation on behalf of students over the delay, as some may not be able to access the space once they graduate.
“Some students have been around for a while and hoped to see the online space,” he said. “I know students graduating this semester who really wish they could see space.
“I think it’s something they wanted to see happen because the program was built during COVID, and we were coming back to campus, a lot of students were excited to have a physical space to come in and that just took a little longer than we would have liked or expected.
In preparation for the site’s planned opening, Esports has held some events to attract new students, such as an in-person workshop on February 26 at North Gym at Rec. During the workshop, three clubs for three different video games – DOTA 2, Valorant and League of Legends – will teach students how to play their respective games on PC.
It’s about introducing students who are already part of the gaming community to new games, or teaching the basics to those who have never played before.
Hassan Najam, a first-year computer science student and president of the Halo Club, shared his enthusiasm for openness and the opportunities it provides.
“I’m sure for all Esports clubs and fans of different gaming franchises, having an in-person place on campus will foster an environment that allows people to discover new interests,” Najam said.
“Whether it’s competing in certain games or discovering new games for the first time.”
To access as many students as possible, Gonzalez said the Esports program reaches out to other student organizations commonly associated with gaming, such as cosplay groups.
“We’re looking for students who are just trying to learn more about the community,” Gonzalez said. “[We’re] just reach out to some of these other areas where there are certainly overlaps with gaming communities.
The Esports program will also host an in-person LAN event, also in the North Gym. This event will be similar to an in-person tournament, where any student can play the games available
“[Students can] compete for possibly cool USF merchandise and bragging rights. This also ties into preparing the space for in-person tournaments, and eventually hosting and streaming the games on our USF channel,” said esports supervisor for the space Kevin Castillo.
The Lab represents part of the program’s progression to fame in the Esports community, including at the college level.
“We want USF to be one of the best colleges in the state to play for,” Castillo said. “We are miles away from that, but this space will be a big step towards realizing that dream.”