by Alex Kinsella | December 2022
On November 7, gamers and esports athletes celebrated the opening of the Conestoga College Esports Hub. The Esports Hub is the first of its kind in Waterloo Region. It features 36 dedicated gaming PCs, a six-player competitive area for the Conestoga College varsity esports team, gaming consoles, and a state-of-the-art control room for live-streaming esports events to viewers worldwide.
Zack Dodge, the Esports operations supervisor for Conestoga College, said the Esports Hub is designed as a multi-use facility. In addition to supporting live-streaming and the college’s varsity esports teams, the space is available to students for drop-in play and intramural competitions.
“It’s really a multipurpose space with a few different kinds of integrated facilities. From our control room, we can take gameplay feeds and webcams from our varsity desk and stream out to Twitch or YouTube. The gaming PCs are open for students to drop in and play. We also have an active community playing a lot of FIFA, Super Smash Bros., and Mario Kart,” Dodge said.
The Esports Hub is not your average computer lab. Each gaming PC station includes a luminated LED keyboard and Razor gaming chair. A giant Conestoga Condor logo is mounted behind the six-station varsity desk that overlooks the gaming PCs. The venue includes colour-changing LED lighting that works to create an ethereal vibe. Dodge said the lighting is one element other staff and educators point out during tours.
“The lighting always comes up! It doesn’t come off as a typical computer lab. We did a Valorant tournament one weekend and we changed the colors to match the game. Our staff can change the lighting day to day to match what’s happening or what game is being played,” Dodge said.
In addition to gaming, the hub is also equipped to function as a classroom. It will play a central role in Conestoga’s new Esports Marketing and Event Management graduate certificate program, which will launch in 2023. Dodge said the program is starting to attract students’ attention — including high school students who are beginning to make post-secondary education decisions.
“We have that open athlete application year round. I’ve already seen a few students identifying that they’re doing our Esports program in the fall. It’s a really cool environment where they can compete and even have a part-time role within the esports ecosystem,” Dodge said.
From amateur gaming to professional tournaments, the esports market is estimated to reach US$1.6 billion by 2024. Collegiate esports programs like the ones at Conestoga College, the University of Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier University are helping make Waterloo Region the go-to destination for hosting esports competitions.
“Having collegiate esports creates opportunities outside of gaming. We’ve been able to introduce six different positions with close to 30 students on work study. That’s in communications, production, shoutcasting, operations, and team leadership,” Dodge said.
Collegiate esports has been gaining momentum over the last decade. Dodge said Conestoga College recognized that esports is one the fastest growing sports in the world, and there was an opportunity to deliver a program and venue for its students.
“We’re really seeing that Waterloo Region can be a destination for aspiring collegiate players, current collegiate players, and the esports community at large. It’s helping paint Waterloo Region as a viable location and platform to really advance these esports opportunities,” Dodge said.