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Ringling College esports arena opens to empower student gamers

The esports arena features state-of-the-art equipment.
The esports arena features state-of-the-art equipment.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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Joy Che and Alana Urias were wandering through Ann and Alfred Goldstein Hall at Ringling College of Art and Design on Sept. 13 when they encountered a surprising sight.

The two members of the college’s varsity esports team, the Ringling Rollers, discovered a room with rows of computers and monitors, where video games were displaying on all screens. 

“When we saw all of the computers, we got so happy,” said Joy Che.

E Ramey, recreation and wellness coordinator at the school, called the response to the esports, or electronic sports, arena “tremendous” following its full opening on Sept. 11. 

As of Aug. 21, the arena had been officially open for the Ringling Rollers, the team which includes all varsity and junior varsity esports divisions at the school. 

Although esports, a worldwide phenomenon, began on students’ laptops in 2020 when it came to Ringling College, interest rapidly grew, sending Ramey on a search to meet the demand, which resulted in him eventually securing the space of the former conference area. 

“The idea was, how can this great art and design school have some form of athletics?” said project contractor Scott Treibly.

The room enhances the experience of players through improved internet connectivity, dark walls and a dark ceiling, an atmospheric lighting scheme, gaming stations, a gaming lounge area, and rows of large monitors that allow bystanders to view the gameplay on the computer screens.

“When people walk in, they know this is an esports room,” said student Viktor Niksdorf.

Student Jaehee Kim said the arena was succeeding in its goal of allowing students to play alongside other schools virtually, something that previously was not possible due to the speed of the internet connection it demanded. 

“We've worked very hard to try to get the best of the best for the space, and it seems like it's working out so far,” said Derek Plassman, manager of facilities and capital projects at the college.

Joshua Walls, Jeehee Kim, Shannon Craddock, Sophie Leoni and Kevin Carrio enjoy the lounge area.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Students said the space is also offering a more social environment for an activity with a typically introverted setup. 

On Sept. 13, many students at the arena were completing an assignment that involved performing tests on video games designed by the school’s seniors. 

“We used to go through it by ourselves, take notes, and send it to the seniors, but now we’re all doing it as a community, and it’s more special seeing everyone,” said Sierra Garzan.

On the night of Sept. 10, the arena had its first watch party for one of the varsity matches and hosted 38 people in the arena, in addition to the five varsity members, Treibly said.

Divisions this semester consist of “Overwatch,” “Super Smash Bros.,” and “Valorant,” with a total of 36 individuals registered. The college is also looking to add teams in “League of Legends” and “Rocket League.”

“It's a great example of how technology and gaming can come together,” said Monique Chicvak, manager of facilities and capital projects at the college. “Because in a space like this, you can't have one without the other, and it's a great space for students to scrimmage, to play competitively to just hang out with their friends to add a sense of community to Ringling.”

“I’m really excited to see what it can provide when it comes to other schools,” Kim said. “I am looking forward to inviting them so we can show it off a little — beat their butts.”

Ramey said some features intended to be implemented in the future are a commentator box, digital signage, and a mural outside the room — but students said they were already feeling fulfilled. 

“I love it. I’m here all day now,” said Sophie Leoni. “It’s so wonderful we have this place.”



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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