Published On: Wed, Feb 26th, 2020

FAU set for grand opening of eSports Arena in March

Photo provided by Florida Atlantic University

When Florida Atlantic University renamed their Boca Raton on-campus bar of “Coyote Jack’s Grill” to “Burrow Bar and Grill” back in 2013, it was more than just a name change, but a representation of the entire culture of the university. 

Whether it was going there to eat, grab a beer, play billiards, or even perform karaoke, the Burrow Bar and Grill acted as a stress-reliever for students and the entire Boca Raton community to gather and enjoy themselves, while still remaining on campus. 

Despite nights where few students would come, the Burrow still offered more affordable prices on food and alcohol than other bars off-campus and would sometimes have live bands perform too. 

These two reasons, however, weren’t enough to keep the bar alive, and in December 2018, the Burrow Bar and Grill was closed and the creation of a new plan of what was going to occupy the space began.

“Since the [Student] Union was [already] under construction, it was a great idea to take the old restaurant and turn it into a gaming center,” said Michael Cooper, who is the Director of the Student Union. “[The Burrow] needed an update.”

This “gaming center” Cooper is referring to is the brand new eSports Arena that will open in March. Although the arena was originally supposed to be completed by the end of the Fall 2019 semester in December, minor construction delays, such as flooring issues and wiring the entire arena, are what setback the opening.

Specifically with the flooring, which was put in both the eSports Arena and updated Student Union, an odor coming from it paused construction for a few weeks, as well as the Student Union remaining open during construction and events, including graduations that still occurred, which aided on the delay of the opening.

“I don’t think we factored in the influence construction was going to have on the space,” Cooper said. “It’s just like if you owned a home and you’re reconstructing your bathroom, but then you find something wrong and it delays you a month.”

So why an eSports Arena? Well, it wasn’t even in the original plans.

Initially, the space that occupied the Burrow Bar and Grill after it closed, was supposed to be meant for more meeting places where the over 400 student organizations at FAU could come together and hold their meetings at any time. While this could have been effective for the present, Cooper and other administrators were looking toward the future and in February 2019, the gears were switched and the official plan for an eSports Arena was off and running.

In an age, where a 16-year-old boy can win $3 million from just being good at the video game, Fortnite, eSports, or competitive video game playing, has morphed into an over $100 billion industry, where professional teams have been formed and travel the country competing against other talented video game players, according to the article from the New York Times.

“I think it will drive more students to the university and help FAU become a top 100 public institution,” FAU Boca Raton Campus Governor Alex Zand said. “I know we are planning on hosting national tournaments for eSports too.” 

These tournaments could invite professional gaming teams to compete here in Boca Raton in the near future. Boca Raton is already gaining some attention from the eSports world, where according to the South Florida Business Journal, eSports company, Misfits Gaming Group, are relocating their headquarters to Boca Raton in 2021 and will invest more than $1.35 million and create 30 new jobs. 

Professional eSports teams will be welcomed to visit the arena to practice, according to Cooper. Furthermore, the Barry Kaye Auditorium also has the potential to host eSports tournaments in the future, outlining the possibility of FAU’s innovation on a national scale. 

This is what the University of California-Irvine (UCI) was able to accomplish since 2015 when they opened an eSports Arena of their own and created a Computer Game Science major program as well. Cooper, who was in contact with UCI eSports Arena Assistant Director Kathy Chang, mirrored the FAU model to resemble UCI’s and from there the business model was up and running. 

Within FAU’s eSports Arena will lie multiple rows of gaming personal computers (PC’s) where each PC will sit atop tables made specifically for gaming and have its own personal gaming chair, designed with FAU’s colors and the student government logo, for each student to sit and play. Not wanting to deal with licensing issues, the arena will not provide console game systems, such as Xbox or PlayStation, but rather encourage students to bring their own to play on that will be in a separate area for those students looking to just plug-in and play.

“We spent a good amount of time making sure these were the right PCs and they are really nice [because we] partnered with a gaming pc company called MSI,” Cooper said. “The connectivity the students will have is going to be beyond what they imagined and I hope two years from now we can look back and say we’ve graduated to an eSports team and maybe even some other academic programs, or a degree program.”

While it is still unclear what day exactly in March the eSports Arena is going to be officially opened, Cooper stressed that the eSports Arena is “probably 95 percent” completed. However, today (Feb 27) and tomorrow (Feb 28) only, a maximum of 20 to 30 students will be able to enter the arena on every hour between 12 and 5 p.m. to test out the games and PC’s for free.

The next steps in the Student Union renovations, include adding a nail salon and possibly even a full-service restaurant where the Live Oak conference rooms are located currently. However, none of this has been approved nor finalized yet.

“[Since] the union was constructed in 1972, we’re just trying to give a newer feel to an older building,” Cooper said. “A lot of the other universities, such as FIU, have nail salons, so when this is all said and done, [the Student Union could] be like a mini Mizner Park.”

About the Author

- Justin Baronoff is currently a junior at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL. He is pursuing a major in Multimedia Journalism, where he hopes to some day write for major news media publications, such as the New York Times, ESPN, or even Billboard Magazine. In high school, Justin wrote for his high school newspaper for three years where he was a staff reporter for the first two years before becoming the Sports Editor in his final year. At FAU during the first semester of his sophomore year, he began interning for isportsweb.com, where he wrote about and covered his favorite professional football team, the New York Jets, and his favorite professional basketball team, the New York Knicks. Then during his second semester of his sophomore year, he began writing for FAU's student newspaper, the University Press, as a contributing writer. Justin now serves a News Writer Intern for the Boca Raton Tribune.

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