Home Opinion The Counter Opinion: The next level for esports at Ohio U

The Counter Opinion: The next level for esports at Ohio U

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In a recent Ohio University Board of Trustees meeting, the resources, facilities and affordability committee approved the construction of an esports facility in the basement of Scripps Hall. This project will cost the university a total of $650,000 and will include a competition room, a club practice room, a social gaming area, an office space and a broadcasting booth.

We asked our opinion writers whether the university should build an esports facility on campus or spend the money elsewhere. Contributing are Hannah Fleming, a freshman political science major, Bryce Hoehn, a junior political science major and Zach Richards, a sophomore education major.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

 

Should the university build an esports facility on campus?

Hannah: Maybe at another time, but the focus should not be on building a new facility right now. Although the club reports having more than 220 members, that only makes up .01% of the 17,900 students at the Athens campus. It is important for students to have the opportunity to get involved on campus, but the cost of building a new facility for only one group is too high.

Bryce: Yes, the university should build an esports facility on campus. The Bobcat Esports club was founded in 2017, and in just three years they have recruited over 220 members, making it the largest esports club in the state despite lacking an official varsity team or facilities to play in.

The demand is definitely there, but the biggest bottleneck for the group is a lack of campus facilities. This leaves the group at a massive disadvantage against competing schools that have invested in esports programs. This also means that only students who already own expensive gaming hardware are able to participate and have to do so remotely from their dorm rooms or apartments. With the official facilities and hopefully, an official varsity team, the club will most likely gain significantly more members. Investment in an esports facility would be a great way for the university to bring together people who enjoy esports and video game culture while fighting against the negative gamer social stigma.

Esports also has immense untapped educational value. The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine could have the potential to study the physical and emotional aspects of esports. Student journalists could cover esports matches and events, similarly to how they would cover sports. The J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies could get valuable hands-on experience with fast-paced online communication and the bandwidth challenges associated with it. Finally, sports management students could get valuable experience in the emerging esports market.

Zach: Figures like $100,000 and above (The esports facility is projected to cost $650,000) would seem like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the total university budget. It’s similar to the amount the university would have spent on free tuition to one lucky student at the Miami football game. However, in the wake of a budget crisis, even relatively small expenses like this look bad on the university’s part. From a public relations point of view, it would make sense to at least cut the budget from somewhere else in order to pay for the esports arena, and that budget shouldn’t come from faculty salaries.

If the university decided not to allocate money to the esports facility, what should they spend it on instead?

Hannah: There are many issues currently faced by Ohio U that should first be addressed before we even begin to think about building an esports facility. One issue that needs to be addressed is the upkeep and facility management in the residence halls. For example, my residence hall, Washington Hall, has been having issues with the functionality of the showers and heating system since we moved in back in August.

We also need to take into consideration the current budget deficit that has caused students and faculty to cry out for the protection of academics. In the midst of a budget crisis, I don’t think it’s appropriate to think about funding an extracurricular activity that will cost more than half a million dollars. We should be thinking about the educational experience of students first and foremost.

Bryce: The most pressing financial issue is certainly the recent budget crisis. Ohio U has asked its Athens campus colleges to cut a total of $19.3 million over the next four years. Meanwhile, athletics receives $17.5 million per year out of student tuition alone, yet attendance at the athletics events is so low that they frequently have to bribe students to show up. Athletics are a valuable supplement to a university education, but their budget and scale should be adjusted to more accurately reflect student interest in these programs, especially when educational departments are facing cuts.

The university has repeatedly stated that the cause of the crisis is declining enrollment, so rather than blindly throwing millions of dollars in subsidies towards our relatively unpopular athletics programs, it makes sense to start investing in new programs that entice a growing number of incoming students. The fact that over 200 students have joined together to start this esports club from the ground up demonstrates that there is popular demand for these programs, and by investing now the university could become a regional leader in college esports. 

The $650,000 price tag on the facility may seem intimidating, but again corporate sponsorships and increased enrollment could absolutely make up for it in the long term. In comparison, had the money come directly out of athletics, it would make up a total of just 3% of their $27 million yearly budget. And this is just a one time cost — the cost of maintaining it once complete would likely be insignificant on this scale.

With the current state of Ohio U’s budget crisis, I agree that it is important to be skeptical of the university’s spending. But I think the benefits of the facility outweigh the cost. Investing in esports could play a large role in making up for declining enrollment numbers while bringing together a community of students interested in video game culture and providing educational benefits to students throughout the university. It would be unwise to allocate this money anywhere else.

Zach: With all the controversy around the cutting of faculty salaries and laying off members of faculty, if anything, the money should be spent to keep faculty on deck and make sure they’re paid well. Ultimately, having quality employees and being able to attract good professors will benefit the university and students far more than an esports arena. An esports arena is not an inherently bad idea, but it isn’t the best look during a budget crisis.

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