Livingstone adding esports program, new facility

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 2, 2021

SALISBURY – Livingstone College is entering the popular realm of competitive gaming this fall with new facilities and a program to match.

The college plans to build a small facility in the Walls Center on its main campus and a larger facility in unused space on its School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts on Jake Alexander Boulevard.

In total, the facilities will include 16 competitive stations, 16 social play stations, a coaching room, two golf simulators, two iRacing motorsports simulators, specially designed hotel suites for competitions, a concessions bar and gathering space.

There will also be overnight hotel rooms, gathering spaces for other events and athletic boarding available.

The college has contracted with Ohio company Meridian HD for the project. It plans to have the facilities ready by September and begin offering scholarships for the program.

“We are so excited for this inaugural partnership with Meridian HD as we deliver on a competitive and cutting edge esports program,” Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins said in a statement.

Athletic Director Lamonte Massie-Sampson said the college started exploring adding an esports program last January, before COVID-19 hit. The pandemic put plans on hold, but Massie-Sampson said the extra time gave college officials time to look at the project more closely.

He said the renderings of the project remind him of an observation deck right out of classic science fiction movies like “Star Wars.”

He said the venue will give the college unique opportunities because of its positioning with the hospitality program.

“Not many colleges own a hotel,” Massie-Sampson said.

He said the venue will give the college the chance to host some serious events, bring attention to Livingstone and generate revenue for the community by drawing people here from surrounding metro areas. The ballroom area at the hospitality facility on Jake Alexander Boulevard can host spectators, and there are accommodations on site. The larger facility will be open to the public.

“We want them to see that Livingstone is forward thinking and trying to do something different,” Massie-Sampson said.

The college also hopes to use the new facilities to add to its curriculum, including drone operation, programming, sports broadcasting, digital content creation and audio and visual production.

Massie-Sampson said the college will look at its current students to gauge interest in participating, but it also wants to attract new students with the program and drive enrollment.

Esports programs are becoming more common at colleges and universities because they cater to growing interest in the multi-billion-dollar industry of competitive video gaming. Catawba College has a program and esports arenas as well.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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