Washtenaw Community College ahead of the curve with Esports arena, competitive teams

Photos available

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Dec. 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As the Esports industry continues to grow, especially at the collegiate level, Washtenaw Community College (WCC) is ahead of the curve with its new Esports arena.

While many schools now offer some level of Esports programming, WCC’s arena is one of few in the area offering a dedicated, competitive space to students with access to the latest technology and resources. The college is home to a growing number of club and intramural teams who regularly compete in tournaments against schools throughout the country and against each other.

WCC’s six club teams are each comprised of 8-10 students selected based on their performance during tryouts. Teams practice two hours a day several days a week with coaches. Two WCC teams recently reached the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) League playoffs.

WCC students will try out for Winter Semester teams January 16-22.

Since the arena’s soft launch last spring, WCC’s Esports program has grown from two competitive teams, with the goal of soon adding a new all-women’s team. Additionally, more than 80 students from the general student body on average each week visit the arena for free-play opportunities, typically Mondays to Thursdays between 2-5 p.m.

Esports equipment offered to students has grown from one screen and one projector in a classroom to multiple gaming systems – including 12 Alienware Gaming PCs, 2 Alienware Gaming Laptops, 2 Nintendo Switch Consoles, 1 Playstation 5 Console, and 1 Xbox Series X Console – in the new arena located on the second floor of the Technical & Industrial Building.

“This first semester we were really pushing to grow Esports and show what Esports can do. Students wanted the ability to play at a high level and grow together. Previously our teams weren’t competing, and now we have structured competition. It’s exceeded our expectation. We’ve been blown away by all of our metrics,” said Esport Coordinator Max Kuznia.

Esports at WCC offers students a competitive advantage and positions them for success in the Esports industry and beyond. It is attractive to students who not only like to game but who are interested in pursuing a career that requires skills in video game coding, video game production, 3D animation, shoutcasting, management and marketing.

The college offers academic programs related to the industry, including Sports & Entertainment Management, 3D Animation in Gaming, C++ Programming, Java Programming, Video Production and Broadcast Arts.

The new space also affords the opportunity for students pursuing related career paths to hone their skills, including leadership and communication. A recent graphic design event allowed students to create graphics which can be showcased on WCC Esports gaming streams on Twitch.

“Many students see Esports as a fun activity and an opportunity to develop skills that could lead to future employment in the Esports industry,” said Peter Leshkevich, Dean of Enrollment Management & Student Experience. “Even students who do not wish to pursue a career in Esports can benefit from the teamwork, communication and strategic thinking skills that are cultivated through Esports participation.”

Garrett Sly of Whitmore Lake, captain of Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, one of WCC’s teams that made it to the NACE playoffs, agrees.

“There is a lot of strategizing involved. There are a lot team-based games that require coordination and strategy among teammates to outplay other teams. Practices help to get us in the mindset because you have a team counting on you,” said Sly, who is following the general studies pathway with a certificate in arts management and plans to transfer to Eastern Michigan University next Fall to study music education.

Jay Howell, 19, of Ypsilanti, is dually enrolled as a WCC college student and a graduating Washtenaw Technical Middle College high school student. He serves as an informal co-captain of the WCC Smash Ultimate team.

“I have some plans for developing a game by myself,” said Howell, who is following the Michigan Transfer Agreement pathway.

“I remember at the college a couple of years ago there was a game club where you could go into a room and play different games. I also used to set up my Switch in the Student Center. When I heard about the Esports arena I was super excited. It’s been a great place to hang out, and I’m excited to be here next semester to play again,” Howell said.

WCC will offer a $3,476 per-semester scholarship to a WCC Sports and Entertainment Management student who assists in the arena and is learning how to coordinate an Esports program.

Because many high schools do not have funding to provide their own high-speed computers or build an arena, WCC is partnering with local high schools to assist with creating teams and hosting tournaments and practices in the new arena.

“This Fall, we started reaching out to local high schools to discuss opportunities for utilizing the arena and fostering collaboration in the esports community,” Leshkevich said. “The real work of making an impact on the WCC community and beyond is just getting started for WCC's Esports Office.”

Other events hosted in the Esports arena include faculty co-curricular activities with campus groups such as Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and Alpha Scholars as well as community groups like summer campers from the Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti.

Learn more about Esports at Washtenaw Community College. The arena is located in the Technical & Industrial Building, Room 239. Call 734-249-5991 or email wolfpackesports@wccnet.edu for additional information. View photos of the arena.

About Washtenaw Community College 
Washtenaw Community College (WCC), Ann Arbor, Michigan, educates students through a wide range of associate and certificate programs in areas such as health care, business, STEM and advanced transportation and mobility. WCC offers accelerated and online programs and is ranked the number one community college in Michigan by Niche.com and Intelligent.com. The college also works through community, business and union partnerships to develop highly specialized training programs to meet the region’s workforce talent needs.

For more information about Washtenaw Community College, visit www.wccnet.edu. 

Fran LeFort, 734-677-5295

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/17dfde23-de1d-49fc-9417-16d9ba0b8402


WCC's Esports arena is among a few dedicated, competitive spaces in the area.