New Esports arena opens in Altgeld Hall

The arena is free for students and is open everyday.


Sean Reed

NIU President Freeman stands alongside E-Sports staff, preparing to cut the ribbon, officially unveiling the new Esports Arena in Altgeld Hall on Wednesday.

DeKALB — Altgeld Hall opened its new Esports arena on Wednesday. President Lisa Freeman gave a speech congratulating NIU’s Esports division before the red ribbon was cut on a new arena.

The new $50,000 arena is designed with 8 different console stations and 30 gaming PCs, all of which guests could use for free. 

“When we first had an Esports arena in Neptune North, we were so fortunate to have a space where people could come together and game, but we quickly outgrew it,” said Jeneane East, project manager of the Esports program. “We went from 30 to 50 members of the club to over 100.” 

This new room accommodates this rapid influx of members, being nearly triple the size of the old arena. 

East stressed that the Esports division does not wish to hoard the space. 

“The Esports arena is open to any student with a OneCard,” East said. 

The new space now has enough room to house console and PC gamers, but also guests and the varsity Esports team.

“Before if you wanted to watch our teams play you watched on Twitch,” East said. “Now you can come here and watch. This space can also work for lectures. We can bring guest speakers in, teachers can hold classes here if they want to, our broadcasting room allows us to explore the possibility of a shell casting class here on campus.”

East said the perception of gaming has changed and that affects Esports on campus. 

“Gaming, both casual and competitive, has become more the norm, acceptable and formalized,” East said. “People who might not have mentioned that they go home after work and play League of Legends or Fortnite, they may not have mentioned it, but once they see there is this welcoming group on campus and they take a look at our arena they’ll be like, ‘oh, I play.’”

East suggested joining the Esports club, the NIU Esports Discord channel, Gaming for All, which is a subgroup of the Esports club for women and other marginalized groups and the Esports varsity team which has tryouts in spring.

Rena Cotsones, chief engagement officer for NIU and senior associate vice president for outreach engagement and regional development said that for projects like these the goal of NIU is to make efforts to engage students and make NIU more inclusive from both an academic and social standpoint. 

NIU first-year nursing student Allyson Evangelista tries the PCs in the newly unveiled Esports Arena in Altgeld Hall on Wednesday

“NIU can be very proud that we have an excellent Esports arena where we are able to have our collegiate Esports, our club sports, recreational players and a comfortable environment for everyone,” Costones said. 

Esports director Connor Vagle has a long history with the Esports program. From playing on the varsity team to building up the first arena in Neptune North with Jeneane East and now becoming Esports director, but he’s proud of the growth Esports has made on campus. 

“Winning some championships would be awesome, but at the end of the day that’s not our end all be all because we’re here for the students,” Vagle said. “Whenever I see one of our students go on and do big things in Esports…that’s really what I’m proud of.”