Mar. 31—GRAND FORKS — In what UND Provost Eric Link described as a "dream come true," the university unveiled a new state-of-the-art facility for its esports department with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Memorial Union on Friday, March 31.
The facility — located in the lower level of Swanson Hall — features amenities such as a dedicated competition space, team lockers and practice rooms.
UND President Andrew Armacost said along with competitive opportunities, esports provides its participants with valuable teamwork skills.
"The joy that you get from playing with your friends is amplified tenfold, even one hundredfold by what we've created here — the opportunity for students to come together," said Armacost. "Not just to individually sit in front of a console, but to be together, bond as teammates, and enjoy the support systems that such teamwork provides."
Ryan Kraus, coach of UND's competitive esports team since 2021, said the new facility is a sizable upgrade from the team's previous home — a storage closet at the Hyslop Sports Center.
"We had to have some players play from home, because we have about 30 players in our program now, so half of them wouldn't have a setup if we held practices at the same time," said Kraus. "Finally having a space that we can call our esports home is fantastic."
Ethan Taylor, a sophomore studying accounting and a member of the esports team, said although the team was competitive in its previous home, the new facility will help improve its abilities.
"Having this facility now will be a big game changer," Taylor said. "It definitely gives us a more competition ready environment."
Link, a gamer himself, said the evolution of esports at UND, and as a whole, is impressive.
"Competition in the esports space is not a new thing," said Link. "In fact, the very first competition occurred in 1972 at Stanford University, when 24 players competed on the title 'Space War.' Esports now has a global financial impact of $1.2 billion, projected to grow to $5.6 billion by 2029."
Sandra Moritz, director of UND's esports academic department, said studying and competing in the field affords workforce development opportunities.
"I think one of the things that's really been important to us, is to link our esports major to career opportunities," said Moritz. "We have 10 internship components within the esports major. These will allow our students to lead in this field once they leave UND."
Taylor emphasized the esports team is open to all students.
"We will accept anyone, regardless of ability," said Taylor. "We can always get better together."