Park University has announced its intentions to offer a varsity esports program starting in Spring 2019.
According to the Kansas City, Mo., based National Association of Collegiate Esports, Park is the first college/university in the Kansas City area to offer a varsity esports program.
Initially, when Park’s coed esports program begins, it will compete in one of seven currently offered esports through NACE, League of Legends, with additional esports games to be offered in Fall 2019 along with scholarship opportunities. Teams typically consist of seven individuals from each school for each game.
“It was kind of a long, ongoing project,” said Steve Wilson, Park’s outgoing associate athletic director for media relations. “We saw an opportunity to present something to potential students and current students. It is another opportunity to compete and we wanted to make sure we were the first in KC that wanted to do it the best and that is what we are planning.”
In addition to competitive gaming, Park’s esports program will provide support for educational and intramural opportunities not only for students at the University’s flagship Parkville Campus, but also for Park students at the University’s 40 other campuses nationwide and online worldwide, according to Ben Zibers, director for student engagement, who will lead Park’s esports program. Tie-ins to for-credit courses and leveraging connections for professional play will also be possible.
The University plans to build a state-of-the-art gaming area — “Parkade” — in the University’s Mabee Learning Center/Academic Underground. Parkade will serve as the home for the varsity esports program for matches and practices, as well as provide a central location for students to watch and participate in gaming-related activities.
Park is also in the midst of a national search for its first esports coach, who will be like any other coach on campus and have to recruit and make his/her own team. That includes putting the ‘student’ in front of student-athlete, Wilson said.
“There has been interest from students and staff members,” Wilson said. “You have seen esports explod the last three or four years. The interest keeps growing and it is on ESPN. It is something we knew we had to get in on.”