Central Florida is one step closer to being an epicenter of competitive gaming events following Full Sail University’s opening of the largest esports arena on a U.S. college campus.
On Tuesday, the university unveiled “The Fortress,” a 11,200-square-foot esports arena that can house 500 spectators.
In total, Full Sail poured $6 million into transforming an old soundstage into an adaptable arena that can support anything from 1v1 matches to 100-player battle royales.
“Flexibility was really important to us,” Vince Lepore, director, event technical operations, Full Sail University, told Sports Video Group. “We put a lot of effort into designing the room so that we could do a traditional end-stage configuration, as well as an in-the-round configuration… we wanted to be able to just flip between the two configurations in a reasonable amount of time. That was one of the big elements of our design criteria and drove a lot of the technology decisions.”
Sari Kitelyn, director, project development, Full Sail University, is excited about the educational opportunities the arena brings.
“It’s a chance for students to learn hands-on, a place for the community connection to the industry,” Kitelyn told Front Office Sports. “We were already the home to so many types of esports activities, we wanted to help elevate Central Florida by giving a permanent place to make sure everyone can see and realize it’s the place for esports.”
According to a Newzoo report, the global esports economy will hit $1 billion in 2019. Local leaders are fully aware of the benefits the facility can have on the local economy.
“Esports has just blown up so big. It’s already a billion dollar industry and it looks like it’s going to continue to grow,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. “Orlando is a hub for technology, especially in the area of modeling and simulation, so it’s natural that we would be in the esports arena.”
The Fortress is home to The Armada, Full Sail’s esports team, who got to test the facility the weekend before the reveal.
“It is a whole new world,” said Bennett Newsome, Full Sail’s esports strategist. “It’s something that can really give you chills when you get in there for the first time.”
Full Sail President Garry Jones said news of the arena is already buzzing around the industry.
“We have a lot of exciting interests, not by just other colleges but by professional esports teams, and not just in this region, but in other regions across the country,” he said. “There will be all kinds of growing esports competitions here of different games.”
Full Sail is already expanding its reach, announcing a partnership with Magic Gaming, the Orlando Magic’s NBA 2K League team, earlier this month.
“In partnering with Magic Gaming, we look forward to the educational and career opportunities this will bring to our students and alumni,” Ken Goldstone, Full Sail’s COO, said in a press release. “With the growth of our university’s esports initiatives, with professional partners and with our collegiate team, Armada, we are excited to join Magic Gaming to further elevate Orlando and our region as an esports industry leader.”
William is the Managing Editor at FloridaInsider.com. His years of experience in journalism, broadcasting and multimedia include roles as a Writer and Web Producer. He graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science and Communication.