RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has a new varsity, practice facility, but it's not for football, basketball or any other traditional sport.
Welcome to the Hardrocker esports practice facility. This room is designed and equipped specifically to accommodate the student gaming population - including their varsity esports team.
The facility is the result of collaboration between students, professors, administrators and the athletics department. There are twelve state of the art computers, along with gaming keyboards, mice and chairs. Esports Coordinator Wyatt Engel says the facility is designed to expand student opportunity
"It's great that we are able to offer the opportunity to students at our school to shine on a different platform that they weren't able to shine on in high school or any other stage of their lives," Engel said. "It's just awesome giving those people the opportunity to be successful."
Engel says the facility cost around $50,000 - a bill picked up by the athletics department.
"It's a very up and coming industry," said Mines Athletic Director Joel Leuken. "It's very critical in my eyes to create a space where our scholar athletes can be successful."
Currently, the Hardrockers have one varsity esports team for the game League of Legend supported by scholarships. Engel hopes the new facility will help grow the program.
"Primarily, it is for our competitive teams to practice and also to have their matches and kind of drive them to a new level of competition and a new level of excellence," Engel said. "We want to further establish ourselves as one of the best esports teams in the region and definitely the best esports program in South Dakota."
It's not just about gaming or even athletics - there's an educational element as well.
"Esports is a multi-billion dollar industry across the world and it's only going to continue to grow," said School of Mines President James Rankin. "It's going to help us recruit, retain and graduate our students."
To that end, school officials adopted a certificate program in esports.
"We try to encompass a lot of things the esports industry looks for," Engel said."Programming, graphic design, communication, teamwork - all of those kind of things are wrapped into our certificate program."
In addition to the competitive and educational objectives, Engel hopes the new facility will be a place for gamers to meet new people, socialize and reshape the gamer stereotype .
"The stereotypical gamer just sits in his room all day and doesn't socialize," Engel said. "It's for everyone on campus.We want student to use this whether it be in between classes or the weekend hours that we have available. We are getting those players out of their rooms."
You can follow the Hardrocker League of Legends season by liking their facebook page - @SDMINES.ESPORTS. Games are streamed on Twitch.tv/sdsmt_esports