CoJMC investing in esports arena to be built in Nebraska Union

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 12:15pm

by Alexandra Carollo at The Daily Nebraskan

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, announced their plans to invest in an official esports team on Feb. 21. Not only will there be a full-fledged team by the beginning of the fall 2023 semester, there will also be an esports arena going in the Nebraska Union. 

Shari Veil, dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, said she looked for underutilized space at UNL when considering where to build the arena. When scouting, the union became the perfect place to build it.

“I personally really wanted to get it in the union because I wanted to help create this space for community, a centralized place,” Veil said. “If we built it here in Andersen Hall or close by any one of our areas, it would become the College of Journalism's esports team. That's not what it is. It is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's esports team.”

Concept drawings for the esports arena.

While the College of Journalism and Mass Communications is helping put together the space for a team, the Nebraska Esports Club is working with the school to create a flow of casual players to professional. Not only are the two organizations working hand-in-hand, Veil said having the team opens up opportunities for scholarships. 

“We had been working for a couple years with the esports club, and the club's been around for a while. That's all student-run and established by the students who have been working there for a while,” Veil said. “We have 10 scholarships available right now, and we'll see how that goes. This is kind of a testbed a little bit.”

Veil said she hopes, in the future, students will be able to use it for free, but until then, there are plans to create a subscription service. 

“The dream would be to bring in a wonderful sponsor, and then it's just free for everyone to play,” Veil said. “But we have to be able to keep the machines up and fix the machines and keep them going. So I expect it'll be similar to other universities where you can do a monthly subscription to be able to go in [and] play whenever. So more to come on how to build the system first.”

Not only is Veil working with the Esports Club, Ahman Green, lecturer and coach for the esports team at UNL, said he is working closely with the club to develop a team for next year. However, he still wants to keep the club side of it available for players who don’t want to play competitively, Green said.

“We still want to have the club side of it,” Green said. “But then take some of the club members that want to make a full commitment to the esports team, to the varsity team.”

While esports isn’t a traditional sport, Green said his experience in building and coaching the esports team at Lakeland University in Plymouth, Wisconsin, helps him when it comes to building the UNL team. 

“I know the process of everything,” Green said. “You know, I remember ordering tables and chairs for the facility, picking up the paint for the wall, picking out the monitors and the computers that are going to be in the gaming area.”

Coaching esports is hard to visualize; however, with Green’s experience, he said he knows what to look out for when coaching the sport. The most important thing is communication. 

“The number one thing I'm watching is the players and their communication, their verbal and nonverbal communication to one another,” Green said. “Because that depends on how good we are. If they don't have good communication verbally or nonverbally, then that's my job to show them how to do it.”

The esports team may seem like the only side of esports, yet there are other opportunities available to those not wanting to compete, Green said. Shoutcasting, color-commentating and video production are some of the ways students can get involved. 

The space will also be available for students to utilize, regardless of major or affiliation with the team.

“The part beyond the competition of competitive gaming is the production part of it. And that's where you can bring in students not even close to being on the roster,” Green said. “But they want to be a shoutcaster because they watch or they used to play casually any of the games that we compete in.”

UNL Esports Coach, Ahman Green and CoJMC Dean, Shari Veil