WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University is transforming part of an unused armory building on its main campus into a state-of-the-art esports arena, which is set to open in August, the university announced Tuesday.
The Virginia High School League (VHSL) also announced on Tuesday that, in conjunction with PlayVS, it is launching a one-year esports pilot program in Virginia public high schools for the 2019-20 school year. PlayVS is an official high school esports league.
“With esports continuing to grow at the professional, collegiate and high school levels, this arena will be a landmark for esports in the area,” Joey Gawrysiak, SU’s director of esports, said in a media release.
Gawrysiak is helping the VHSL launch its esports pilot program statewide. As a result of the partnership, Shenandoah may host Virginia’s first-ever high school esports state invitational championship in the coming year.
The 1,571-square-foot arena will serve as a practice facility for the university’s 35-member esports varsity team and as a public esports venue where spectators can watch weekly matches. It also will help students in the university’s new bachelor of science in esports, which launches this fall, by giving them hands-on learning experiences.
Inside the arena there will be a stage, 12 competitor stations, 70 spectator seats, a broadcasting booth and three 12-foot projector screens on three walls. The university is partnering with Logitech International to supply some of the equipment. The arena will be mobile, so it can be packed up and taken to matches and off-campus events.
The armory building, located on Millwood Avenue, opened in 1940 during World War II. Ten years ago, it was replaced by the Cherry-Beasley Readiness Center on Pendleton Drive in Frederick County. It was around that time that the university purchased the armory for $750,000. Since then, the building has served as an auxiliary facility for various purposes including virtual reality emergency training and community events. The esports arena will be installed in the building’s garage bay, which was built in 1977.