College Esports Venues Heighten Competitive Play, Career Advancement

video games, esports, Svigals+Partners

With esports technology, education, gaming and competition on the rise—worldwide, the esports market is expected to soar from 2020’s $1.44 billion to $5.48 billion by 2029—casual gamers aren’t the only ones paying attention to the online activity. (Read more about the future of the esports market.)

When retrofitting space in the University of New Haven’s Bergami Center for Science, Technology & Innovation’s into an esports facility, designers had to consider technical aspects, including capacity, adaptability and gameplay requirements. PHOTO: Peter Aaron/OTTO

Colleges and universities are investing in esports programs and state-of-the-art facilities for student training, competitions and career development. These programs not only create excitement and support student recruitment, but they also provide opportunities for interdisciplinary study in athletics, business, health sciences, communications and behavioral studies. Additionally, they help prepare students for post-college careers in the esports industry.

As a retrofit opportunity, the facilities have a number of common technical and design requirements. In a co-authored chapter of the book Esports Business Management by David Hedlund, Gil Fried and Rick Smith (Human Kinetics, 2020), architects from Svigals + Partners laid out precepts for creating successful esports venues at higher-education facilities, integrating a range of factors: esports activities; facility systems; and the unique needs of players, fans and staff.

Some of these requirements include:

  • Flexible, multipurpose spaces that can accommodate different types of esports events, from training to competitions.
  • State-of-the-art technology and equipment, including high-end gaming PCs, displays and audio systems.
  • Proper ventilation and cooling to ensure the comfort and safety of players and staff.
  • Good acoustics to enhance the gaming experience for players and spectators.
  • Adequate power and data infrastructure to support the technology and equipment used in esports.
  • Accessibility for players and staff with disabilities.


The successful design of esports venues and settings in higher-education facilities is largely dependent on understanding and considering the needs of the end-users. This includes considering the different requirements for academic programs, club-team gaming, and extramural and varsity team play. It is important to identify and define the typical users of esports rooms and hubs and to understand the anticipated class size to inform the design, furnishings, lighting and equipment choices.

BEFORE: The Stable at the University of New Haven is a retrofit project within an existing, ideally located campus building. PHOTO: courtesy Svigals + Partners

The types of games and technologies used also play a significant role in the design and configuration of the space. This includes determining the appropriate seating arrangements, furniture selections, and effective materials and finishes. The game types and academic program requirements also determine the integration and layout of equipment and systems.

The settings for esports are often planned within larger academic departments or facility programs. In addition to collaborative classrooms, huddle spaces, a teaching auditorium, live broadcast studio, and makerspace at the University of New Haven’s Bergami Center for Science, Technology & Innovation, the award-winning new complex also includes an esports arena designed for varied needs related to esports management curriculum, student and faculty training, and varsity-level competitions.

Bergami Center’s esports facility, named “The Stable”, provides students with the space, equipment and technologies required to compete at high-level competitions; gain technical experience; and advance careers in esports management, business technology, game development and broadcasting. The University of New Haven’s esports program has grown to more than 200 club members, and its varsity team competes in most major esports events.

For another higher-education institution, a new esports venue has been built at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. In this case, the project team, including Svigals + Partners, designed specific zones for separate competitive, club, training and academic uses. In the hub’s main area, 24 gaming stations laid out in four rows of six seats allow for requisite five-person team gaming setups with the sixth seat for a substitute gamer. Nearby, a second zone offers a “digital den” to accommodate a four-person gaming console and a monitor for club members. To support teaching and coaching programs, the center also is equipped with mobile white boards, sus- pended wall monitors and a lectern.

These examples show how higher-education institutions are investing in esports centers that are designed to meet the specific needs of esports players, coaches and students studying in the field. The centers are multipurpose and equipped with state-of-the-art technology and equipment to provide students with the resources they need to excel in competitive gaming and in their studies. The centers also provide a gathering space for students to form communities and make connections with other esports enthusiasts.

About the Author

Chris Bockstael, AIA
With nearly 30 years’ experience, Chris Bockstael, AIA, a partner at Svigals + Partners, has championed a wide array of project types, including innovative academic facilities, corporate headquarters, commercial, mixed-use, research and development laboratories, health care, and retail. Known for his discerning eye, Bockstael is valued for his mastery as a lead designer and project architect. He approaches each project uniquely and believes the highest level of design and professional service go hand-in-hand. Bockstael approaches creativity through the holistic integration of sustainability, client vision, culture, and program to develop lasting and meaningful environments.

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