Cannoneers add esports to JCC athletic offerings with renovated arena

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WATERTOWN — Sanctioned by the National Junior College Athletic Association in early 2022, esports has come to Jefferson Community College as its newest competitive collegiate team sport.

In preparation for the fall semester’s inaugural teams, the college showed off its newly renovated esports arena Thursday: a custom, wall-to-wall branded arena on the top floor of the Jules Center that features gaming stations, aerodynamic gaming chairs, three 70-inch TV monitors and Alienware software. Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, attendees had the chance to see gamers in action while college representatives provided tours of the arena and shared information on the upcoming esports season.

“Today’s a special day on campus to embark on a new adventure with esports,” said Daniel J. Dupee II, JCC’s administrator in charge. “Jefferson’s strategic plan is centered around four pillars, and with one of those being the student experience, introducing an esports program is focused squarely on enhancing the student experience here at Jefferson.”

Students can battle with the Cannoneers and earn college credits playing games like NBA 2K, Call of Duty, FIFA 21, Fortnite, Madden NFL 21, Overwatch, Valorant and more in the new arena.

According to Mr. Dupee, because JCC did this renovation internally with facility staff, the college ended up putting about $65,000 into the arena for carpeting, painting, graphics on the walls, the countertops and other cosmetic details. The big expense was the gaming equipment, which he said involved a roughly $4,500 a setup. The renovation took about four months.

“I think this is a great opportunity for the campus to engage with our students more, and I think it’s a great opportunity for our students to engage with one another more,” Mr. Dupee said.

He said the college is looking at possibly allowing the community to utilize the space in various ways — a school district wanting to start an esports team, for example, could use the space for that purpose.

Jeff Wiley, director of athletics, said esports is the fastest growing sport within the NCAA and the NJCAA. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, he toured a college that, at the time, had one of the best esports programs and facilities in the NCAA. He noted that he also attended numerous webinars and conferences, and with his own research and collaboration with colleges, helped put together a proposal for esports to come to the JCC campus.

“In fall ’22, we’ll be competing in the NJCAA esports leagues with games like FIFA, Hearthstone, Madden, Overwatch, Rainbow Six, Rocket League, Super Smash Brothers and Valorant in one of the best facilities — if not the best — among two-year colleges; it’s phenomenal,” he said.

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