For Immediate Release:
December 4, 2023
Primary Media Contact:
Public Relations Specialist
Laurel Ridge Community College’s new esports arena is a place where students can have fun, interact with their peers, build their gaming skills and possibly even develop a career path.
The arena is in the Student Union Building and features 12 PCs and three Nintendo Switches. It opened this October and is already a popular spot. It takes over from the Smash Club that saw students playing games on consoles in the student lounge area. A new club, Lions Esports Organization (L.E.O.), has formed.
“Esports is a multi-billion dollar industry,” said Laurel Ridge student recreation and wellness specialist Angela Schroeder. “A Super Smash Bros. competition last year had more views than the Super Bowl because it’s international. It’s also a new industry, so people who learn esports management can go places to start programs from scratch.”
She said Laurel Ridge business administration students could transfer into Shenandoah University’s esports management degree program. Shenandoah offers certificates, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees related to esports.
Laurel Ridge received $50,000 to purchase equipment for the arena as part of a larger state grant SU received for its Hub for Innovation, Virtual Reality and Entrepreneurship (the HIVE).
Nolan Herndon is one of two Shenandoah University students interning at Laurel Ridge to help establish the program. He actually transferred from Clemson University, where he was studying electrical engineering, to SU to get an esports management degree. At Laurel Ridge, Herdon helped to establish the esports arena and a code of conduct, and “just generally set them up for success.”
“I think the arena looks really good,” he said. “It functions really nicely. We have plenty of room for any of our students who have wanted to come in and play. The Valorant team comes in every Wednesday for two to three hours, and we hear them talking and strategizing. It’s a whole lot of fun.”
Herndon explained the difference between esports and video games.
“Video games are casual,” he said. “You get with your friends to play them. Esports is more of a competitive scene – you’re making strategies. It’s more of a team game rather than ‘I’m going to play a game for fun.’ It’s really getting to know your other teammates.”
Logan Huber, who is studying cybersecurity at Laurel Ridge, is on the Valorant team. He said he grew up loving to play video games, so was happy to join the esports team.
“I’m not good enough to do it professionally,” said Huber, who added that teams that are very successful can earn “large sums of money.”
“If you were to win the whole tournament, you can make up to $1 million,” he said.
Elite teams receive sponsorship and branding deals, Huber noted.
Both Huber and Herndon believe there is a strong future for the esports industry.
“Right now, I’m looking more at either helping other colleges kind of manage or start their esports programs, or even going into project or event management where I can help these game leagues,” Herndon said regarding his post-degree plans.
It’s the community generated by esports that Schroeder especially appreciates. It’s open to all, whether they are competitive players or just interested in the recreational aspect of gaming.
“I like the fact that esports is inclusive,” she said. “Students who maybe want to be part of a team, but aren’t athletic are able to participate. We worked really hard to build an inclusive space for people from all walks of life. It’s really a welcoming space.”
About 50 people have signed up for L.E.O., according to Schroeder, including computer science student Charles Arvie.
“I’m just a fan of gaming, particularly Rocket League,” he said. “I wanted to get better and play with friends. I think the arena is wonderful. It’s kind of an even playing field.”
Learn more about Laurel Ridge’s esports program at laurelridge.edu/esports.
Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).
Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected], 173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.