Game On! Brand new, state-of-the-art facility welcomes ESports program
“The program is off to a fantastic start, and things are only going to get better from here.”
Game on! Utica University unveiled the long awaited, highly anticipated Carbone Family Esports Auditorium during Homecoming weekend. This brand new, state-of-the-art facility, located in Bull Hall, is home to the new Utica University Esports Program. Spearheaded by Utica’s own Daniel Sportello ’23, this new space will be the hub for Esports activities and tournaments, providing the same opportunities for teamwork, sportsmanship and strategizing as traditional sports.
Esports is rapidly growing among colleges and universities across North America, and this arena already allows Utica students to compete against some of the top Esports teams in the nation.
“Unlike traditional sports programs, Esports is not separated into divisions like the NCAA is, so no matter the size of the college or university, if they have an Esports team, they can compete,” said Sportello. “We have competed against Harvard, Wichita State, Texas A&M, Cornell, Virginia Tech, University of Albany, and so many more.”
Utica opened its 2022 Fall season with a huge win over the reigning Fall Eastern Coast Conference (ECC) champions of Valorant, Southern New Hampshire University, sweeping them 2-0, and as of October 6, Utica’s Call of Duty team was in a two-way tie for first place in the Eastern 3 Conference.
“The program is off to a fantastic start, and things are only going to get better from here,” Sportello said.
Currently, there are 25 active competitors in Utica’s Esports program, with more than 50 total students involved. These numbers are only expected to grow. In addition to the competition team, a student-run Esports club is in the works and will be available soon, which will allow any students from noobs to pros an opportunity to participate in “intramural” style play.
“This gives me the opportunity to pursue a passion in gaming, which is becoming much more mainstream nowadays,” says Justin Allen, sports management major from Hilton, N.Y., who is also co-captain of the men’s hockey team. “I personally get a ton of excitement from playing on the Call of Duty team. I enjoy hanging out with my teammates who also share the same love and passion that I do.”
The Esports Program is expected to be a huge draw for prospective students, and none of it would have been possible if not for Sportello. Gaming offered Sportello a therapeutic escape from reality after sustaining a spinal cord injury while in the service of our country in the U.S. Army. He drew inspiration for the program from a friend who established one of the first Esports programs in the country. Aspiring to take Utica’s previously disjointed club and create a collegiate-recognized competitive gaming program, he presented his idea to university leadership and they wholeheartedly supported his vision. Sportello and other Esport club members lobbied that having a dedicated space and program for Esports teams to practice and compete would erase the socioeconomic barriers gaming can pose, and give all students an opportunity to compete at the collegiate level. Investing in an Esports Program for the university would ultimately lead to high returns in both enrollment and student morale, making this a victory for the institution.
“Whether you prefer AAA or indie, this program presents exciting opportunities for students and there will be many opportunities to get involved, so don’t stay AFK for too long!” Sportello said.
-story and photos by Victoria DeLuca '24, PR Intern
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