NWC esports program opens its doors

Posted 9/16/21

The Northwest College esports facility is now open and running.

“This is my heaven, straight-up. I’ve never been so happy,” said Kenny Dellisola, a graphic design student at NWC, …

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NWC esports program opens its doors


The Northwest College esports facility is now open and running.

“This is my heaven, straight-up. I’ve never been so happy,” said Kenny Dellisola, a graphic design student at NWC, during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new facility on Thursday. 

Besides a dedicated internet connection separate from the rest of the college network — which will keep esports athletes from sucking up the schools’ bandwidth — it features over a dozen top-tier gaming systems. 

“This has been two years in the making,” said Brian Erickson, NWC athletic director.

The esports program at the college is a “recruiting tool,” Erickson said, to help with enrollment rates at the college, as well as retention of students. 

The program will facilitate more social interactions among the students, Erickson said. 

“All the kids were gaming in their room. And now we have the opportunity to get them in here to learn some life skills, teamwork and communication,” the athletic director said. 

With gaming industry revenues in the tens of billions annually, esports is one of the fastest-growing competitive activities, Erickson said.

The original concept for the program began developing a couple years ago. Erickson had applied for grant funding to get the program started, when the COVID pandemic shut it down last year. 

“We’re pretty excited to finally open the esports center,” Erickson said. 

The liquid-cooled systems at the facility are fairly high end gaming computers. They have Intel i7 processors, 16 gigabytes of RAM, and Geforce RTX 3060 video cards.

The program is still trying to get students interested in competing, so the college doesn’t have an official Trapper esports team just yet. 

Eli Gunther, an NWC sophomore majoring in welding technology, said the Cody High School esports club started in the same way. He said it began pretty casual, but as more students joined, they got more serious about competing. Cody ended up with varsity and junior varsity teams. 

Once NWC has an official team entering sanctioned tournaments, Erickson said the esports athletes will be held to the same standards as any other athletes at NWC, including a minimum GPA.

Northwest College President Lisa Watson took some time to try out some games and speak about the new program. Besides serving in the role of president, Watson is also the college’s CFO, and in that role, she’s in regular discussions with the technology department. So, she’s aware of what times of the day the college sees the highest rates of internet usage and where. 

“I know what you guys are doing at 2:30 in the morning,” Watson joked.

Watson also spoke of the changing landscape of gaming, which, as it grows, is going outside its typical demographics. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is reporting an increased interest in gaming among the elderly, Watson said, though it tends to be lighter types of gaming.

In her own family, Watson said her children are sharing and discussing games with her parents. 

“They’re connecting in different ways than they might not have done before, and that’s kind of fun for me,” Watson said. 

Watson thanked Tri-County Telephone Communications for its support of the program. Besides providing the dedicated internet for the facility, TCT set aside some of its endowment at the NWC Foundation to support scholarships.

TCT CEO Richard Wardell is a former NWC student, way back when computers were just coming into use in the classroom. 

Wardell said the late Deb Koelling was his English composition professor and introduced him to computers. She required that her students use word processors for their assignments, and so he had to learn to use them.

“It was a game changer for me,” Wardell said.