The new Toro Esports Academy officially opened with a flourish on Monday, April 24, with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by students, university officials, community partners, and a cohort of local gamers from Compton Unified School District.
In front of a crowd of Toros and local media, President Thomas A. Parham, with assistance from Wenda Fong, chair of the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees, and Franky Saldana, president of the CSUDH Esports Association, cut the ribbon to signify the official opening of the venue.
Located on the second floor of the Leo F. Cain University Library, the Toro Esports Academy features a competitive arena for students with 38 gaming stations, three broadcast stations equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, and practical classroom space that will enable academic courses to be taught on-site.
After the ribbon cutting, guests were invited to an outdoor reception, where Parham and others spoke of the importance and excitement surrounding CSUDH’s new esports space. President Parham reminded listeners of his commitment to esports as a vehicle for student preparedness, retention, and success.
Parham articulated the five aspects of esports that CSUDH focuses on: competition, academics and research, entertainment, opportunity, and community. He stressed that the community aspect involves both creating connections between Toro students and reaching out to the local areas that surround the campus.
“Esports at CSUDH is positioned to be a crucial engagement tool, and will help bring future Toros to our beautiful campus,” said Parham.
Fong followed up with her own enthusiastic take on the new facility. “I am excited about the tremendous potential that the Toro Esports Academy bring to the CSU, creating new, innovative paths to achieve our mission of student success.”
Other speakers included Alvaro Brito, esports director for Compton Unified School District, Mohsen Beheshti, chair of the CSUDH computer science department, Gerald Solomon, executive director of the Network of Academic and Scholastic Esports Federations, and Kevin Buchmiller, Kevin Buchmiller, director of esports at CSUDH..
The speeches were followed by tours of the facility and gaming demonstrations by students from Compton Unified School District, which has partnered with the Esports Association for a number of events and workshops aimed at developing computer skills in their student population.
Members of the Esports Association expressed their excitement at seeing the facility up and running. Jenn Gutierrez, who serves as the club’s secretary and diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator, said, “This has been anticipated for a really long time. It’s nice to finally have our own space, and seeing it built up the way it is now. I was here when everything was just in boxes, and to see how nice everything turned out is fun. I love it!”
Ricky Lopez, who represents the fighting game community on campus, as well as serving as the Esports Association event coordinator, added, “I’m really excited that this space is finally open for students to be able to do their thing. For me, as the event coordinator it’s important to find cool spaces for our students to have events.” Lopez emphasized that the facility will be used for on-campus events involving groups and organizations from across campus, not just esports.
Esports Administrative Coordinator Kelly Melendez said, “This is a great day. The students have been putting in so much hard work and they finally get to celebrate all the fruits of their labor.”
When asked what she’s most looking forward to about the new space, Melendez spoke for many students on the team. “I’m most excited to have the other Cal States come in here to play. It’s going to be fun to see our CSU rivals come to campus and see what’s going on here – and to show off!”