eSports lounge opens for students


Jacob Boyko

Reece Mahatoo, president of the eSports club, plays Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo Switch in the new lounge.

Jacob Boyko, News Editor

South Dakota State University unveiled its new eSports lounge today, with the space offering students free access to cutting-edge PCs, game consoles and “finally” a home for eSports clubs. 

“It’s finally somewhere where people in eSports Club have a place to meet up and [can] share a common area,” eSports Club President Reece Mahatoo said. 

The lounge looks compact from the sidewalk on 11th Street—the only hint of its existence being a small trifold in the window—but inside is a team-sized computer lab with 12 PCs, three wall-mounted flat screens, two new Xbox Series consoles, a Nintendo Switch and two Oculus virtual reality headsets.

“Our goal was to be inclusive to everyone as far as competitive gaming and recreational gaming,” Chance Wiarda, graduate assistant of competitive sports, said. “Our PC lab is kind of our competitive-based gaming … and we have our console-based games out here in the console area. That’s going to be a little more of a casual vibe.”

Shari Landmark, SDSU’s director of recreation and fitness, said there’s still more to do after the grand opening.

“One of our virtual reality rooms, hopefully one day, will be a broadcast room, and that will really be for the club if they want to broadcast some of their competitions,” Landmark said. 

The eSports lounge will also have PlayStation 5 consoles in the near future, according to Landmark. 

Courtney Forrette, SDSU’s coordinator of competitive sports and camps, assisted in designing the layout of the space and researching equipment. 

“We know there are a lot of people interested in video gaming,” Forrette said. “We have the anticipation that we’re going to grow out of this pretty quick, but we’re also pretty excited to at least be able to offer this to our students.”

The Alienware brand computers feature Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics cards, 12-core Intel Core i7 processors, 16 gigabytes of RAM and solid state drives. The computer mice and keyboards have customizable RGB lighting, and each station has a Secretlab brand gaming chair. 

Landmark estimated about $100,000 was spent on the lounge and the equipment inside.

“It’s taken a long time for this to happen,” Landmark said. “We did tour [Dakota State University] and they did have the first lab in the state. Then [University of South Dakota] built theirs. [South Dakota School of Mines and Technology] is building one.” 

Mahatoo, a senior psychology major, says the eSports club at SDSU has grown since he joined as a freshman in 2019, making the space essential for members.

“We were pretty much just the League of Legends team,” Mahatoo said. “Then the club kind of grew a lot, and we branched into Counter-Strike, Valorant, Rocket League and we got [Super Smash Bros.] eventually … We also got [Call of Duty], Rainbow Six (and) Overwatch.”

Right now, there’s about 300 students in the club, according to Mahatoo. 

Any student, no matter their skill level, is welcome in the space to play, relax or do homework. Students may also bring their own games to play on the systems.

“You’ll see throughout the building there’s just spaces [where] students can sit and do some homework and just kind of have a social and chill area, which was really kind of intentional,” Landmark said.

The eSports lounge will be open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m Thursdays through Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. The lounge is at 1175 Medary Ave. across from the Agricultural Heritage Museum.