One of the fastest growing sports in the country is expanding its footprint in the Wyoming Valley.
King’s College announced on Dec. 31 it is adding an esports program for the fall of 2020.
Esports is competitive video gaming, in which players compete online against other schools in a variety of different games.
“Coupled with the college’s other men’s and women’s sports, esports represents a significant growth potential in attracting and retaining students,” King’s associate vice president and executive director of InterCollegiate Athletics and Recreation Cheryl Ish said in a statement from the school. “Esports will add another dimension to the landscape of extracurricular offerings for our students. We hope to get out in front of the esports movement that’s evolving on scholastic and college campuses nationwide.”
King’s joins Misericordia as local schools fielding esports programs. The Cougars started their program last fall.
King’s will join the National Association of Collegiate Esports, the national governing body that currently includes over 130 colleges across the country.
Along with Misericordia, seven other Middle Atlantic Conference schools offer esports — Albright, DeSales, Hood, Lebanon Valley, Stevenson, Widener and Arcadia. Lackawanna College also offers esports.
In 2014, Robert Morris University-Illinois was the first university to field a varsity esports team, and the sport rapidly spread across the country.
The NACE boasts that over 5,000 student athletes compete in esports nationwide, with $16 million handed out in esports scholarships and aid.
ESPN hosted its inaugural Collegiate Esports Championships in May that was also broadcast online, drawing just under two million total streams and more than 20,000 viewers for some of the final matches.
According to King’s, the program plans on starting by competing in three of the most popular national games: League of Legends, Rocket League and Hearthstone.
The school said the program will practice and compete in an esports arena on the corner of North Main Street and East North Street, the former home of Leo’s on Mane restaurant. Coaching searches will begin this coming spring.
“We are excited about the addition of esports at King’s College and the opportunities it presents for our students,” said King’s College president Rev. John Ryan in a statement. “One attractive feature of esports is the coming together of individual ‘gamers’ and learning to operate as a team, developing the social and technical skills necessary to make both a living and a life.”