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The University of Arizona announced Monday that they will transition their Arizona Esports club into an official esports program after the organization worked for years to earn official recognition. The program will start competing against other official university esports programs in the fall.

In recognition of their status as an official program, Arizona Esports will begin expanding their game room on campus into a full fledged esports arena. The first phase of renovations for the arena are expected to be completed by the end of April. The program is currently working on obtaining arena sponsorships, as well. Student scholarships are also a top priority for the program according to their official press release.

The UA added that they would like to eventually integrate esports into some of their degree curriculum. This would give esports players a chance at obtaining esports industry experience outside of just competing. Some of the degrees listed in the press release include broadcast journalism, sports management and game design. UA Esports club president Liam Koenneker said he sees Arizona Esports being a powerhouse and role model in the collegiate esports scene going forward.

“Gamers make up a large portion, if not a majority, of our society today,” Koenneker said in the press release. “Being able to facilitate that kind of culture and to provide a place for that to grow, turn into career aspirations, turn into scholarships, is really important.”

According to Koenneker, Arizona Esports is home to more than 1700 members on campus. The program also has 100 members competing across 14 different esports titles.

The history of collegiate esports in Arizona

The UA will become the second division one school in the state of Arizona to have a university backed program, after Grand Canyon University.  GCU, whose program is a few years old, has been a trendsetter for other schools in the state and has shown the potential of an official program. Their program already includes scholarships, a state-of-the-art facility on campus, paid coaches and travel opportunities to play against other universities.

Arizona State University, UA’s rival school, is the only other division one school in the state without an official esports program. Despite this, ASU has been a dominant force in the collegiate esports scene. Outside of multiple national championships, ASU recently won the College League of Legends Western Conference and will play at the 2021 Collegiate Championship later this year.

Up to this point, the UA Esports club has already seen some success in the collegiate esports scene. The club’s biggest accomplishment came after their Rocket League team captured the Collegiate Rocket League Fall finals in December of 2018.