[Photo Story] Lebanon High School opens new esports facility

5 min read879 views and 184 shares Posted March 6, 2020

The realm of esports is a growing area of competition: gamers compete against each other in various games remotely or in-person to test skills, teamwork, and communication.

Lebanon High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new esports arena Wednesday, March 4. The arena was funded by a $35,000 PAsmart grant in collaboration with the Emerald Foundation, an organization focusing on healthcare and education.

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Esports club president Jey Weir, a Lebanon High School sophomore, takes part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. To her left is state Senator Dave Arnold (R -48) and to her right is Lebanon School District Superintendent Dr. Arthur Abrom.

The room will give Lebanon’s esports team a place to practice and host up to four teams in competition.

“A very big part of interscholastic events is to travel to other schools or have other schools travel here,” said Christopher Forry, one of the team’s coaches. “We’re really looking forward to being able to host teams if not this year, later next year.”

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Christopher Forry officially started coaching the team when it was created last year. Prior to that, he brought his own consoles into school so that students could unofficially compete.

Lebanon High School’s esports program was officially started last year.

Read more: Esports making inroads at Lebanon High School

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Up until now, the team borrowed a regular classroom for practices. This both limited the amount the team could practice and the comfort and effectiveness of the space.

Last year, members of the esports team focus on the game. Prior to the esports arena, the esports team borrowed a classroom, which led to limited practice time. (Matt Reigle)

“[The esports arena] is amazing,” said club president Jey Weir. “Now since we have our own classroom, we can come any day of the week.”

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Sophomore Jey Weir speaks during the ribbon cutting ceremony. During an interview, Weir mentioned that involvement in esports has pushed her to take on leadership roles and communicate with her teammates.

Now, the team has access to an 836 square-foot room with top-notch computers, 24 ergonomic chairs, and a high-speed Internet connection thanks to a custom fiber optic cable.

Some students sit at computers for gaming, while others stand at a TV set up with the Nintendo Switch. The room holds two TVs, both of which were hooked up to Nintendo Switches during the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“I think this grant is important because it provides equity for the students so that the students can all have the same equipment across the board,” said Brianna Titi of Emerald Foundation. “We’re just really excited to see this come to life.”

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Brianna Titi of the Emerald Foundation sits in one of the esports arena’s ergonomic chairs. The Emerald Foundation has been involved with Lebanon’s esports program since its origin last year.

They have access to the room whenever a coach is available. The team is in the room during 6:45 a.m. practices Monday through Thursday, during activity periods, and meetings or tournament matches after school.

During these practices, teammates practice communication. The largest tournaments the team competes in are first-person shooter game Overwatch and battle-arena game League of Legends, both in teams of six.

In some games, players compete in teams of up to six players. They strategize with teammates via headsets to defeat opponents.

“One of the biggest things is the idea that, traditionally, playing games is a pretty solitary event,” said coach Dan Figeuroa. “Having a team like this, you naturally bring people together, giving them a sense of ownership of that in the school.”

Coach Figueroa, who became an esports coach this school year, stands at the Shoutcasting station in the esports arena. The station allows for play-by-play announcements and livestreaming during matches.

In addition to competing in tournaments and matches, students are also encouraged to get involved in activities such as Beyond the Game challenges where they are encouraged to experiment with game and game-related design and creation.

“We are pretty much creating culture where we merge student interest with educational priorities,” said Forry. “Students are constantly changing, and that’s why we have to make adjustments for that.

“Gaming is a big part of their lives, and finding that balance and merging it as a culture of interest, enjoyment, and education, that is huge.”

Freshmen Jeremiah Polanco (left), Arnaldo Borges (middle), and Alexis Borges (right) play fighting game Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo Switch. All three are interested in creating games as well as playing them.

Freshmen Jeremiah Polanco, Arnaldo Borges, and Alexis Borges all are interested in designing games and are currently in various steps of the process.

When asked why they joined the esports team, Arnaldo Borges said, “For me it’s my passion of gaming and my passion of one day becoming a video game developer.”

Polanco said, “For me, it’s cooperation and playing with friends.”

Alexis Borges mentioned wanting to play more competitively in Smash Bros. and said that with esports, “Just playing Smash Bros. has brought me closer to making games than it has in the past.”

Students sit at the monitors practicing.

With the new esports arena, the players have a place to sharpen their skills, both in and out of the games themselves.

“It’s like any team, you get to be around people with similar interests and you get to depend on them,” said Figueroa. “That can be a vulnerable thing, to put your trust and depend in someone else, and that’s not an opportunity a lot of people get to experience weekly.”

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