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The scene at the Husky Gaming Expo at the University of Washington. (Washington Gaming Association Photo)

The University of Washington is adding another sport to its competitive landscape in Seattle with the addition of the new Esports Arena & Gaming Lounge in the school’s Husky Union Building (HUB).

According to a news release on Tuesday, the state-of-the-art, 1,000 square-foot gaming center, set to open this spring, will support both casual and competitive gaming and virtual reality. It will be partially funded by the Student Technology Fee.

Tapping into the highly popular world of competitive video games will make the UW both the largest public, higher education institution in the nation and the first university in the state of Washington to have a dedicated esports arena.

Gamer Dubs, an artwork preview of the UW’s Husky mascot. (UW Image)

“The gaming lounge represents an enormous opportunity to bring together the gaming community at the UW by providing a shared space that both competitive and casual gamers can use for gaming events, esports practices and casual play,” Kevin Zhou, a UW alumnus and former Washington Gaming Association president, said in the UW News story. “Additionally, the creation of this gaming lounge can provide a large variety of industry related applications, such as research in game development and tools for expanding broadcasting capabilities.”

A growing number of institutions are now offering esports scholarships as the industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. Forbes reported last year on the growth in esports scholarships among colleges and universities and how it could get as big as traditional sports on campus.

At the UW, the space is being designed by students, for students. There will be access to 40 high-end gaming computers, two VR systems, a casting station for live streaming to Twitch and popular, unlocked PC games. The lounge will also serve as a space for sponsored tournaments.

Rates for UW students will be $3.50 an hour or $30 for 10hours; UW faculty and staff will be $4.50 an hour or $40 for 10 hours; and the general public can gain access at $6 an hour.

The HUB Fund for Esports and Gaming will also target long-term goals by providing private support for Registered Student Organization programming grants, operations and scholarships for competition, and academic and career development opportunities in the gaming industry, according to UW News.

Follow project updates on this UW website.

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