Fresno Unified School District building Esports arena

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Unified is building a brand new playing field, and it's like none other they've designed before.

For students like Sunnyside High School Sophomore Natalie San, Esports is much more than just a hobby.

"I've been playing games ever since I was a little kid," said San. "I've learned to communicate with my teammates more."

Now more than ever, it's preparing students for the future.

"There's over 200 colleges offering scholarships for Esports players," said FUSD Chief Technology Officer Kurt Madden. "Just the University of California arena has $9 million worth of scholarships."

Fresno Unified started their own Esports league in 2018 with around 200 students participating each season.

"Online gaming, it provides many of the same benefits that field sports provides - communication, collaboration, competing," said FUSD Executive Director of Technology Tami Lundberg.

Now the district is stepping up their game, building a $1.5 million arena at an old woodshop building at Tehipite Middle School.

"It's a big empty room full of dreams," said Madden. "The board has set aside some big funds to help build it, it's been cleaned out and the architects are now involved."

They hope to finish the project by springs of 2022 with students using it that fall, giving students like San a place to perfect their craft.

"Seeing many players, play in those chairs, getting comfortable with the game, seems really fun," said San.

Funding for the project is coming from various bonds as well as the IT and athletic department budgets.
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