Installation Spotlight: 4 Things to Know about Wake Tech's Esports Venues

The new esports classroom at Wake Tech.
(Image credit: Extron)

Esports was one of the larger trends at InfoComm 2024 this year, but it's nothing new for Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC. Wake Tech was one of the first higher learning institutions in the state to establish an esports program to complement its Simulation and Game Development academic degree track. Working with Raleigh-based Pro AV integrator Strategic Connections to upgrade and repurpose existing AV systems in a divisible classroom on the Southern Wake campus, Wake Tech transformed the space into a14-seat “home field” esports arena for the Wake Tech Eagles varsity team with Extron AV switching, distribution, control, and audio products powering the venue.

We took a deep dive into the installation with Joe da Silva, VP of marketing at Extron.

4 Things to Know About Wake Tech Esports

The new esports venue with gamers in headphones at Wake Tech.

(Image credit: Extron)

SCN: What was there before and why was change needed?

Joe da Silva: Once Wake Tech’s administrators committed to including esports as part of the school’s intercollegiate athletics program and allocating the funds to make that happen, the focus shifted immediately to setting-up a full-featured esports facility as quickly as possible within the allocated budget. To get up-and-running fast, Wake Tech’s in-house facilities and AV teams repurposed an existing divisible classroom on their main campus. The physical layout of the room with a retractable divider partition was ideal for esports, as it provided a natural flow of space between the gaming floor where players compete and a spectator area where audiences watch the action. 

An adjoining instructor office provided a good sound-isolated room for the shoutcaster play-by-play announcer. Continuing the repurposing strategy, the AV system that pipes gaming action to the room’s new OLED spectator screens and existing overhead speakers was assembled from Extron switching, distribution, and control equipment contained in the existing teaching lectern and from the school’s spare AV equipment inventory. To break into intercollegiate competitions quickly and at low cost, the gaming PCs run the open-source OBS Studio app to screencast and livestream over the school’s esports channel on the Twitch gaming platform. Once the initial rush to stand-up the esports facility passed, pro AV integrator Strategic Connections was brought in to modernize and upgrade the AV system with the latest Extron components.

SCN: Were there any challenges in the installation? 

JdS: There were no technical challenges to the installation. Structural changes to the room were minimal and easily accomplished. There were a couple of new cable pulls to get AV signals to where they were needed in the spectator area. The biggest challenge was to get the technology up and running as fast as possible, without exceeding their budget. The bulk of the budget went to outfitting the player stations with high-end gaming PCs, peripherals, gaming chairs, and other equipment that an esports team must have to seriously compete. Wake Tech’s in-house AV team had the expertise to design and build the AV system from gear that they had on hand, conserving the budget while still meeting the performance expectations of esports players and audiences. 

SCN: What was installed and why was it selected?

JdS: First and foremost, the AV equipment selection was based on what was on-hand, so that the AV system could be assembled immediately and without tapping into the budget for new equipment purchases.

The lectern is fitted with a Lenovo Legion tower gaming PC and a DTP T DSW 4K 233 three-input switching transmitter that accepts HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA video, and audio to send signals from the lectern to the main AV system. If needed, the lectern has all the network and AV connectivity required for it to function as an extra gaming station during competitions.

A credenza in the spectator lounge provides storage for Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation gaming consoles. All of these consoles are connected to the AV system. Those who bring their own gaming console can connect through an auxiliary HDMI cable.

The main AV equipment components are housed in the credenza. This includes a resident gaming PC for general-purpose use and for running various game apps, a DXP 88 HD 4K PLUS 8x8 matrix switcher, DTP transmitters and receivers, and an IPCP Pro 250 xi control processor. The switcher is configured to automatically switch to one of the three game consoles, based on which one is first to provide an active signal. Users can manually override the automatic mode using a 7-inch TouchLink Pro touchpanel on top of the credenza.

Part of converting the room from teaching to an esports venue involved bumping-up the sound system for gaming. A 200-watt XPA 2001 amplifier augments the AV system in the credenza and drives nine preexisting ceiling speakers.

Flanking the credenza to the left and right are two Alienware 55-inch OLED gaming monitors. Each display feeds audio to an SB 33 A soundbar mounted below it.

A WPD 163 HDMI pass-through wallplate is provided below each display where users can plug-in game consoles for local gameplay in the lounge area. An SW2 HD 4K PLUS two-input HDMI 4K/60 switcher is mounted behind each lounge area display to switch between the game console signals from the wallplates for individual gameplay and the competition gameplay signals from the main AV system in the credenza. The SW2 switchers are configured to automatically select the HDMI wallplate input when a game console is plugged in and providing an active signal.

SCN: What has been the response from the school/students?

JdS: Wake Tech launched their esports program with plans to start small and expand their capabilities if there was sufficient interest. With three national championships won since 2021, it’s evident that the enthusiasm is strong. Wake Tech has a current roster of approximately 20 players, and growing, on multiple intercollegiate esports teams. 

Wake Tech’s esports program started small on a modest budget. But as the Wake Tech Eagles rack up multiple national tournament championship wins, the program is poised for growth. Jennifer Unitis, Wake Tech’s associate director of academic technologies, said that her hope upon embarking on the esports project was “build it and they will come.” And so they did.

You can read the full case study here

Wayne Cavadi
Senior Content Manager

Wayne Cavadi is the senior content manager of Systems Contractor News. Prior to taking a leap into the Pro AV industry, Wayne was a journalist and content lead for Turner Sports, covering the NCAA, PGA, and Major and Minor League Baseball. His work has been featured in a variety of national publications including Bleacher Report, Lindy's Magazine, and The Advocate. When not writing, he hosts the DII Nation Podcast, committed to furthering the stories and careers of NCAA Division II student-athletes. Follow his work on Twitter at @WayneCavadi_2 or the SCN mag Twitter page.