Converse University Secures Space in Drayton Mills Marketplace for Inaugural Esports Program

Artist's conceptual illustration of proposed interior design plan. Subject to change.

Artist's conceptual illustration of proposed interior design plan. Subject to change.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (July 14, 2021) – Converse University has secured a dynamic space within the historic Drayton Mills Marketplace in Spartanburg, S.C. to house Converse Athletics’ inaugural co-educational esports program. Located 2 miles from Converse’s main campus, the 2,500-square-foot space at Drayton Mills features distinctive exposed brick, broad windows, 25-foot ceilings, modern glass doors, and an elevated 2-story loft. The venue blends rich historic architecture with bold, modern elements.

Converse plans to incorporate design concepts from current Interior Design and Graphic Design students as well as faculty members to create an aesthetically-pleasing, attention-grabbing hub with supportive infrastructure, gaming stations, and equipment for the Valkyries esports team, to be opened in August 2021. The space will also allow up-and-coming esports athletes from local high schools to fuel their passion for esports and utilize the training hub through clubs, camps, and community events. Converse also plans to create and broadcast live-streamed esports competitions to the main Converse campus to engage the campus community and allow students to gain IT experience as they execute the broadcasting.

“We are thrilled to establish a presence at Drayton Mills and expand our influence in the greater Spartanburg community,” said Jenn Bell, Athletic Director for Converse. “With this elevated space, our Valkyries esports team will be able to thrive as a robust collegiate team with student-athletes from all over the world. As the suite in the Drayton Mills Marketplace becomes an esports hub for collegiate student-athletes and community members, Converse looks forward to drawing local and national attention, putting Spartanburg on the global map as we drive our region vibrantly forward. It’s a very exciting time at Converse in Athletics.”

Currently, the inaugural esports program has signed 40 incoming students from all over the world, many of whom receive competitive athletic scholarships, as well as current Converse students. The co-educational program is led by Head Coach Max Wood, who came to Converse in January 2021 as its first esports Coach in program history.

“Admittedly, in the beginning, it was challenging to convince people to add the esports program. The interest it has generated with students, the work Coach Wood has done, and now the launch at Drayton Mills sets this program up for a strong future at Converse. I couldn’t be prouder,” noted former President Krista Newkirk, who first introduced the idea of starting an esports program at Converse. With the growth of collegiate esports, Converse will promote its strong STEM programs, including Computer Science offerings that advance the opportunities of our esports students.

“We are excited with where our esports program at Converse is heading, with about 40+ talented student-athletes from all over the world gearing up for Fall 2021,” said Max Wood, Head Coach of Converse esports. “This is just the beginning. With the talent we’ve already recruited, and now with this amazing space to really support us, we’re aiming to be in the Top 25 Colleges and Universities for esports in the nation. More than anything, I think being passionate about esports is so important to being an elite competitor, and we’re always looking for ways to involve others in the community that love it as much as we do.”

Student-athletes on the Converse esports team will have structured schedules for academics, gaming, and community involvement, and will be held to the same standards as all other Converse collegiate student-athletes. In addition, Valkyries esports student-athletes will benefit from using all of the resources on the Converse campus that are currently being used by the NCAA and IHSA student-athletes, which include the tutoring lab, writing center, strength and conditioning center, and more.

The location of the esports suite is adjacent to the Drayton Mills community pond, 20,000-square-foot community event lawn, and 3-mile greenway trail that connects to the Spartanburg trail network, and has the potential to grab attention from those in the Drayton Mills and greater Spartanburg community.

“Our goal for the overall development of all of Drayton Mills has always been to create a vibrant community where living, learning, working and playing can all occur here as it historically did in the days of the operating mill,” said Tara Sherbert, Owner and Developer of Drayton Mills and Managing Principal of The Sherbert Group.

“We believe esports is a perfect piece to finishing off our vibrant community puzzle,” continues Sherbert. “The community interaction component of the program falls directly in line with our extensive on-site programming and constant focus of bringing communities together. Recreating history beautifully takes community, and we are beyond proud that Converse has trusted our campus with this incredible and cutting-edge program.”

The Valkyries esports team is preparing to compete in the Carolina Esports Conference this year– a regional-based championship to title the Best Esports Program in the Carolinas.

About Converse University

Converse University empowers students to become transformative leaders who see clearly, decide wisely, and act justly. Converse was founded in 1889 by citizens of Spartanburg, SC, who aimed to create an educational experience for women, and in fall 2020 it welcomed its first undergraduate co-educational incoming class. The University encompasses the School of Humanities, Sciences, and Business; the School of the Arts; the School of Education and Graduate Studies; and the Converse College for Women. Converse students experience deep scholarship, transformative mentorship, experiential learning, and wonderful support for and belief in each other. Through this unique formula, Converse is a creator of opportunity for its students through a personalized education that also includes the professional and technical skills graduates need to be successful in their careers.

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