Niner Esports celebrates nominations, funding for new facility

Niner Esports celebrates nominations, funding for new facility
Thursday, November 2, 2023

Niner Esports, UNC Charlotte’s esports club, is celebrating its four nominations for the Scholars Collegiate Gaming Awards. The club, which is one of the University’s largest student organizations, is nominated for:

  • Club of the Year
  • Team of the Year for its iRacing team
  • Local Area Network of the Year for the Union LAN Party the club hosts in the Popp Martin Student Union once per semester
  • Jorge Sanchez ‘23, a current alumni advisor and former Niner Esports president, for Collegiate Student Leader of the Year

To support the club, anyone with a valid email address can vote for Niner Esports on the Scholars website a max of once per day until Monday, Nov. 20.

Recently, the North Carolina General Assembly allocated $1.5 million to Niner Esports in this year’s state budget, which will be utilized to create a dedicated esports space in Norm’s Loft in the Popp Martin Student Union. UNC Charlotte will move forward with design and construction planning once funding is received. Representative Jason Saine ’95, a UNC Charlotte alumnus, was influential in the approval of the $1.5 million state appropriation.

Niner Esports started in 2013 with a few dozen students who played one game, “League of Legends,” together. It has grown exponentially since, with the club’s Discord server (an online community with text and voice channel for its members) holding more than 2,400 participants, most of whom are Charlotte students and alumni. 

Last December, Charlotte was among the 10 universities nominated for Collegiate Program of the Year at the Esports Awards. Nine of the competing institutions have varsity esports programs, while Charlotte was the only student-led club. Six months later, Niner Esports won Club of the Year at EsportsU’s 2023 Collegiate Awards, and Sanchez was runner-up for Club President of the Year.  

“We grew in virtually every area you can imagine,” Sanchez said. “The Esports Awards are the top awarding body in esports. To be on the world stage really sets us apart, especially as the only entirely student-run organization nominated.”

The club is for both competitive and casual gamers, with the latter being shown through the club’s LAN events, which involve hundreds of students playing together in Room 340 of the Union.

The future of Niner Esports is bright, and the club will continue to grow along with the expanding field of esports overall.

“As the esports industry grows, there are additional opportunities at Charlotte for academic connections in areas such as computer science, gaming design and development, video and streaming technology, art and storytelling, and business and marketing operations,” UNC Charlotte Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Kevin Bailey said. “We are looking for support to eventually create a dedicated space on campus that will allow the club to continue its expansion in a field that is evolving every day. When you look at Niner Esports’ national recognition and listen to the students’ experiences, it’s clear there are exciting things in store for the future.”

More information on Niner Esports can be found on the club’s website.

By Wyatt Crosher, assistant director of communications for student affairs; photo, Rep. Jason Saine ’95, third left, was influential in the approval of the $1.5 million state appropriation to create a dedicated esports space in Norm’s Loft in the Popp Martin Student Union.