A $750,000 gift from Town & Country Federal Credit Union will create a new esports arena

The University of Southern Maine Foundation announced it has received a $750,000 gift from Town & Country Federal Credit Union to build a permanent Esports arena on the University of Southern Maine (USM) Gorham campus and help fund USM’s Esports program. Town & Country, Maine’s second largest credit union with 40,000 members, will be the Founding Sponsor of the popular Esports program, which is now the largest club sport at USM and the largest collegiate Esports program in Maine. 

Students, faculty, and staff gathered at the Brooks Student Center on the USM Gorham campus, site of the new Esports arena, which will be ready for action next fall. The announcement came with remarks about the many positive impacts of the arena, including its ability to provide equitable access to a state-of-the-art facility for USM’s talented players, who just celebrated a highly successful season of intercollegiate Esports competition. The new arena is also expected to be a recruitment driver for USM. 

The new facility will be called the Collab: Esports Arena by Town & Country. Collab is a soon-to-be announced new endeavor from Town & Country focused on facilitating collaboration and bringing people and organizations together to build stronger communities, both socially and economically. The credit union will be revealing additional details in the coming weeks and months about Collab.

One of the fastest-growing sports on college campuses across the country, Esports (short for electronic sports) is a form of organized, multiplayer video game competition. Like traditional sports, Esports involves teams competing in conference tournaments, such as the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) competitions.

“We are deeply grateful to Town & Country for championing Esports at USM and understanding the value and importance of an Esports arena on campus, as well as the benefit to the community at-large,” said USM’s President, Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson. “Because of their incredible generosity, foresight and vision, the new Collab: Esports Arena by Town & Country at USM will soon bring students together to build the strong social connections that help people thrive. We know that prospective USM students are going to love this, too.”

David Libby, President and CEO of Town & Country Federal Credit Union, said such a significant investment in USM’s Esports program “provides a unique opportunity for our organization to collaborate with the University of Southern Maine. This partnership aligns with our goals that include supporting higher education by facilitating new and innovative hands-on learning and engagement for current and future students. Creating and investing in a state-of-the-art hub for events and activities enhances not only USM but also supports and strengthens the local community and economy.”

An Esports arena is a large, open, gaming-ready space where students can gather in person to play, watch, and livestream together. The Town & Country gift will support the technology, equipment and infrastructure buildout required for Esports, which typically includes computers, gaming consoles, and furniture for gaming stations, as well as internet and networking capabilities and HVAC system upgrades. Collab: Esports Arena by Town & Country will also include a broadcast area for student commentators during live-streamed competitions.

Overseen by USM’s Office of Student Affairs, the new facility will enable USM to host state and regional competitions and attract potential students from around the region to campus––a distinct recruitment advantage. Other opportunities include collaboration with USM’s new academic Minor in Esports Management at the School of Business. The first course with Esports content will be offered this spring with a focus on legal aspects and implications for Esports managers.

The activity took off at USM with the formation of the University’s first Esports Club in January 2023. Despite the lack of an Esports arena on campus, participation in the club nearly doubled in less than a year. Today, more than 170 students are active members of the program, including 70 who participate in ECAC competitions.

The USM Esports Club captured second place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s League of Legends championship match on December 14, 2023, and established the nascent program as a force to be reckoned with in the coming season and beyond. USM Esports teams compete in the ECAC in 15 different games. In spring 2023, only two teams made the quarter finals, and neither advanced beyond that round. In fall 2023, three squads made the playoffs in three different games, and two competed in the finals.

Commenting on the team’s success, Michael Brown, Chairman of the USM Esports Executive Committee, said, “Our players are consistently winning more than their share of individual awards. That really says something about our program here at USM.”

Katriana Thebarge, USM’s Coordinator of Recreation, commented, “Our Esports community is thrilled to have an arena on USM’s Gorham campus. A facility like this will help erase some of the barriers to play for students who don’t own the most up-to-date equipment or have access to space on campus to compete. An arena will get gamers out of their dorm rooms for fun, in-person activities and competition.”

“Town & Country has a long history of innovation and developing collaborative partnerships that are impactful and sustainable,” said Libby. “Esports on college campuses is a growing phenomenon and we are proud to play a critical role in helping USM develop the preeminent facility and program in Maine. The benefits of Esports at the collegiate level include community building, skill development, and career opportunities for participants and spectators. The new Esports arena will help level the playing field by giving all students access to top-grade equipment and a positive gaming environment, which will help this popular club sport grow in an equitable way. Esports can also have an impact on building healthy campus communities and we’re really looking forward to getting involved. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the connection between Town & Country and the University of Southern Maine.”

As the Founding Sponsor of the USM Esports Program, Town & Country will serve as a special innovation advisor to USM’s student-led Esports Advisory Committee. They will also receive recognition on team uniforms, at regional and state competitions, and in future Esports podcasts. Town & Country is already consulting with SMRT Architects and Engineers, who are helping with the schematic design phase of the project. The buildout of Collab: Esports Arena by Town & Country will go out to bid in January of next year and the arena is expected to open officially in August 2024.

About Town & Country Federal Credit Union

As Maine’s second-largest credit union with 40,000 members, Town & Country is a full-service financial institution offering a wide range of financial products and services to people who live, work, go to school, or worship in Cumberland and York Counties. In 2022, Town & Country was named “Best Credit Union in the 207” and “Best Mortgage Lender in the 207,” and was recently named “Best Credit Union” in the Best of Portland competition. It is also the only Maine credit union to be designated as one of Maine’s “Best Credit Unions” by Forbes in three out of the past six years. The credit union has approximately $550 million in assets and is part of the largest branch network in the country. To learn more, visit www.tcfcu.com.