NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — The Illinois State University Board of Trustees approved a nearly $6 million renovation at the Bowling and Billiard Complex during its quarterly meeting on Friday.

The activity center within the complex will be transformed into the ISU E-Sports Gaming Center and Arena. It is expected to open in fall 2022.

Dr. Levester Johnson, ISU’s Vice President of Student Affairs said ISU has one of the top E-Sports programs in the country, and he is happy the board approved the measure.

“It’s really caught on fire on campus and it’s caught on fire nationally. So we just want to stay ahead of the game and to continue to be a top program in the country,” he said.

Trustee Rocky Donahue voted against the measure. He said he is a big supporter of E-Sports, but it’s way too expensive.

“The price tag just seems like a lot, especially when we heard today the potential for an entire new indoor practice facility, to take the place of Horton Field House. A field house that is $11.5 million. This is to renovate a conference room for $6 million.”

Johnson said it’s not just a renovation, but an investment in technology.

“Given the cost of technology and the construction of high-end technology like this, it’s not expensive. We’re not used to this within higher education, so it’s time to get into the game,” Johnson said.

The ISU Board of Trustees approved a $556 million budget for FY 2022, in addition to a number of other big-dollar projects.

Trustees authorized a $9 million project to upgrade the Center for the Visual Arts Rotunda Classroom Building. The project will include renovation of classroom spaces and upgrades to HVAC, lighting, fire safety systems, and data ports and cabling for classroom technology. 

Approval was given for a $5.35 million renovation of Watterson Dining Commons. The floors will be replaced, in addition to furniture, finishes, and lighting.

The Cardinal Court student housing complex will get a new roof for all five buildings, to the tune of $1 million.

Donahue said enrollment numbers are “strong”, with more than 20,000 thousand students enrolled.