Historic building in Laurens reopens as Esports facility, entertainment venue

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LAURENS, S.C. (FOX Carolina) – The old Capitol Theatre in the heart of downtown Laurens is back open with a new purpose.

It’s a partnership between Presbyterian College and the city of Laurens.

“An actual place for us to be dedicated, to be focused in, is amazing,” said Presbyterian College Freshman Carlos.

At the front of the 10,000-square-foot building is PC’s new Esports arena.

“Competitive gaming,” explained Presbyterian College Esports Director Victor Barcenas.

A public grant helped the college buy and renovate the old movie theater.

“Did I think that we would take a vintage movie theater and turn it into something that is cutting edge and that’s literally the coolest Esports arena in the southeastern United States? I probably wouldn’t have guessed that, but I sure am happy with the result,” said Presbyterian College President Dr. Matthew vandenBerg.

There are ten students on the inaugural sports team at the college, including Carlos.

“Feels amazing to be a founding member and giving kids something to look forward to when going to college,” he said.

The freshman began playing video games at eight years old.

“It never stopped being a connection (with friends) that we could go to just play together, hang out, and deal with our problems,” he said.

A year and a half ago, PC launched the Esports program and started the process to renovate the building.

“We’re looking forward to having actual competitions begin in the fall of 2023 just because you know now we have this and it’s finally materializing,” said Barcenas.

In addition to serving as the Esports arena, the building will also have a movie theater, performing arts center, and a restaurant as the next phase of the renovation.

“I think a really major aspect of this project is that it will provide the first public performing arts space for the city of Laurens in nearly 100 years,” said Laurens Mayor Nathan Senn.

“We’re really one community, one county. It’s not just about any individual city within our county,” added vandenBerg.

Phase 2 of the renovation project is expected to be completed later in 2023.

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