This is an artist’s rendering of a proposed expansion and reconfiguring of space at the Century Center in South Bend. Provided image
This is an artist’s rendering of a proposed expansion and reconfiguring of space at the Century Center in South Bend. Provided image
SOUTH BEND — The Century Center could eventually slip into irrelevance if it doesn’t eventually receive a major makeover.

That’s the opinion of Jeff Jarnecke, who oversees the Century Center and other sites as executive director of the city’s venues, and a study that concluded that as much as $85 million might have to be spent to keep the facility competitive with convention centers in other midsize cities.

On Wednesday, the Century Center’s board of managers asked Jarnecke to continue advancing the proposal by identifying possible sources of financing, partners and even groups that would be interested in using the revamped and possibly expanded facility to determine what is possible and justifiable.

“The way people design and use convention centers is very different than 45 years ago when the Century Center was first planned,” said Aaron Perri, executive director of the city’s department of Venues Parks & Arts. “It’s important that we’re keeping up with the needs and expectations of meeting planners.”

The first phase of the project would likely involve a $2.5 million renovation of the Bendix Theatre, which already is in need of new seating and carpeting. Instead of just refreshing the theatre, the study by Ratio Architects of Indianapolis builds the case for its conversion into an esports arena.

The work would involve the installation of video boards, sophisticated sound equipment, theatrical lighting, a stage for competitors, new seating for spectators and technology upgrades to support video gaming.

South Bend has informally hosted video game or esport competitions in the past, so Jarnecke knows there is interest in the community as well as on local college campuses, which already have organized some teams.

A growing number of colleges compete in leagues the same way they battle it out in football, basketball and other sports and some have begun offering scholarships to students they want who also happen to be top esports competitors.

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