PC cuts ribbon on historic Capitol Theatre as esports program moves into newly renovated facility in Laurens
Presbyterian College’s dream of launching a new social hub in Laurens came to fruition Thursday as the college and community celebrated the formal opening of the esports arena in the city’s historic Capitol Theatre.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Public Square attracted local municipal, county, and business leaders, as well as curious members of the community at large, to the site of PC’s first venture outside the Clinton city limits.
College president Dr. Matthew vandenBerg thanked its Laurens County partners – the City of Laurens, Laurens County Council, the Laurens Commission of Public Works, and private industry – for sharing PC’s vision for the Capitol Theatre.
“A little over a year ago, we gathered on this very spot to make an historic announcement,” vandenBerg said. “We shared that, for the first time in 141 years, the campus of PC would expand beyond the proverbial four walls of the City of Clinton. It was very intentional and purposeful and symbolic that PC’s expansion would happen right here in Laurens, where there’s tremendous vision, and collaboration, and partnership.”
President vandenBerg reminded the group that the Capitol Theatre project proves that small colleges and their host communities achieve great things when they work together.
“Our fates are intertwined,” he said. “We’re really one tide that rises and falls together. Because of that, we have to work together to drive economic prosperity and growth – and cultural prosperity and growth. At PC, that is true not just for the City of Clinton but for all of Laurens County, and that includes the City of Laurens.”
PC’s esports program in the Capitol Theatre represents the first phase of the facility’s renewal. The college will open a new restaurant and performing arts center this summer for cinema and live acts.
Laurens Mayor Nathan Senn said PC’s presence in the Capitol Theatre makes history by bringing esports to town and restoring history, providing residents with its first performing arts space in nearly 100 years.
“Now we are pursuing the cutting edge of what it means to offer a great quality of life for our residents,” Senn said. “Through esports, we’re offering a path towards scholarships for the young people of our community. We are partnering with a local higher education institution – our college – so that while this may be PC’s first launch in the city, we hope it’s not the last.
Senn said the effort with PC embraces local history, as well.
“We’re taking a historic theater and we’re bringing it back to life,” he said. “And once again, the City of Laurens will have a public performing arts space. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
Director of esports Victor Barcenas shared the president’s and mayor’s enthusiasm for the Capitol Theatre. The esports arena and training facility exceed expectations, he said.
“When I first saw it, I was so impressed that they turned a vintage movie theater into a modern, gaming environment,” Barcenas said. “They’ve given new life to such a historic piece of the Public Square. It was incredible to see the finished product.”
Barcenas said that the Capitol Theatre should impress his team, their PC classmates, and future Blue Hose.
“I think this place is definitely going to attract those students who want a small college, but also want to have options for different experiences and programs, including an outlet to get off campus,” he said. “I think the Capitol as the home for esports also helps make that happen, bringing options to check out downtown Laurens with it. We may be a small college in a small town, but we’re definitely capable of big surprises!”