Grizz Den for recreation and gaming opens in Oakland Center

There’s a new hub for recreation and gaming on Oakland University’s campus. On Feb. 10, the former Bear Cave officially reopened as the new Grizz Den in the lower level of the Oakland Center (OC). The Grizz Den features 24 gaming PCs, two Nintendo Switches with five docking stations, a Playstation 4 and Playstation 5, an Xbox One and Xbox Series X, as well as multiple recreational amenities.

Chris Reed, director of the Oakland Center, said plans to create the Grizz Den had been ongoing for the past three years, but were upended as the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

“Before the pandemic hit, we started to look at other spaces in the Oakland Center that could potentially house electronic sports (Esports) a couple of months before the athletics team was announced, because we knew it was something we wanted to bring to campus,” Reed said. “We looked at potential donors outside of the university to help support building such a space, and then the pandemic hit and things started to slow down — donors weren’t as keen on putting money up for something like this given everything that was going on early in the pandemic.”

Campuses across the country have been introducing similar gaming destinations in relation to the growing number of Esports teams. Reed says the Grizz Den will also potentially serve as a recruitment tool for prospective Esports players.

Although Esports was in mind during the Grizz Den creation process, Reed noted the aim for the den was to have a modernized space for students to enjoy gaming.

The Grizz Den PCs are currently equipped with four different games: League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Valorant, with hopes of offering more in the future.

Edward ‘Rahz’ Azzam, president of OU’s Rocket League Club and member of the varsity Rocket League Esports team, says he likes having a gaming space on campus that both encourages esports and creates an inviting atmosphere for anybody to enjoy.

“I think it’s a good show of faith from the university,” Azzam said. “It shows they’ve invested in Esports and believe in it because it would be hard to take this place down and reorganize it [into the Grizz Den]. I also like that it’s not just a varsity space, the varsity team has their own space, so this space is geared toward everyone else on campus which is nice. It gives people — such as people who are touring the campus or people who are already at the campus — the prospect into Esports and maybe entices them to get more involved.”

Similar to Reed, Azzam feels the den will allow prospective students to see OU’s efforts towards increasing Esports engagement. He feels the space also provides an opportunity for students to explore their interests and connect with other members of the campus community.

“I think, at the end of the day, even if your goal isn’t to become a player on the Esports team, I think it’s just a cool place to hang out and try out different games,” Azzam said. “These games, while they are competitive at high levels, are really fun to play if you’re just a casual player. You can just come here and hang out with your friends between classes or after classes, you’re never going to have a bad time here.”

Reed is excited about the Grizz Den officially being available for the campus community to enjoy, saying it serves as another way to demonstrate the University’s support for students.

He also hopes that in the near future, the den will allow the university to continue to build relationships with the surrounding communities saying, “it took a little longer than we wanted to, but to finally be here and have it open and see people using it, it’s very exciting, and to hear the positive feedback and how we can improve it [is welcomed] so we can continue to make sure it’s fitting what the students are looking for.”

For more information about the Grizz Den and its available amenities, visit the “Grizz Den” tab on the Oakland Center webpage.