A plan to bring Presbyterian College esports and a PC-branded venue to Laurens was shelved Tuesday as the college announced that it is transferring ownership of the historic Capitol Theatre to the City of Laurens.
PC made the announcement on its website Tuesday, coinciding with announcements from city officials.
“As we heard from our esports team members, it became clear there were concerns about the esports arena being away from campus,” said PC president Anita Gustafson. “As a result of those conversations, we believe it is in the best interest of the students to move the esports arena to campus. We value the relationship with the City of Laurens and believe deeding the property over to the city will be more advantageous to the overall community in the long run.”
PC announced the purchase of the Capitol Theatre in Oct. 2021 as a venue for esports and a restaurant, movie theater, and performing arts center for students and the community. The plan was launched under PC’s previous administration headed by then president Matthew vandenBerg, who left PC this past summer for Ohio Wesleyan, and Laurens Mayor Nathan Senn.
“This isn’t like PC is pulling out of Laurens and this relationship is over,” Senn said. “It’s the opposite. This still provides opportunities for (PC) student performances at the Capitol. . . . The city’s interest in having a performance arts space is unchanged. The only difference is who’s name will be on the deed. The city will take a little bit more of a leadership role in planning for the future, and it allows us to control our own destiny a little more.”
PC’s esports competitions could still be streamed to the theatre, even if PC players are physically on the Clinton campus. City Parks and Recreation Director Jason Pridgen has long touted esports for his department as part of a statewide recreation league for youth.
PC completed a large renovation project, including the repair of some structural issues and the installation of a commercial kitchen, with plans to open the venue this fall.
“We are enormously grateful for the amount of work and the renovations Presbyterian College has done to preserve and restore this amazing and historic building on the Square,” Senn said. “We will continue to work with PC to bring our two communities closer and give its students a place they can enjoy off campus.”
With the City of Laurens taking ownership, Senn said those plans of a fall opening is only slightly delayed. He is also seeking input from local citizens for ideas for the future of the Capitol. He said he believes the reopening of the Capitol under the city’s ownership will be a “major boon” for the city.
“We’re already gearing up to show movies on the silver screen! But that’s not all; We believe in the magic of collective imagination. We’re eager to engage with all of you, our vibrant community, to brainstorm innovative ways to breathe life and purpose into this cherished space,” Senn wrote in a social media post. “Whether it’s hosting local musical talents, student performances, small plays or community dialogues – the possibilities are boundless. With space previously allocated for esports now available for other purposes, we’ll consider the best way to use the space.”