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Becker a potential anchor tenant for Worcester Memorial Auditorium

September 10, 2018
Photo/Grant Welker
Photo/Grant Welker
Becker College could use the Worcester Memorial Auditorium for a media, technology and arts center, including for its renown video game design program, though plans are preliminary.

Becker College in Worcester is in talks to potentially become an anchor tenant at the Worcester Memorial Auditorium, which would bring a range of uses to the long-underutilized facility.

Becker may use the auditorium for a media, technology and arts center, including for its renown video game design program, according to a preservation group hired by the city to find new uses for the building. The firm, the Architectural Heritage Foundation of Boston, gave city officials an update on its plans, City Manager Edward Augustus wrote in a memo to the City Council ahead of its meeting Wednesday.

The Architectural Heritage Foundation said it is working with Becker to explore the feasibility of the college using the auditorium for its video game design program and other uses, including e-sports, a growing field in which a large pool of sports video game players compete against one another.

This fall, Becker became what it says is the first college in Massachusetts to offer scholarships to varsity e-sports students. Scholarships of up to $5,000 per year are awarded based on ability, academics, communication skills and playing position.

Plans for Becker to potentially use the auditorium are conceptual and exploratory at this stage, Michael Traynor, the city's chief development officer, said in a memo to the City Council.

Becker said in a statement Monday that officials from its School of Design & Technology and the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute, known as MassDiGI, have been in talks about potentially using the auditorium.

"To that end, we are involved in the planning, lending our extensive expertise as the group moves through the exploratory phase of this large and important project," the college said. "We are enthusiastic about the city's focus on renovation and reuse of prime and visible properties, which makes Worcester a more attractive city for prospective and current students. Although it's far too early to speculate about what our specific long-term involvement will be, we look forward to exploring all the possibilities within our future discussions."

New uses of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium could also include a restaurant and a movie theater, the Architectural Heritage Foundation said. The group has requested to the city an extension of a contact with the city allowing it to exclusively work toward a feasibility study for the auditorium, which was built in 1933. The city gave the foundation a first extension in February.

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