Today, Governor Bobby Jindal, joined by Electronic Arts Inc. executive Bryan Neider and LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander, formally dedicated the Louisiana Digital Media Center at LSU. The technology hub spans 94,000 square feet and serves as the permanent home of the EA North American Test Center, or NATC, and the LSU Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT.
In mid-2011, state, local, federal and company leaders broke ground on the $29.3 million project that fulfills a collaborative vision to house EA’s commercial video game operations in the same facility with CCT’s high-performance computing research environment and the university’s Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies & Research program, or AVATAR, which provides students a multidisciplinary digital media curriculum. The state of Louisiana conceived and funded the Louisiana Digital Media Center in connection with its 2008 recruitment of EA to Baton Rouge.
EA will be the major private-sector tenant and occupy 30,000 square feet, while CCT will be the major university tenant, with 50,000 square feet. EA moved its game-testing operations into the facility in February 2013. Initially planning for 220 full- and part-time positions in 2008, EA has substantially exceeded its commitment to LED of an annual payroll of $5.7 million at the NATC. Employment at the NATC is expected to continue in the range of 400 to 600 people in the years ahead, with seasonal fluctuations corresponding to demand. Approximately 190 CCT faculty, staff and students also are located in the facility. Additionally, the center includes instructional space with cutting-edge audio/visual capabilities to support LSU’s academic research efforts related to digital media and software development.
Governor Jindal said, “This Louisiana Digital Media Center will host a cutting-edge community for university research and its intersection with commercial technology. We were proud to attract EA’s North American Test Center to our state’s capital, and this facility delivers on our promise to make LSU and Louisiana second to none in the development of our brightest young minds for the best jobs of the future. We’re especially proud to provide a state-of-the-art, contemporary home for the LSU Center for Computation and Technology and the university’s dynamic digital media courses and lab work that will prepare our students to win great new jobs in the digital media and software development sector that we’ve had such great success in recruiting to our state.
“Such companies as IBM, GE Capital, Gameloft, EA and CenturyLink are expanding and locating in our state because of our great business climate, our outstanding assets like the Louisiana Digital Media Center, and the wealth of new talent we’re developing to make Louisiana a cornerstone of next-generation software and technology applications.”
“Not long ago, jobs in the digital media sector were scarce in Louisiana. If students wanted to pursue careers in digital media and software, they would have to look outside our state — in California, Washington, Texas, Florida or Massachusetts. Now people can stay here in Louisiana to pursue the career of their dreams and raise their family at home.”
CCT had long sought a permanent LSU facility to house programs that accelerate academic and industry research in an innovative environment. The Louisiana Digital Media Center not only provides a contemporary facility for CCT, but also offers expanded technology workspace for EA employees who test games for EA’s extensive categories. Prior to its move to the Louisiana Digital Media Center in the past year, EA’s North American Test Center was housed in temporary offices on LSU’s South Campus.
“Our team at the North American Test Center in Baton Rouge plays a vital role in the game development process and we look forward to being a part of the Baton Rouge community for many years to come,” said Neider, EA’s senior vice president of Global Operations and Shared Services.
The Louisiana Digital Media Center is located between the John M. Parker Coliseum and the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center on the southeast corner of LSU’s campus.
“LSU is proud to be a partner in the Digital Media Center and the perfect marriage between education and industry it represents,” said LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander. “I believe we’re all aware of how important the digital media industry is to our state, and how fast it is growing. At LSU, we’re proud to supply solutions to these training and workforce demands, while also contributing technological advancements and computational needs for the digital media industry.”
In addition to housing EA and CCT, the Louisiana Digital Media Center is home to the AVATAR initiative that unites faculty from many disciplines and enables students to conduct research and to complete projects in virtual environments, digital art, electro-acoustic music, animation, video game design and scientific visualization. More than 200 students use the Louisiana Digital Media Center facilities and classrooms each week.
“The LDMC represents an important milestone for the university, and especially for the Center for Computation and Technology,” said Stephen Beck, former LSU CCT director and current director of the LSU School of Music. “The new building provides state-of-the-art labs and research spaces for our faculty, and finally brings us all together under one roof. It creates and encourages the collaboration among our diverse groups, and the new computing resources will enable the development of next-generation computer and media technologies.”
Construction of the Louisiana Digital Media Center was funded primarily by State of Louisiana capital outlay dollars. State contributions of $26.3 million were complemented by a $3 million infrastructure grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. This investment is part of more than $700 million the Jindal Administration has invested since 2008 in higher education infrastructure projects across the state.
“The Louisiana Digital Media Center is a facility that everyone in Baton Rouge can be proud of,” said Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden, who represents Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. “This new building brings together an industry leader and the talented students at LSU for opportunities to collaborate and innovate. The center is proof of what a great city we have and sends a message that we are serious about the digital media and technology sector.”
The Louisiana Digital Media Center joins a growing list of project wins signaling the expansion of Louisiana’s digital media and software development sector. In addition to the EA North American Test Center, Louisiana is home to Fortune 500 telecommunications provider CenturyLink, which is completing two expansions and adding 1,150 new jobs at its Monroe, La., headquarters by 2016; the 300-job GE Capital IT Center of Excellence and the 150-job Gameloft digital game development studio, both in New Orleans; the 800-job IBM technology center under construction in downtown Baton Rouge with temporary IBM offices already open in the city; and the 600-job Schumacher Group expansion in Lafayette, La., that will boost headquarters and training facility space for the emergency medicine technology company.
“The recruitment of EA was a huge step for the digital media sector in the Capital Region,” said President and CEO Adam Knapp of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “It set the stage for the development of this critical sector, one of the region’s target industries, which diversifies our economy. The Louisiana Digital Media Center would not have happened without the governor, LED, LSU, the mayor and city-parish, the LSU Research Foundation and BRAC all working together over many years to make something incredible happen.”
For more information about the center, visit http://laetc.com/louisiana-digital-media-center/.