When you walk into the Panzer Athletic Center at Montclair State University, the first words you see are “A Proud History.” The sunlight from the high, open windows reflects off the gold plated words, inviting you to take a closer look. It lights up the room, making you feel at home and welcome, as you prepare to find out why the center holds so much pride.
NCAA trophies and plaques sit tall and triumphant in the glass trophy case underneath, showcasing all the outstanding performances of MSU’s sports teams, especially the women’s basketball team, which has been in the NCAA tournament for 5 consecutive years now.
Beneath your feet lies the Montclair State crest and the words “carpe diem,” translating into “seize the day,” and the year 1908 – when MSU was first established. Through the double doors on each side, a glare from the shiny wood floors within meets the light pouring in.
Once inside, a sea of red and white floods the court. Banners hang within, displaying more accomplishments of the teams that call this gym home.
Panzer Athletic Center has been home to Montclair State Athletics for over half a century. Basketball has been played in the gymnasium since the 1950’s, and it’s no surprise that the sport still dominates to this day. In 1958, it was dedicated to Swiss-born gymnast Henry Panzer, and it was at this time that the Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene of East Orange, New Jersey merged with what was then known as Montclair State College.
It is no question that Panzer does indeed have a proud history, and it credits most of it to the success of the women’s basketball team, which has its mark branded on every wall.
Head basketball coach Karin Harvey has successfully built up a strong program with the players, and through hard work, dedication and an open mind when it comes to her team, has come out in the top ranks of the Division III New Jersey Athletic Conference.
The sound of sneakers squeaking against the wood floors,
basketballs bouncing and thudding across the court,
the communication between the players,
the smack against their hands as they pass it to and fro,
the vibration of the backboard,
the swish of the net,
and the sharp loud signal of the buzzer are all very familiar sounds to the team, coaches and any Panzer visitors.
Another common sound is the roar of the crowd that inhabits the bleacher seats on either side of the gym at Panzer during a home game. Now, the sea of red and white has multiplied in size and is mobile, hands clapping and heads moving side to side as fans, friends and family zone in on the energy and intensity happening on the court.
It is undeniable that a buzz of excitement is in the air as the team races up and down the court, making plays and shots that send the audience into a frenzy. Jeff Tobie, father of current senior captain Kate Tobie and alum player Melissa Tobie, says, “I like Panzer, I’ve been coming here for seven years now. I enjoy the court and when it’s filled up, it’s really pretty electrifying.”
Melissa Tobie also listed the crowd as one of the key differences between home games at Panzer and away games. “The crowd is obviously different, especially here in the second semester we can get a decent sized crowd and it’s always nice to play with the support behind you. It kind of just gets you a little bit more ramped up when things are going well. When you’re away you’re not on a court that you’re familiar with playing on, so sometimes it takes a little adjusting to the background,” she said.
There is no doubt that there is a culture surrounding Panzer Athletic Center. It draws people in with its architecture and design, its state of the art fitness center, multiple gyms, and other impressive features. However, what really makes this place special are the milestones reached within its walls by the women’s basketball team, and the people who have shown them support throughout the years.
Cymone Paul, a frequent attendee of Montclair State games says, “I’ve come here to watch a few different sports, but watching the women’s basketball team is by far the most exciting to me. It really makes me feel pride when I see our team doing so well and they really kill it out there. I catch myself sitting on the edge of my seat sometimes and even biting my nails with anxiety and excitement while watching them. I think they really had a part in making this place as legendary as it is.”