Panther Esports levels up



Panther Esports was founded in 2016 and has grown to be one of the largest student organizations on campus with 235 members.

NIXSON BENITEZ, Executive Editor

One of the university’s largest student organizations finds a temporary home in place of former Health Beat

With many organizations being impacted by COVID-19 many clubs felt an impact in their funds from the past couple of years. Panther Esports has been one of those organizations struggling with funds, including finding a physical space for their club. After meeting with many administrators, Panther Esports and Tabletop Gaming will temporarily be hosting their new gaming hub in the old Health Beat gym near the tunnel connected to Maucker and Lang this fall semester. 

Acquiring this room did not come easy, as the leadership team reached out to the Rod library, ITTC and the Wellness and Recreation Center for a space for their team. Other options included the computer lab in the lower level of Maucker Union and the Purple Pen Room, but they didn’t move forward in those options due to inaccessibility and classes that were taking place.  Once they knew some of their options were cut down, the team was informed that the Health Beat was going vacant around the first week of August. Panther Esports took action in acquiring that space. 

Director of Student Involvement and Event Services Michael J. Bobeldyk emphasizes that the space is unused and is currently being evaluated for how it will be reprogrammed in the future. 

“We made the decision to open it up to allow a temporary use by Panther Esports to better understand how an Esports space might be used if [it were to be] created on campus,” he said. “We understand that Esports can play a role in recruiting students to college campuses as well as engaging students in a wide variety of opportunities, whether it be recreational or competitive play…. By allowing a temporary use, we have been able to provide an extremely low cost investment into seeing how might the student body support such a space.”

Panther Esports currently has 235 members in their clubs. 39 of them are in competitive teams. Some of the games Panther Esports plays are League of Legends, Call of Duty, Super Smash Ultimate, Valrant, Overwatch and more. 

“This room is more than just Esports for us, or at least for me. This room is supposed to be focused on the community and is bringing people together,” Esports president Tanner S. Braun said. “This room also fulfills like all of our long term goals, even though this is a very temporary and short term thing.”

Before this room was acquired Panther Esports would invest nearly their entire budget for room reservations in the Maucker Union Ballrooms and for regular Wednesday meetings. The club would also utilize the Maucker Union main floor to play games and to raise awareness of their club.

Esports Vice President Anna Plathe emphasized, “We currently only have this space for the fall semester. But we have been told that we could get the space in the old computer lab in Maucker in the future, but we’ve been told that before. So the future is unknown.” 

Both Plathe and Braun mentioned that although this is a temporary solution they are glad to have an advocate like Bobeldyk on their side.

Panther Esports Advisor and System Application Manager Jeff Chapin mentioned this was very important and a step in the right direction for both UNI and prospective students. Chapin emphasized that, “The students now have a ‘home’ on campus — already this semester, the members of the organization have been using this space in between classes, both to game, socialize and to study.” 

He said, “This is very important, both to the club and to UNI. Esports has matured to the point where it’s now common for students to consider how well established and furnished the Esports program is when selecting a school.”

2022 alumni Hunter White graduated this past May with a degree in accounting and business economics and has been a member of Panther Esports since 2018. White was involved in a variety of roles including shoutcasting and announcing in Esports, many of which resulted in more opportunities outside of his college career.

“As someone who has never had a space like that before, it means the world to me that new students will get the opportunity to utilize a much needed space,” White said. “For the longest time, Panther Esports has been missing a space, a factor that a lot of highly skilled players value, and UNI would miss [out] on these very valuable players because we did not have the accommodations they were looking for.”

Bobeldyk mentioned, “We are always looking for student’s feedback and suggestions with the use of Maucker Union in how to better serve students.”

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