The Panthers Den is a place for baseball and softball players to work on their batting stances and perfect their swings, and for soccer and lacrosse players to sharpen their dribbling and stick handling skills. Coaches will run local athletes through speed and agility drills and even hold film study sessions to work on the fundamentals of their sports.
The former Robohand Inc. building at 482 Pepper Street has been completely transformed. Four cameras will be set up in the 6,000-square-foot training room, carpeted in artificial turf. Nets for soccer and lacrosse will be set up by the door with three batting cages on the far side of the facility.
Bob Weimer is the manager of the Panthers Den, which is expected to open its doors either this Monday or Tuesday. Then the Den will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Though the training center is open to people from all over, Weimer said it's right in Monroe athletes' own backyard.
"You don't have to go on 95 or the Merritt," he said. "It's 10 minutes from everyone."
Parents will be able to relax in a lounge and watch their children train on a 60-inch flatscreen TV or change the channel for news, games or their favorite shows. The room has bar stools, two leather couches, vending machines and will have wifi, allowing them to get work done on their laptops.
Adults playing on softball teams and participating in other sports are also welcome to train in the Den. Weimer said child care will be provided in-house, with staff members watching children while their parents train. Children may also do their homework in the lounge.
In a room off the lounge, coaches and athletes will breakdown film together. "This will be called the War Room," said Bill Giugno, co-owner of the Panthers Den.
"The War Room" has a 16-foot conference table that can seat about 20 people. Weimer said parents will be able to access video from practices by logging onto their computers to watch their child train.
A Community Center
In addition to athletic training, Weimer said the Panthers Den offers rentals of the facility for birthday parties and other events.
"They can pick a sport out and there will be bounce houses," he said. "It's a sports center, but it's really a community center."
So far, coaches who have expressed interest in holding programs at the Panthers Den include Joe Izzo, lacrosse coach at St. Joseph's High School; Bryan Newmeyer of Monroe, who coaches soccer at Newtown High School; Terry Stroz, who coaches lacrosse, soccer and hockey at Masuk; and Kerri Swift, a fitness instructor.
Both Weimer and Guigno say interest in the Panthers Den opening in town has been strong.
"We're averaging 300-400 hits on the website and we're not even open yet," Guigno said.
"People really seem to be embracing this," Weimer agreed.
Aside from players from AYSO and Masuk Lacrosse, who have already shown interest in memberships, Weimer said several of the contractors renovating the building, who live in Monroe, are also anticipating the opening for their kids.
"It's made for the town by the town," Weimer said of the Panthers Den.