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How the Panthers make money despite, er, losing money

Nov 26, 2012, 2:42 PM EDT

Garrison and Campbell Getty Images

If you’ve ever wondered why anyone would want to own a money-losing NHL team in South Florida, Panthers president Michael Yormark puts it this way:

“I often tell people, we’re in the entertainment business and we happen to own a hockey team. For us, it’s just about providing as much entertainment as we possibly can for our community.”

The “we” Yormark refers to is actually the Panthers’ parent company Sunrise Sports & Entertainment (SSE), which owns both the NHL club as well as an entity called Arena Operating Company (AOC), which as you may have guessed, operates the Sunrise arena in which the Panthers play, the BB&T Center.

The Panthers, as a standalone NHL franchise, aren’t profitable, according to estimates.

But AOC is.

Without the Panthers, however, there wouldn’t be an AOC. That’s because, back in the ‘90s, Broward County built the arena to lure the NHL franchise out of Miami. As part of the deal, the team’s ownership company was granted a 30-year license to operate the arena.

The hockey team, in other words, was the foot in the door.

“We’ve got a niche in the marketplace with our hockey team and a very loyal fanbase,” Yormark tells Forbes, “but our value proposition is all about the entertainment. It’s 170-200 events a year, almost two million people in this building on an annual basis, and we have been successful.”

This Friday, for example, the BB&T Center will host Beatdown 2012, a boxing competition with musical performances by Flo Rida, Fabolous, Waka Flocka, DMX, Travis Porter and Fat Joe. (Tickets are still available!)

Without the Panthers, there’s no rent from Beatdown 2012.

SSE also recently partnered with a Las Vegas gaming company in an attempt to build a casino on land around the arena.

“We are beginning to make a shift into the real estate business with this new venture,” said Yormark.

Without the Panthers, there’s no real estate business.

All of which is surely frustrating for the players, who are being asked to accept a smaller share of hockey-related revenues to offset owners’ losses that are, in some cases, being made up in other areas.

*****The Cult of Hockey and Defending Big D also wrote extensively on this.

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