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Panthers ask for county money as they lose $20-30 million annually

Jan 10, 2014, 9:56 AM EST

This Oct. 10, 2013 photo shows Florida Panthers president Michael Yormark posing next to the new Panasonic HD scoreboard at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The scoreboard was purchased with a $4.2 million grant from Broward County and will be used when the Panthers play the Pittsburgh Penguins at the BB&T Center on Friday. (Photo by Omar Vega/Invision/AP) AP

The Florida Panthers entered the season with a new owner in Vincent Viola, but they haven’t left their financial troubles behind.

The team’s attendance has been lackluster and Panthers president Michael Yormark has stated that the team’s lost $20 million to $30 million annually. With that in mind, the Panthers feel it’s important to change their contract with Broward county in several significant ways, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Among other things, they want the $4.5 million they’re paying annually for the BB&T Center construction debt to be picked up by the county on top of the $8 million per year Broward is already contributing.

Yormark argued that the tourism tax the county originally created to cover its portion of the bill is bringing in more than expected, so that’s where he feels the money would come from. Meanwhile County Administrator Bertha Henry warned this could have “very significant implications” while County Auditor Evan Lukic still isn’t sold on the idea that this would help Broward.

Another major item on the Panthers’ agenda would be to swap the rights for some of the land surrounding the BB&T Center as part of a maneuver to build a casino-hotel, provided that the state passes new laws permitting it over the spring.

It’s also worth noting that the Panthers are prepared to make a commitment to maintain a payroll that would be competitive with the rest of the league. Presently, the team has the most cap space in the league, according to Cap Geek.

Meanwhile, Florida earned a 2-1 victory over Buffalo on Thursday in a battle between two of the league’s worst teams.

Related: How the Panthers make money despite, er, losing money

  1. amityvillefun - Jan 10, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    I wonder if Tim Thomas’ checks are bouncing.

    • supercoop8 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      Tim Thomas is paid in precious stones, copper wiring, and mustache wax. He is doing just fine,

      • joey4id - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        Yes! He is a huge differential in all the games. We’ll undoubtedly see the Panthers in the playoffs…. eventually long after he’ll be retired.

      • supercoop8 - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:34 PM

        Retired to a bomb shelter way sweeter than your bomb shelter.

  2. lallin66fan - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    Just move the team to Seattle or Portland already!

    • imleftcoast - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      This story is ridiculous. Seattle or Portland would support a young team with talent like the Panthers. Bettman cares more about a franchise fee and his bonus than the game and the league.

    • beergold - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      Or Quebec City but Seattle or Portland would be fine too!

      • lallin66fan - Jan 10, 2014 at 4:50 PM

        I think that a team for Portland/Seattle would be better than Quebec. The east have 16 teams and west only 14, but if Panthers relocated to western conference city it would be 15-15.

        But in the future the NHL could expand to Quebec and also Kansas City. Kansas would play in the Central division, Quebec in the Atlantic and Portland/Seattle in the Pacific. Then just move Tampa to Metropolitan and all division would have 8 teams. :)

    • westinpat - Jan 10, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      Let’s hold off until after March, planning a trip down there to see a game. Tickets are pretty cheap.

  3. tlow97 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Good to see hockey’s still working in the southeast.

    • storminator16 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      Don’t worry your little head, it is.

      • ibieiniid - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        he says on a story about how it isn’t.

      • storminator16 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        Yes, because what’s going on in the Miami suburbs encompasses all the southeast. Is that the logic I’m suppose to follow here?

      • ibieiniid - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        let the Canes/Bolts have a bad couple of seasons in a row and let’s see how hockey works out. the ‘Yotes, Canes, Bolts, and Panthers (and arguably the Caps) are the only teams who’s deal with a massive question mark every season. if the Canes or Lightning had the lack of success that the Leafs have, they’d be out of the league by now.

      • ibieiniid - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        maybe there’s a couple more you can put in there too. not sure what NSH’s attendance situation is.

      • tlow97 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        Because the Canadian retirees attend Habs/Leafs games?

      • comeonnowguys - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        The ‘Yotes are in the southwest. I hope you’re from above the 49th so you can at least blame that.

      • storminator16 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        Not sure why I even bothered to comment. Folks need to look at any situation they can, generalize it, bemoan it, anything to make themselves feel better when it is purely inconsequential. Whatever.

        I’m just still trying to figure out how labels such as “non-traditional hockey markets” and “Original 6″ makes certain folks all warm & fuzzy inside when it really makes no sense. Cash rules all; if you live your lives by labels so be it. Teams in your so-called “non traditional hockey markets” aren’t going anywhere so just deal with that and get over yourselves. Have a Coke, a smile, and shut it.

    • thatfaqinguy - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Other then being in the same state there isnt much room for comparison between the Bolts and Panthers. Tampa is currently 11th in avrage attendance, which is higher than then a few of the Canadian teams and alot of the “tradional hockey markets”. Tampa is also doing really in the standings, even though they are minus one of the premiere scorers in the league, as I hear Stamkos is ok. Better then any of the Canadian teams and alot of the “tradional hockey markets”. Matter of fact the owner of the team is using his own money and profits to devlope the arean and surrounding channelside area to bring in more tourism for the city..not leaching off taxpayers to pad their own wallets. So drop the Bolts out of your ailing SouthEastern hockey conversation because they are thriving and looking to make the Playoffs..which cant be said about alot of “traditional markets”.

      And yes, minus when Beezer took the Panthers to the Cup there hasnt been much to cheer for from that team..move them to Portland or Seattle..

      • crkreg - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        You attendance numbers for Tampa are deceiving. While overall their numbers are 11th, they only fill at 95.9% capacity, which puts them at 19th in the NHL. There are teams that have a lower overall number, because the arena is smaller, but are over 100% capacity (ie: Philly, San Jose, Winnipeg.)

        Not exactly “thriving.”

      • thatfaqinguy - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        @crkreg. Ok I understand your capacity math..but my point still stands that even though they are Bolts are at a patheticly low number..like the 95% capacity, they are far from a starving or failing hockey market. Matter of fact I think have won a cup more recently the a slew of traditional markets..but that was a fluke right..

        As long as they keep bringing in the Lecavalier’s, St Louis’, Hedman’s, Stamkos’, and Drouin’s..I fail to see how they can be lumped together with Panthers..

  4. alicesrightfootesq - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Just move them to a real hockey market. For whatever reason, I believe this would solve their attendance problems (like Ottawa) and as a by-product would produce on-ice success (just like the Oilers, Flames, Leafs, and Jets)! It’s win-win! Heads up Regina we’re coming your way!

  5. esracerx46 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Move and/or put a better product on the ice.

  6. Wineshard - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    With the Canadian dollar dropping to $0.91 today I don’t think there will be another Canadian team added to the NHL until that figure gets back close to parity.

    That is what killed the Jets and Nordiques to begin with. (Even worse back then from what I recall).

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      Drastically, drastically worse. The Canadian dollar was as low as $0.60 USD for some time. Even Vancouver was in trouble as a franchise (and the Senators were bankrupt not long after that point as well).

    • elvispocomo - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:46 PM

      Couple the $0.60 USD with a large lack of corporate sponsors and that was the death of the Jets and Nordiques. $0.91 isn’t too bad, and corporate sponsorship is at better levels in most markets (markets that’d enjoy hockey anyway) so it wouldn’t be quite the same concern.

  7. davebabychreturns - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    The Panthers organization runs Broward’s arena in Sunrise, bringing in more money from concerts and other events than from its hockey games, county records show. Financial records show the Panthers make a profit from arena operations. It’s the Panthers team that’s losing money, Yormark said.

    So yeah, “we’re losing $20-30m a year, except for the part of us that isn’t” is closer to the truth. As someone who has no Fs to give about this situation I wonder what the financial picture really is like for the Panthers parent company (and if they are making money overall from an agreement that requires them to keep an NHL franchise in the arena, why are they complaining about the agreement they profit from?)..

    At any rate, whether it comes from Broward county citizens via ticket sales or via a cushier agreement with the government, a move that gives the Panthers money to have a payroll “at a level competitive with the rest of the National Hockey League” is good news for hockey fans in general.

    • hockeydon10 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      That’s exactly where I was going to go. The owners of the Panthers certainly cook the books to get the best deals they can all around. It’s simply sound business practices. The fact that they’re claiming the Panthers lose $20-30M doesn’t seem 100% honest when it’s generally known that companies will saddle certain operations with liability or debt so their other operations can look better financially.

  8. pmonte3122 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Get this team somewhere else it’s an embarrassment

  9. charliereno - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    Empty seats. Disinterested fans. Awful hockey in a non-hockey market.

    Stubborn pride is the only thing getting in the way of this team moving to a city that it could thrive in.

  10. Wineshard - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Good point davebabych. Sounds like trying to have your cake and eat it too. A Loss Leader is just that. I am sure oil companies would like to reimbursed for some dry wells too, but don’t want to pay anything back when they hit a gusher.

  11. csilojohnson - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Buy tickets sports fans. At least you get something.
    If you dont they will just take your money….

  12. El Pollo Loco - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    has anyone ever thought about either Cleveland or Madison Wisconsin as cities the NHL could bring a team to?

    • lallin66fan - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      I’m not from America, but is’t Madison a little bit too small for a NHL team? And Ohio already have the Blue Jackets, so no.

    • comeonnowguys - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Madison? Why not Milwaukee? I’ve never understood why Milwaukee can’t even make the discussion regarding relocation/expansion.

  13. blackandorangeforlife - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Michael Yormark is insane…..After what Loria and the Marlins pulled off it takes some major balls to ask for this……Sure invest those extra tax dollars on a team that has never made and effort (once) to field a decent team instead of putting it in the schools where it is really needed…..Then tell the county to restructure the land to allow a Casino so that money could go to the team as well?
    Best option for Broward is to give them the finger and let them move….The county is losing money when they should be making money….They are not making money because the Panthers have not put a team on the ice that people want to see lose
    I used to live in Broward (Pompano) and know full well that money is being wasted….Move the team to Seattle once and for all and stop the bleeding of tax payers money!

  14. dvo085 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    Hello Quebec Nordiques! Makes sense on why they are now located in the atlantic division too

  15. penguins87and71 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    I don’t want to sound like I’m ripping the Florida Panthers organization,but maybe if they fielded a competitive team and maybe if they won for 3 or 4 years straight and made the Playoffs people would start showing up and they wouldn’t be losing money. I believe Florida is a great NHL market. Look at the Tampa Bay Lightning they sell out every night. The main reason why is because they win.

  16. phillyphannnn83 - Jan 10, 2014 at 9:32 PM

    This team is heading towards Quebec City.

    • penguins87and71 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:18 PM

      Yeah because they can support a NHL team. If they could support a hockey team then why did the original team in Quebec City leave?

  17. cheapglazers - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    They should move to Hartford

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