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Panthers’ owner uncertain of future in Florida

Aug 17, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT

Roberto Luongo Getty Images

Doug Cifu wants to keep the Panthers in Florida, but the way things are going, it’s just not sustainable.

Speaking to Fox Sports last weekend, Cifu, who along with business partner Vinnie Viola purchased the team for $230 million last September, is uncertain of where the team will be in 5-10 years.

“The arena and the team have lost a significant amount of money year over year for the last 10-plus years and the current business model is not sustainable,” Cifu said.

According to The Hockey News, the team claims to lose $30 million a year and have debt on their arena, which is leased to the Panthers until 2028, of about $250 million.

The story adds Broward County mayor Barbara Sharief and the county have hired a consultant who is looking into the possibility of allowing the Panthers out of their arena lease and the opportunity to relocate.

The results of that report are expected in October.

“We have kept our end of the bargain by signing six free agents on July 1 to more than $60 million of contracts and resigning some key young players to multi-year deals,” Cifu added.

Per CapGeek, the Panthers have over $65 million committed in player contracts for the upcoming season.

The Toronto Sun reported that the Panthers averaged 14,177 fans per game last season, which ranks 29th in the league.

In terms of potential cities for relocation, a report out of Seattle last week suggested real estate mogul Victor J. Coleman has begun discussions with Seattle business man Chris Hansen on agreement to allow an NHL team to play in his proposed SoDo Arena.

“We get lots of expressions of interest — whether it’s from Quebec City, Seattle, Las Vegas, or Kansas City — and we’re listening, but we haven’t enacted a formal process to begin considering expansion,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the Sun April. “That’s not something we’re intent on doing right now, but we are listening.”

Quebec City may also be a viable option with a new $400 million arena set to open next year.

Related: Report: Devils to lose money in 2014-15


  1. flyboystransport - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    With them and the Devils losing money, this is why there isn’t expansion talk. Gotta stabilize the current teams first

    • c9castine - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:23 PM

      or put them into places wher they will be succesful

      how many freakin teams can you cram into the NY-Jersey-Philly metro area?? clearly 4 is too many.

      move the devils and islanders, they have been doing awful for years and the flyers and rangers are doing great. seems simple.

      get florida out of there and maybe tampa bay goes from floating, to thriving. cause the panthers are just nose diving to the bottom right now.

    • Damon - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      Hartford and Quebec City over and before everyone.

  2. justinhbhb - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Although the NHL’s response to Phoenix makes many want to claim that the team will not be allowed to leave- this team will probably leave.

    Both sides may just be playing hardball, but I find it odd that the team claims it may have to relocate and the government follows up by hiring to a consultant to determine the feasibility of that happening. The new owners, if possible, will probably try to sell off the team and keep the profitable arena side.

    Also, with the jump in Canadian TV contract money, it is hard not to think Bettman said OK to putting a team back in QC. A team in QC will help league revenues a lot more then a franchise that started off with management that admitted it knew nothing about hockey.

    • c9castine - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:26 PM

      i dont think these guys bought the team with the intent of selling it and then using the arena for concerts and circuses

      maybe im just confused as to what you mean. cause that makes no sense.

  3. greatmiamisportsmind - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    If you want to make money- put money into the product on the ice. Instead this team has years and years of Yormark’s stench that needs to be removed. First thing to go was the dumb Lady Panthers- albeit a couple weren’t too bad on the eyes, if I’m at a hockey game I’d rather have seen someone put a puck in the net.

  4. bullwinkle88 - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    I think at this point it’s pretty obvious – they’re going to Quebec City. And that’s a good thing.

  5. georgejarkko - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    Break out the flannel, the Panthers are moving to Seattle!

  6. drunkenmidgets - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Much like Phoenix, it’s uncanny how solid ownership and a decent product have never occurred at the same time in Florida. It can work in this market, just look across the state.

    Hope it turns around soon.

  7. jwalsh217 - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    enjoy the last season of the florida panthers folks

  8. bcsteele - Aug 17, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    I’m sorry for the fans down there but I think they are at least turning a corner.

    That said, am I the only one who finds it comical that good Ole Roberto could wind up with thus team in Seattle? Right below good Ole Vancouver? Everything aside…priceless.

  9. canuckinamerica - Aug 17, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Maybe if they reduce ticket prices to $4, they would attract more people. Sarcasm, obviously but times I have been to games there I paid less than $25, usually got a hot dog and drink, and could sit virtually anywhere I wanted. Obviously, economics just do not work in South Florida. I lived in Miami at the time and the drive was not fun, especially after the game and a few pops. If they leave, expect a rally in excess of 34 people to try and get them to stay.

    • greatmiamisportsmind - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:49 AM

      That hotdog and a drink more than made up the difference on your $4 ticket. I made the mistake of bringing my 3 kids and I to a game without getting dinner first. That will never happen again. I believe it was $56 bucks for a couple sodas and 4 hotdogs.

  10. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    While QC could support a club, if they are to move, it only makes sense to move west so the dumb 16/14 uneven conferencs. If they move to Seattle, then in the next few years, the NHL could expand to 32 – QC and Portland.

    That’s really where they need to be, two 16 team conferences, even division sizes.

  11. dans761 - Aug 17, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    Seattle + NHL = lots of $ for all

    • blomfeld - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:38 PM


  12. scout202sport - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    We moved form Los Angeles to SW Florida in 2012 and have been to a few panthers & lightning games. Mostly to see the Kings when they were in town last year and a couple others. One game on a Sunday afternoon at the BB&T center it was maybe a third of the way full. Maybe if they put a quality product on the ice they will have more marketability and an opportunity to grow their fan base.

  13. spieroj - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Ok, guys. As a Panthers season ticket holder since their inception, I get it: apathetic support; move ’em! However, this team has made the playoffs once this century, and, even in that year, they finished 6 games under 500. With a local media that goes top heavy for winners (see Miami Heat), can you all honestly say we’ve had a fair shot? And would Seattle or Kansas City have provided better support for a bunch of losers? By the way, drafting, not free agency, is the bulwark of a playoff team.

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