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Florida Panthers losing $20 million annually; promise competitive team if county funds them

Greg Wyshynski
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The Florida Panthers are losing money.

Not the team’s owners, who make a profit from operating the BB&T Center for concerts and other events. But the team itself loses “between $20 [million] and $30 million on an annual basis,” according to president Michael Yormark.

The solution? You guessed it: Broward County taxpayer bailout!

According to the Sun Sentinel, Yormark and the Panthers are asking for their contract with the county to be revised, so that additional tourism taxes will pay for $70 million in costs that the Panthers shoulder for their arena. Here are the basics for their proposal:

The Panthers would shed the $4.5 million annual payment; it would be picked up by the county. The county would contribute $500,000 a year toward maintenance, and would pay any of the property insurance tab that exceeds $1 million. The Panthers would swap the land it has rights to build on, 12 acres south of the arena, in favor of 22 acres on the arena's north side, where the Panthers hope a casino-hotel or some other development could be built and brought onto the tax rolls. The Panthers would immediately repay $10.6 million in loans the county granted them in recent years. The Panthers would continue contributing $500,000 a year to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

And here’s our favorite part:

The Panthers would commit to investing in hockey team payroll "at a level competitive with the rest of the National Hockey League.''

That is so, so glorious, isn’t it? Three things:

1. Vincent Viola took over the Panthers in September and talked about a commitment to success on the ice, was there a single word breathed about salary cap spending being linked to new taxpayer subsidies?

2. The Panthers have $50.6 million in salary spending at the moment, which is 30th in the NHL. There are 18 teams that spend over $63 million, and the cap is going up. So what the hell is “a level competitive with the rest of the NHL?” Will it be tied to the median spending figure? Just above the salary floor? What is it?

3. And here we thought Eugene Melnyk had the market cornered on “build my casino so your local hockey heroes can be fully funded, citizens!”

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