Clearly I’m going to have to update my article on sports team owners asking for operating subsidies even after they get new arenas, because this:
The Florida Panthers professional hockey team says it’s losing more than $20 million a year and needs more public funds to survive.
The struggling team is asking for a rewrite of its contract with Broward county. Under the team’s proposal, the county would use additional tourism taxes to pick up $70 million in BB&T Center costs currently being paid by the Panthers.
That’s a little clipped, so let’s backtrack for a second. Then-Panthers owner Wayne Huizenga got $185 million from Broward County to move from Miami to a new arena there in 1998. In exchange, the team signed a lease guaranteeing it would say put through 2028, and pay $4.5 million a year in rent to defray the county’s construction costs.
The Panthers were just sold in September to a financier named Vincent Viola, who apparently wasn’t content with the free arena the team got in 1998, or the free $4 million scoreboard it got last May, because those were the old guys getting those things. So he’s thinking that maybe the county could tear up his lease, with 14 years remaining on it, and revise that $4.5 million a year in rent. To, like, zero. Because, though the Panthers are making money on running the arena, they’re losing money on running the Panthers:
“This organization has lost between $20 [million] and $30 million on an annual basis,” [Panthers president Michael] Yormark said, “and those dollars have been funded by our owners.”
And this is a problem for Broward County … why exactly no one seems to say, though Yormark did promise that if the county gives them an extra $4.5 million a year, they promise to spend on payroll “at a level competitive with the rest of the National Hockey League,” implying that if they don’t get it they’ll replace their roster with these guys. Which actually might be more entertaining than watching the real Panthers.
Anyway, local officials have to be derisively snorting at this demand, since Viola has no leverage and there’s absolutely nothing in it for the county, right?
Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan said it is still too early to tell what the proposal could mean for his city, but he cautioned that it would be important to balance the job growth and other benefits against “security, financial, infrastructure, environmental and aesthetic impacts” near the site and beyond.
I guess looked at one way, that could be taken as a way of brushing off Viola without actually telling him where he can stick his request. But I’d still prefer a derisive snort.