Majority of Broward commissioners okay with “undetermined” bailout money for Panthers

It’s now been one week since Florida Panthers CEO Michael Yormark told Broward County officials that the team was “not too proud” to ask for a $61 million taxpayer bailout of the NHL team in exchange for precisely nothing, and a couple of days less than that since a county administrator issued a 125-page report arguing that the county should give the team something, anyway. How’s that all playing with the people who actually make the decisions?

The county commission support, voiced informally Tuesday for the first time at a public workshop, ranged from tepid to enthusiastic. But the consensus was clear.

At least six of the eight commissioners who will be voting on the deal support giving an undetermined amount of additional taxes collected from tourists to the Panthers, which leases and operates the county’s BB&T Center in Sunrise.

The Broward County Commission has eight members? That’s weird, having an even number—

The ninth commissioner, Stacy Ritter, can’t vote on the proposal because her husband is a lobbyist for the team.

Ohhhhhhhh.

Anyway, it looks like Panthers owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu are set to get an “undetermined amount” of tax dollars (plus possibly 22 acres of free county land to develop, because Florida just hands that stuff out like … you know) because they can’t figure out how to turn a profit on the team that they spent a quarter-billion dollars on last fall despite playing in an arena that they paid nothing for. (Though it’s worth noting that while Viola and Cifu claim they’re losing $20-30 million on the team, Forbes has that figure at more like $7-12 million, which would mean they’re more or less breaking even based on the $9 million a year they earn from non-hockey arena operations.) The lesson: If you’re going to be stupid enough to buy something you can’t afford, better to be stupid and rich; that way you may convince somebody else to pay your bills.


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