The Broward County Commission is set to vote tomorrow on the Florida Panthers‘ request for $86 million in tax subsidies, which according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel could determine the “hockey team’s future in South Florida.”
What’s that? Don’t the Panthers have a lease that requires they stay in the arena that Broward County built for them in 1998? Sure they do, and it runs through 2028, but local officials have other worries:
The team has not threatened to leave South Florida, and is still obligated to fulfill its contract with the county, as-is. But County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey said at the October workshop that if the team were to declare bankruptcy, the county “wouldn’t necessarily be able to enforce” the contract.
Well, sure. Also if the entire Panthers team were swallowed up by a micro black hole. It’s hard to picture Panthers owner Vincent Viola really declaring bankruptcy, though, especially since he likely makes more money on operating the arena than he loses on the hockey team.
More to the point, the county won’t be able to better enforce the contract even if it gives Viola his $86 million — in fact, the new deal would give Viola an out clause after 2023. Which isn’t to say he’d use it, but does anyone think that he wouldn’t be back in another eight years to look for more subsidies? I mean, Viola may have spent $250 million on a money-losing hockey franchise just two years ago, but he’s not an idiot.