Broward County to vote tomorrow on giving Panthers $86m just for the hell of it

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.

4 comments on “Broward County to vote tomorrow on giving Panthers $86m just for the hell of it

  1. The whole “tourism” aspect is a fallacy. I don’t think anyone is visiting south Florida to watch the Panthers play hockey. Miami can’t even sellout NFL games for a franchise that’s won two Super Bowls. Who was the idiot that thought putting an NHL team in south Florida was a good idea?

  2. Bruce McNall.

    Of course, the “other” expansion franchise awarded in that round went to Anaheim and split Mr. McNall’s market… meaning some $50m of the $75m that Disney paid went straight into McNall’s jeans.

    Luckily for Mr. Viola, Quebec city has built a swanky new arena and doesn’t have a team to play in it (if you discount the QMJHL team). As the NHL will probably not approve an expansion team for Quebec City, and will want what amounts to C$675m if they do… it is likely that the Panthers will become the target of the prospective Quebec owners desires. And $450m or so US will seem like a good deal to Mr. Viola and a bargain to the now desperate Quebec businessmen who want to join the club.

  3. They must have thought Reg Dunlop was 100% serious when he told Dickie Dunn that senior citizens who move to Florida miss hockey the most.