It’s been years in the making, but the Panthers are finally here to stay in South Florida.
The Broward County Commission voted on Tuesday to give the Panthers an aid package worth $86 million which guarantees that the team will keep their current lease of the BB&T Center which runs through 2028. While the lease gives them 13 years to remain at the arena, the deal also allows the team to leave the arena in 8 years provided they notify the county one year in advance, show that they’ve lost $100 million over 7 years, and pay a termination fee.
The NHL has also stated that with the passage of the new measure, they’ll put $1.5 million into the community to grow the sport and will bring an All-Star Game to the arena by 2023.
Of the 9 Broward County commissioners, Stacy Ritter was unable to vote since her husband works as a lobbyist for the Panthers, so a vote of 5-3 was the minimum for the deal to pass.
The Panthers first approached the county with a request for a new deal in 2013 after the new ownership group of Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu took over and wanted to “create a sustainable business model for the BB&T Center that is comparable to other NHL venues, significantly reduce losses on a consolidated basis, provide for a competitive hockey team, and first class concerts and shows.”
Both Viola and Cifu, who also own Virtu Financial, one of the largest high-frequency trading firms, have been adamant about keeping the Panthers in South Florida and building a winning team ever since they took over. Due to the fact that they took over the team just before the 2013-14 season, Dale Tallon was late to the free agent market and therefore was unable to make any notable moves to improve the team.
However, the Panthers went on to become the most improved team in the league last season with a 25-point improvement, made solid free-agent signings, reacquired netminder Roberto Luongo, and traded for the legendary Jaromir Jagr. Viola and Cifu also put tons of money into the local community to spread the game of hockey and to help those in need, so there’s no doubt that they genuinely care South Florida and the passionate, loyal fanbase.