The Florida Panthers are once again in the news, claiming big losses per season. In a recent article by the Sun Sentinel it’s stated that the Panthers are claiming they lose between $20 and $30 million per NHL season and is asking the county for more assistance. This past off season the Panthers requested assistance from the county to purchase a brand new scoreboard for the arena, as the old system was severely outdated and a change could greatly improve game and concert experiences. The off-season before that they requested $7.7 million to renovate the center ice seating area to build “Club Red”, a five-star all inclusive seating area.
Now with high losses the Panthers are asking the county to take on some of the burden of arena costs during events. However, one thing I noticed in the Sun Sentinel article is a quote from Panthers President and CEO Michael Yormark stating “Yormark said he’s seeking the changes immediately, hoping to better compete as an entertainment venue with the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and American Airlines Arena.” With the Panthers losing money season after season, my question is why he would seek to improve the entertainment aspect of the venue and not the hockey side of things? The team itself has always lost money but has profited from the many concerts and events held at the arena that they control as owner of the hockey team.
In the new proposed deal the county would pick up the $4.5 million the Panthers pay towards the debt of the arena, on top of the $8 million it already pays itself. The county will also pay $500,000 per year towards arena maintenance and any property insurance that exceeds $1 million. The Panthers would also trade 12 acres of land it has the rights to build on, in exchange for 22 acres in hopes of building a hotel and casino should the state pass new gambling laws this year. If this deal goes through the Panthers will immediately pay the remaining $10.6 million it owes the county from the past two years of loans. The final change to the contract between the team and county is that the Panthers will commit to investing in hockey team payroll “at a level competitive with the rest of the National Hockey League.” I may be over analyzing this statement, but there is a league minimum as far as team salaries go. Doesn’t this mean the Panthers are already required to “invest” in a payroll at a level competitive with the rest of the league?
To me business 101 states that you need to spend money to make money, while there’s no doubt the Panthers have lost money in the past. South Florida is very difficult to please when it comes to sports teams, but one thing I know is that if you produce a winning product the seats will fill easily. To take this money from the county and invest in the entertainment aspect of things instead of the hockey side will simply lead to further debt for the hockey team and its owners. It’s been done before and it will probably be done again, we just need to ask ourselves: when will the counties that fund these endeavors finally capitalize and be the ones to come out on top?