Recently it has come up that the Florida Panthers are bleeding money and have asked Broward County for a “bail out.” The numbers have been thrown around on how much the team is losing per season, roughly $20 million and is in desperate need of some type of help, but how badly exactly? The team has asked the county to rework the current lease on the arena, picking up the remaining $80 million it owes over the next 14 seasons. Some of the county representatives are in favor of helping, while others aren’t so much. This will lead to a long debate back and forth on just how much should be done from both sides to help the financial burden.
We all know the struggles the Panthers have faced over the years, losing season after losing season simply cannot make for good attendance or income. However in recent years with acquiring good, young prospects through the draft, and now with an owner who has shown willingness to pay for a quality product on the ice , that may soon turn around. I say this all the time when it comes to the Panthers, “You have to spend money to make money.” But do I believe the ownership should front $70 million a season towards the payroll of the team, on top of an additional… let’s just say $8 million or so in lease payment, insurance on the building and other such expenses and in turn the county shell out around $12 million but in turn take in the tourism money produced through opposing teams and fans showing up without sharing a single penny? Absolutely not!
While I may not be a resident of Broward county and it not exactly affecting me in any way, I feel that it’s in the county’s best interest to assist the team in any way possible, while of course still making some kind of profit themselves. Every deal has to be mutually beneficial for both parties in order to make it work and this simply won’t cut it. The whole situation can be compared to last season’s NHL lockout, on a smaller scale of course. The team recently, but not officially threatened a relocation if a new deal was not reached to assist them with financial burdens. From the looks of things, the county is simply asking for some form of compensation in return for picking up more of the finances on the BB&T center in profits based off of events held at the arena.
With the team soon to be improving with young talent and potentially signing free agents in the coming off-seasons, revenue from games will surely go up. South Florida is notorious for fans being bandwagoners and jumping on anything that’s hot and the Panthers are not any different. Just look at the playoff attendance they generated in 2012 and that should be evident enough. If, for whatever reason, the team still does not turn a profit after the county picks up some of the bills, then they would continue on as is without paying anything extra to the county. When the team begins to make a profit and sells tickets, or continuously making the playoffs, that is where the county would step in and get their piece of the cake, which everyone will enjoy.
This is where the negotiations will come in and will need to be worked on; the Panthers with their current offer are looking to have their cake and eat it too.
What would it cost for the Panthers to relocate in case you were wondering? Well $80 million to start, to pay off what’s remaining on their current 14 year lease. The Panthers ownership has shown the willingness to spend money, but will they be willing to put up that amount of cash on top of any relocation fees they may have and the next seasons predicted payroll of around $70 million just to get their way and MAYBE make a profit over the next few years? It’s highly doubtful, especially since it appears that they’ve already set up camp in south Florida with their families and seem to be enjoying it. It’s all one big game of poker and each player is bluffing, its only a matter of time until one or the other calls the bluff and we see who’s really got the winning hand.
If the relocation thing does become a real possibility, be prepared for all sorts of lawsuits from the county against the Panthers ownership. I’m sure the loss of revenues and everything else the county could face would be devastating for the economy, and I doubt they would be willing to let it happen without some sort of compensation.