Despite the fact that, based on recent analysis, the Florida Panthers franchise was said to be "bleeding millions," Broward County agreed on Tuesday to give the team $86 million in public funds. Of course, considering that same analysis suggested that the flailing franchise could potentially cost taxpayers upwards of $86 million should the team declare bankruptcy or leave, it makes sense then that the Broward County Commission voted to shore up the organization's finances.
"We're here to stay, we're here to win a championship. We want to make South Florida proud,'' team co-owner Doug Cifu said shortly after the vote was finalized, per Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "What the county did today was really double their commitment to the BB&T Center and enable us to put a professional product on the ice and also bring world-class entertainment to Broward County.''
County officials confirmed to Wallman that with the addition of the $86 million, the total public investment in the Panthers is now up to $342 million.
Per Wallman, the vote was 5-3.
While there has been increasing negativity in recent years over providing public funds for sports teams owned by the uber-wealthy, much of the Broward County business community seemed to support the funding.
There's also the NHL's recent exploratory expansion efforts to take into account. While league commissioner Gary Bettman said little at the NHL's recent board of governor's meeting beyond offering a "we'll see," talk that cities like Las Vegas and Quebec City, already applicants for expansion teams, could also potentially become home to a relocated franchise, likely spurred the direction of the vote, though some voters remained displeased with the result.
"I actually feel like we've been cornered into a false choice,'' county Commissioner Beam Furr said, according to Wallman. "We can either give them the money, or they might declare bankruptcy.''
This was the team's third request for further aid from the county. In March of 2014, Cifu and fellow co-owner Vincent Viola asked for "a bailout package so large it was never made public or brought to the County Commission for a vote."
Of the $86 million they'll now receive, $1.5 million is to go to drawing a "high-impact event," $39 million on improvements at BB&T Center, and $45.5 million on operating costs. None will go to the hockey side of the business.
While this won't solve all the problems for the franchise, it should at least ensure that over the next few years - the contract ends in 2028 - the young and seemingly up-and-coming Panthers team stays put without having to concern themselves with a potential relocation from Broward County and the BB&T Center.