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Florida Panthers Say They're Losing Tens of Millions a Year, Ask Broward Commissioners for Save

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 6 South Florida
    Michael Yormark (standing at left) made the Panthers' pitch to Broward County commissioners Tuesday.

    They played a fancy video, and then came the power play: We’re losing $30 million a year running the arena and a hockey team, so we, the Florida Panthers, need an assist from you, the Broward County Commission.

    "We're not asking you to shoulder all of it, we're asking you to help us," said Michael Yormark, president of Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, the company that runs the BB&T Center and the Panthers.

    The goal for Panthers ownership is to get the county to cut them about a $7 million a year break on their share of paying off the arena's construction debt and other expenses.

    "Our most recent owner lost $112 million, the reality is we need to fix this, and we need to fix this as soon as possible," Yormark said. "This isn't about profits, this is about creating a model that will enable the building and the team to remain healthy."

    The team wants the money to come from tourist taxes, but the county's tourism czar says that money is needed to draw visitors to Broward.

    "First you pay for marketing and promotion, then you make sure there's money for beach renourishment, and we have to expand the convention center to stay ahead of our competition," said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    "I mean the arena needs some help, I just don't want to see it come out of the tourist development tax dollars," added Ed Walls, who runs the Westin Diplomat hotel in Hollywood.

    The county's mayor says that since Broward owns the building, this is not comparable to Miami-Dade County’s situation with the Marlins' ballpark. Barbara Sharief points out the county needs the team's contribution to help pay off the arena's debt.

    "So if we choose to do nothing, then we'll still have to pay that 214 million dollar debt service so it kinda puts us in a very difficult position to not do anything," Sharief explained.

    The Panthers are offering, in return, to immediately pay back to the county $10.6 million in loans taken out by previous team owners, and they say they'll build a hotel or casino on land next to the arena and split the profits with the county.

    The commissioners decided Tuesday to study the issue, negotiate further with the team, and hopefully come to an agreement within the next 90 days.