The Broward County Commission voted Tuesday to fund a new $4.2 million scoreboard and master control room for the Florida Panthers, officials said.
The money will come from the Broward County bed tax, which is collected from hotel taxes, according to county spokeswoman Kimberly Maroe.
The money will be used for a new scoreboard and master control for the county-owned BB&T Center in Sunrise. The scoreboard will make its debut for the Panthers' first home game of their 20th anniversary 2013-2014 season, the team said.
“This is a great day for Broward County, the BB&T Center and the Florida Panthers,” the team's president, Michael Yormark, said in a statement. He thanked public officials and the local business community for its support.
“We believe strongly, that thanks to the support of the county, we will have one of the best scoreboards in professional sports and be able to attract major national and international events to the BB&T Center on a regular basis," Yormark said.
The Panthers become the latest South Florida sports franchise to ask local government to fund an upgrade at its facility. But in comparison to the Miami Dolphins' recent ask for funds to renovate Sun Life Stadium, the Panthers' request is tiny.
But though the county owns the 15-year-old arena, one county official says the Panthers should be on the hook for the scoreboard, The Miami Herald reported Monday.
"They are responsible for replacing the scoreboard," County Auditor Evan Lukic told the Herald. "We are not. They have other means in which to pay for it."
Not so, say the Panthers. "We have puts tens of millions of dollars into this building since it has opened," Yormark said. "The county has not put one dollar into this building as a gift or as capital improvement. Not one. We've taken loans out, but we're responsible for those. It's their building. They own it."
The Panthers are in the middle of a 30-year lease with the county to play at the BB&T Center.
"The scoreboard is a permanent fixture. If the Florida Panthers leave tomorrow, we couldn't take it with us," Yormark added. "We've been a great partner. They haven't had to put any money into this building in 15 years."
In 2012, Lukic strongly opposed the extension of a $7.7 million loan to the team for arena improvements, telling the commission that the team already makes significant profits.
Yormark and an official from the NHL planned to attend Tuesday's County Commission meeting. As the Dolphins did with Sun Life Stadium, the Panthers claim the county's investment in the BB&T Center will pay off in the form of tourism dollars connected to special events to be hosted at the facility.
The league has promised to host its annual draft weekend at the BB&T Center in the next three years, as well as an All-Star Game at some point. The scoreboard will also be used to host college basketball, championship boxing, and an upcoming Jehovah's Witness convention, the team said.
"Our proposal is to bring value back to Broward County and to our hoteliers," Yormark said.
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