Et Tu Panthers?”
Broward County has owned the BB&T Center (Arena) in Sunrise since its construction in 1996. It was built using $184.1M in revenue bonds backed by County collected Tourist Development Taxes, or bed tax, levied on hotel/motel room bills and certain other short term rentals. The Arena is the largest in Florida and a major multi-purpose entertainment and sports venue. The Florida Panthers, through four (4) different ownerships, have been the sole professional sports tenant.
Since January, the Panthers new owners have asked for a complete restructuring of their existing financial obligations to Broward County’s taxpayers for their share of the Arena’s debt service, operation and maintenance. The highlights of the Panthers’ “asks” are:
No longer contribute $4.6M annual rent payment currently applied solely to annual debt service. County would instead utilize an additional $4.6M in public funds/bed taxes to meet the $14.6M total annual debt service. Cap their costs for the Arena’s annual windstorm insurance premiums to the first $1M. County’s taxpayers would be responsible for all costs exceeding the cap, an estimated $600,000 annual increase to taxpayers. Have County pay Arena’s first $500,000 for repairs and maintenance, another half-million dollar annual increase to taxpayers. Reduce by 50 per cent Panthers’ $500,000 annual contribution to the Arena’s Capital Reserve Fund, another quarter-million dollar annual increase to taxpayers.
The Arena is halfway through its estimated 35-year economic useful life. Coupled with the remaining years of debt service to retire the bonds, the Panthers’ “asks” equate to some $75 to $80M more from Broward County taxpayers over the next 15 years.
For these “asks” the Panthers proffer:
Accelerate by three (3) years paying off some $10M in debt restructuring loans previously granted. Seek additional revenue producing Arena events, continue supporting small business benefitting directly or indirectly from the Arena, and provide a training and workforce scholarship program. Improve the competitiveness of the hockey team itself. During the winter months relocate to Fort Lauderdale an exploration/research vessel in partnership with NSU. Develop a 22-acre parcel on the Arena’s north side as a mixed-use project including a hotel and possibly a casino, if state law ever permits same.
So far, I have seen nothing in the Panthers’ “asks” and/or “proffers” that are of any “equal or greater” benefit to Broward County taxpayers. I am very concerned any reallocation of public bed tax monies for the Panthers’ “asks” would jeopardize our beach renourishment project(s) funding capabilities. However, I would welcome your perspective on the above by sending me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling my office at 954-357-7006.
Finally, let me close with my best wishes for a Happy Passover and a Happy Easter!
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