DATE: Feb. 18, 2014
Broward Commissioners at workshop to discuss BB&T Center and Florida Panthers contract.
CONTACT: Kimberly Maroe
Public Information Manager
Broward County Commission
BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - Broward County Commissioners are saying “not so fast” when it comes to renegotiating a contract with the new owners of the Florida Panthers and BB&T Center management. At a workshop today, Commissioners took no vote, but generally agreed that they would like to keep the professional sports team at the BB&T Center.
Commissioners asked for more detailed information on the terms of the proposed renegotiated deal, analysis to determine the benefits of bringing the BB&T Center insurance under the umbrella of Broward County and assurance that safeguards will be put in place to protect the Arena, which is owned by Broward County.
“We need to slow the process down to ensure that the taxpayer owned BB&T Center remains economically viable and at the same time we want to be good partners with the Panthers,” said Commissioner Martin David Kiar.
The Panthers and BB&T Center management are asking the County to pay $4.5 million annually in tourist development taxes to finance the Panthers share of the bond payment; cap the cost of insurance at $1 million instead of the current $1.5 million and pay the first $500,000 annually paid for arena repairs and maintenance. Other items include such things as profit sharing margins and possible development of adjacent land into a sports/entertainment complex.
“The general consensus is that the Commission wants to do something. Everyone is asking that we slow things down and analyze this more fully,” said Mayor Barbara Sharief.
The Panthers owners insist they need financial help to end a financial loss of $30 million per year.
“As we give, they should give,” said Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness. "But, we’ll need to negotiate with them to move this forward. The new owners paid $220 million for an NHL franchise, not necessarily the location.”
“I’m not sure if we can do all of the things they’ve asked for,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca. “But I do believe the arena is a capital asset.”
“We’re all looking for a better bottom line,” said Commissioner Sue Gunzburger.
The current debt service on the building is $225.1 million if paid off over the next 14 years. The Panthers and BB&T management have a contract to pay off that debt with the County through 2028.
The County uses money for tourist development taxes to maintain the BB&T Center. Those funds are generated from visitors who pay taxes on local hotel rooms. Tourist development taxes are also used to promote Broward County globally, for the convention center and a big chunk goes to beach renourishment.
Commissioner Kristin Jacobs noted that the tourist development tax levied in 1996 wouldn’t be there without the Arena. “If they go away, so does our money which is used for the Arena and other projects,” said Commissioner Jacobs. “We’re partners with the Panthers, not adversaries.”
County staff asked for 60 to 90 days to develop a more thorough agreement that Commissioners could have a final vote on.