Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers seeks new lease deal for BB&T Center

The Panthers’ lease with the county for the BB&T Center runs through 2028.
The Panthers’ lease with the county for the BB&T Center runs through 2028. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

The Florida Panthers’ future in South Florida will likely be determined in a county meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The Broward County Commission is expected to vote on a financial package in which the team’s long-term lease at the county-owned BB&T Center will be rewritten, with the Panthers getting more tourist tax money to help offset massive losses.

The Panthers and county administrators negotiated the terms over the past year.

Those terms, which would give the team a financial package worth $86 million, were presented to the commission at an October meeting.

Of the nine county commissioners, eight will vote with Stacy Ritter abstaining because her husband works for the team as a lobbyist. The measure needs to pass 5-3.

The Panthers’ lease with the county runs through 2028 ,with the team getting almost all of the revenue created by the arena.

The new proposal would lower the threshold for profit-sharing between the Panthers and county.

Owner Vinnie Viola is also providing a letter of credit that guarantees the county’s investment if the team were to try and relocate or declare for bankruptcy.

The Panthers have not threatened either and have instead promised to make the franchise work in South Florida.

The lease would remain for 13 years, although the team could opt out after eight years if it gives the county a year’s notice and proves it lost $100 million over the next seven years.

If the team was to be sold for a profit — Viola and Doug Cifu bought the franchise in 2013 — the county would get a 10 percent cut.

The team will also give its portion of potential NHL expansion fees awarded to each team to the county once its other losses are covered.

Broward County will receive development rights on land controlled around the arena by the Panthers, as well as more say on capital improvements at the arena.

The NHL, which will donate $1.5 million toward local hockey development, has promised its All-Star Weekend will return to South Florida in the coming years.

Most, if not all, of the activities and hotels will be based in Broward County to bring extra tourist dollars to the area.

The Panthers will continue paying more than $5 million per year to help pay off the debt incurred on bonds issued to build the arena, as well as the off-ramp from the Sawgrass Expressway that leads into the arena.

The Panthers moved to Sunrise in 1998 after spending their first five seasons at Miami Arena.

TRIP A SUCCESS

The Panthers return home Tuesday after one of their most successful trips in franchise history.

Florida won the first four games of its five-game trip before seeing its five-game winning streak come to a close with a 4-2 loss at New Jersey on Sunday night.

The Panthers will play host to Ottawa and Washington this week before heading out for a four-game trip that starts Saturday afternoon in Boston.

Florida, which came into Monday a point back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, face teams holding a playoff position in five consecutive games.

Ottawa currently holds third place in the Atlantic Division, three points ahead of Florida.

“When we started the trip, if someone would have told me we’d be 4-1, I would be pretty excited,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “We play one game at a time and we’re back in the hunt which is what we wanted to do. Now we have to pick it up.

“We have eight games before the Christmas break, and we have to keep playing hard, pick up more points. These are huge games. We’re back in the race; we have to stay in the race.”

Tuesday: Senators at Panthers

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMNA 1210.

Series: Ottawa leads 46-30-3.

Scouting report: The is the first of five meetings between Florida and Ottawa, with three coming between now and Jan. 7. Ottawa kicked off its four-game trip Sunday with a 4-1 loss to the Rangers.

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