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BB&T Center
Aerial View

  Venue Particulars  
Address One Panther Parkway
Sunrise, FL 33323
Phone (954) 835-7000
Official Website
Seating Weather
Newspaper Video
Satellite View
Panthers Gear
  Venue Resources  
Hotels, Dining & Deals in Fort Lauderdale

  The Facility  
Opened October 3, 1998
Broward County
(Leisure Management International)
Cost of Construction $212 million
Arena Financing Broward County financed $184.7 million, 2% tourism tax.
Naming Rights BankAtlantic paid $20 million for 10-year naming rights in 2005. September 10, 2012 BB&T resumed naming rights for the “Center of it All” after recently acquiring BankAtlantic, and signed a new 10-year partnership with Sunrise Sports & Entertainment.
Former Names Broward County Civic Arena
National Car Rental
Office Depot Center
BankAtlantic Center
BB&T Center
Arena Architects Ellerbe Becket
Contractors /
Construction Managers
Huber, Hunt & Nichols
Centex Rooney Construction
  Other Facts  
Tenants Florida Panthers
(NHL) (1998-Present)
Former Tenants Florida Pit Bulls
(ABA) (2005-2006)
Florida Bobcats
(AFL) (1999-2001)
Florida ThunderCats
(NPSL) (1998-1999)
Population Base 4,000,000
On Site Parking 7,600
Nearest Airport Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Retired Numbers #99 Wayne Gretzky

Capacity 19,452
Average Ticket $44.28
Fan Cost Index (FCI) $271.12
The Team Marketing Report FCI includes: four average-price tickets; four small soft drinks; two small beers; four hot dogs; two game programs; parking; and two adult-size caps.
Luxury Suites 70 Suites
Club Seats 2,300
Basketball 20,737
Center Stage Concerts 20,876
Circus 19,148
End Stage Concerts 20,763
Boxing 21,070
Indoor soccer 19,078
Arena Football 18,311
Ice Shows 14,037
  Attendance History  
Season  Total  Capacity Change
1993-94 561,394 93% NA
1994-95 340,619 97% -39.3%
1995-96 544,439 90% 59.8%
1996-97 602,823 100% 10.7%
1997-98 602,536 100% -0.1%
1998-99 758,518 95% 25.9%
1999-00 655,260 82% -13.6%
2000-01 601,857 76.5% -8.2%

2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05
659,440 632,552 653,380 None

2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
656,587 630,183 632,881 640,496

2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
605,863 624,745 681,763 407,806

2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
581,286 461,877 630,746 599,447

1993-1997 - Attendance for Miami Arena.
1994-1995 - Attendance for 24 games due to NHL lockout.
2004-2005 - NHL lockout
2012-2013 - Attendance for 24 games due to NHL lockout.

Sources: Mediaventures

BankAtlantic Center

The BankAtlantic Center (formally known as the Broward County Arena and National Car Rental Center) is a formidable structure encompassing over 872,000 square feet on the edge of the Everglades in Western Broward County. The project also includes a 100,000 sqft underground parking garage making the project nearly a 1,000,000 in size.

The project broke new ground in a private / public arrangement of financing. The project was financed through the issuance of $137 million of tax free bonds as well as $47 million in taxable bonds. The uniqueness of this situation was the Developer's agreement to cover any costs in excess of these bonds. The $13.4 million yearly debt service will be paid off by $8 million in tourist taxes, $2 million in sales taxes and the rest coming from arena profits and investment income.

Breaking ground in October, 1996 and complete for the 1998 NHL Hockey season, the BankAtlantic Center was one of the fastest arenas ever built.

The arena was designed by Ellerbe Becket, a Kansas City architect with a history over 75 major sports arenas including the MCI center in Washington DC, the Rose Garden in Portland, the Fleet Center in Boston, the Tampa Ice Palace in Florida, the Marine Midland Center in Buffalo, the Kiel Center in St. Louis and the Gund Arena in Cleveland.

In June of 1996, Developers chose Centex Rooney Construction Company as the Construction Manager for the project. Centex Rooney brought over 65 years of Florida experience to the project as well as successes on many of Florida's and the nations most notable and successful buildings including over a billion dollars worth of Disney structures, airports, resorts etc. Centex Rooney added Huber Hunt and Nichols as a minority partner. Huber Hunt and Nichols is an Indianapolis based contractor with extensive sports arena experience. The combination of Centex Rooney's Florida building experience with Huber Hunt & Nichols Sports Facility experience proved to be a combination hard to beat.

The arena sits on over 130 acres of land and encompasses 7,523 parking spaces, 30 ticket windows, 6 food courts, 85 luxury suites, 228 men's bathroom facilities, 274 women's bathroom facilities, 14 elevators and 8 escalators. The arena can sit over 19,088 spectators for hockey, 20,184 for basketball, 21,070 for boxing, 19,148 for circuses, 14,037 for ice shows, 19,078 for indoor soccer and 18,311 for arena football. In addition the arena is host to various other events including gymnastics, concerts and seminars. An additional 5,980 square feet of meeting space as well as 13,595 sqft of restaurants are in use throughout the week for various meetings and events.

Fans gather at the arena on a 80,000 sqft plaza and enter the arena through a four story glass and stone atrium. Instead of a single concourse serving multiple levels, the BankAtlantic Center is served by four separate concourses. Architects also developed the arena with a unique triangular footprint that accommodates much wider corridors and large food service areas. These two factors contribute to the lack of congestion or confusion and make the experience of attending an event a pleasant one.

In the first year since the official opening on October 3, 1998, the facility has celebrated its one-millionth guest and has hosted 109 events, including 12 concerts by national touring artists. Among the featured performers were Celine Dion (with highest attendance of 20,614), Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, and the Rolling Stones. Added to the mix was the success of Lord of the Dance, Disney on Ice, WWF, WCW, Speedway on Ice and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

BankAtlantic Center staff has conducted 82 changeovers, including ice hockey to indoor soccer, to concerts, to three rings for the circus and then back to hockey.

Boston Concessions Group, the Center's food and beverage concessionaire, has reported some impressive numbers, 63,000 or 8 miles of hot dogs have been sold to date. Approximately 319,000 beers, 300,000 soft drinks and 57,000 bottles of water have washed down 69,000 pretzels, 40,000 bags of peanuts, 32,000 bags of popcorn and 66,133 slices of pizza. "The unique design of the food court concept, has been the main reason for Boston Concessions exceeding its per cap expectations, while still being able to offer a wide variety of items," stated Sal Ferrulo, General Manager of Boston Concessions at BankAtlantic Center.

Time was of the essence during the design / construction process. The Panther's lease was about to expire at the Miami Arena. The arena was only beginning to be designed in the Summer of 1996 and yet needed to be ready for the beginning of the 1998 hockey season. That gave the architects and contractors only 24 months to design and build a 184.7 million dollar project. A typical arena this size would take 30 to 32 months to build.

In order to accelerate the schedule, CRCC took a different approach to arena construction sequencing. Most arenas are constructed from the outside in. That is, the structure is erected followed by precast seating then falsework is erected at "center ice." The roof trusses are then erected in place and the building closed in to allow finish trades to commence. Under CRCC's approach, the team erected the roof trusses and structural precast bowl concurrently, thus allowing interior finishes to commence at least three months earlier than typical.

Instead of hiring subcontractors and then negotiating the schedule with them, CRCC took the initiatives to published construction schedules to ensure an August 1998 completion. Subcontractor based their bids on these schedules which included 6 work days a week, 10 hour days. Only those contractors that demonstrated their ability to meet these schedules were hired

During the day, 10 trusses, each weighing close to 280,000 pounds, 360 feet long and 33' high, were erected in half sections. One half would be set on the "ring beam" by one crane while another crane placed the other half on the opposing "ring beam." Three brave iron workers, working 160 feet off "center ice," performed an "air splice." By connecting the truss halves in the air, workers were able to avoid the use of center ice falsework. This kept the ice floor free for cranes to erect the precast seating planks at night. This rare method of steel erection called for some serious specialists. CRCC brought in LPR Steel from Colorado. LPR has erected steel trusses in over a dozen arenas all without a fall related injury. LPR was required to create a "critical lift program." Each sling, choker and lift was calculated, checked and double checked. The loads on the trusses during erection would far exceeded the buildings final design loads. In all, the erections went off with out the slightest problems.

The BankAtlantic Center's developer made the commitment early on to involve as many small and disadvantaged business enterprises (SDBE) to participate in the project as possible. A voluntary goal of 30% participation by certified minority contractors was adopted by the Developer and Contractor. By working closely with the Broward County Division of Equal Employment and Small Business Opportunity, CRCC was able to achieve over 32.4% participation.

Involving this many SDBE contractors was not easy. Many of the contracts to be awarded were for specialty items such as ice floor, elevators, etc. Many of the contractors specializing in these items were publicly traded companies and none were considered small. In fact the electrical contract reached over $14 million dollars, yet to be certified as a SDBE contractor, you cannot do more that $7 million dollars worth of work a year. So a company small enough to qualify as a SDBE contractor was automatically to small to get bonding on the project.

Working closely with county agencies, CRCC developed a list of $78 million dollars worth of work that was available for SDBE participation. Working with the county's list of over 1,400 SDBE contractors, CRCC was able to identify and narrow down those contractors certified by the county, qualified to do the work, able to complete the schedule on time, bondable and yet still be priced competitively. These efforts paid off with over $25 million dollars of work awarded to SDBE contractors.

By utilizing a county purchase order program, purchases for materials that where made a permanent part of the arena were able to be made through Broward County. By the county issuing these purchase orders, the purchases would be exempt from state sales tax.. Throughout the project over $40 million dollars worth of items were purchased using this system. This represented a savings of over $2 million dollars to the Developer.

The project also participated in a "Developer Controlled Insurance Program" (DCIP). The DCIP, or "wrap up" collectively insured over 50 of the trade subcontractors. By participating in any savings resulting from losses less that a million dollars, the program had both moral /ethical incentive as well as monetary incentive to make the job a safe one. While numbers have not been totally tallied yet, it is apparent that gross savings in excess of $3 million will be realized.

During the project, Centex Rooney was approached by the "School to Work" program from Broward County Schools. Broward County Schools were searching for a way to make their math curriculum more "real world" and wanted to use the arena's examples of how math works to augment their curriculum. For several months, high school math teachers shadowed various tradesmen and managers seeing how math was used in their jobs. The goal was to create a curriculum using real work, Panther Arena problems. After their 4 sessions at the arena, the teachers returned for their "graduation" bringing one high school student with them to see what their teachers were up to for the last few months.

What the program accomplished was to make a great deal of the student interested in our vocation and think about the possibility of construction as their long term careers. It also helped the teachers reach the students who always had a hard time connecting the textbook to the real world.

With 45,000 cuyds of concrete placed, 4,500 tons of rebar and three million pounds of steel trusses on the roof, workers turned their attention to installing over a million square feet of drywall and a half a million concrete block on the floors below. While this was happening, other crews brought in 225,000 cuyds of fill material to create a 20' high berm around the front of the arena. During this period the work force peaked at over 800 workers. The berm made quite an impressive view while approaching the area and gave way for the 100,000 sqft parking garage constructed underneath.

The next big challenge came during the ice floor pour. Approximately 35,000 square feet of ice floor needed to be poured to exact flatness tolerances in one pour. Any depressions, bumps or slopes would dramatically effect the performance of the ice floor and the speed at which the ice could be frozen or thawed. The catch here was the presence of over 5 miles of cast iron pipe inside the slab carrying the 10 degree brine that would freeze the ice. Should the pour need to be stopped, a cold joint would develop and all 5 miles of pipe would need to be ripped out and replaced. The pour started on a Saturday, Valentines day weekend, 1998 and was completed with "Ff" ratings over 50.

With the two biggest challenges behind them, workers turned their attention once again this time to the 5,000 gallons of paint, 150,000 lnft of parking lot stripping, thousands of trees, acres of paving ...

On October 3, workers finally did relax as Celine Dion along with her replica of the bow of the Titanic, christened the arena in front of 20,614 fans, including the team from Centex Rooney.

Information Courtesy of Centex Rooney Construction, whom we thank.

BankAtlantic Center

New Florida Arena Bears Corporate Name

Saturday, July 11, 1998 (AP)
The Florida Panthers' new home will bear the name of National Car Rental Center, another entity under the umbrella of team owner H. Wayne Huizenga, a published report said Saturday.

The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale said the rental car company's selection was confirmed by officials in Broward County, which owns the $212 million, 19,200-seat arena in suburban Sunrise.

Arena officials would not disclose the sponsor, but said a news conference would be held this week to announce the winner.

National Car Rental was acquired by Huizenga's Republic Industries in January 1997 for $2.3 billion. Republic also owns Alamo Rent A Car, Inc. which it acquired in 1996.

National would become the first rental car company to join the growing realm of arena sponsors. Other naming rights have gone to airlines and high-tech, banking and beverage companies.

Arena officials had hoped to land a non-Huizenga company with deep pockets. Instead, rights would go to a company controlled by the same man who owns the team that will play in the venue and co-owns the arena's management company.

Huizenga's Florida Panthers Holdings also controls the company that has been overseeing construction of the arena. Front Row Communications, which negotiated the deal, is part of Huizenga's empire as well.

"It's pretty newsworthy that the same individual who owns the team, owns the company that helped negotiate the deal and owns the company that will manage the arena buys the naming rights deal,'' said Dean Bonham, a Denver-based sports consultant who tracks and negotiates naming rights.

Phil Allen, Broward County's finance director, would not comment except to say the county will study any deal to make sure its value is consistent with similar deals around the country.

The county's agreement with the Panthers specifies that if naming rights are sold to a Huizenga company, the county has the right to approve the price to prevent it from being artificially low.

American Airlines will pay $42 million over 20 years for the right to put its name on the Miami Heat's new oceanfront venue, scheduled to open in early 2000 in downtown Miami.

The Panthers will hold training camp at the arena in September and open the NHL season there October 9, 1998 against Tampa Bay. Celine Dion will christen the arena with a concert October 3, 1998.

To be completed 1998. Architect: Ellerbe Becket, Kansas City, MO. The $212 million, 22,000 seat multi-purpose arena will be the future home of the NHL Florida Panthers.

"The Florida Panthers will no longer be
an endangered species, We finally have a home!"

"The voice was that of Panthers President Bill Torrey. The date was August 27th 1996. The reason was the unveiling of the architectual design of the soon-to-be constructed Broward County Civic Arena. Ground breaking ceremonies were November 8th, 1996 and when the construction is completed in time for the 1998-99 NHL season, South Florida will have an awesome family entertainment destination.

There will be 19,452 seats for Hockey; 88 Luxury suites; over 7,000 parking spaces; a total of 723 toilets and urinals, 3 1/2 times what building codes require; extra-wide concourses; and six food courts, all featuring indoor/outdoor seating, with two of them offering spectacular westward views of the Florida Everglades and magnificent sunsets.

Since 1993, the Florida Panthers have been playing in the Miami Arena, the smallest venue in the NHL. Beginning in the Fall of 1998, hockey fans, as well as circus lovers and concert-goers, will enjoy an entirely new experience when the state-of-the-art Broward County Arena opens its doors. The Arena will become the home of the Panthers Hockey Club.

"The Company has an agreement with Broward County, Florida to build this new arena. The Company also has a 30-year licence agreement to operate the Broward County arena. The operating rights to this arena will greatly enhance the Company's total revenue and cash flow.

"The arena will feature 70 luxurious suits located on two levels, four party suits, and 2,300 club seats. Food and beverage services include a fine-dining restaurant, two sports-themed bars and six major food courts, located both on the main concourse and upper concourse levels. "Additional revenue opportunities are anticipated as visitors and fans will be able to shop in a 5,400 square foot team store in the lobby. Additional retail space will be located on the main concourse and upper levels.

"The arena is centrally located and is easily accessible to the 4.5 million combined residents of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. In addition, the arena is less than a 90-minute drive from Naples, Florida, the hub of the state's growing west coast.

"In addition to being the Florida Panthers' new home, the arena will be a preeminent venue for concerts, ice shows, circuses and other family shows and events throughout the year."

New National Car Rental Center Arena
To Offer Unprecedented Home Ice Advantage

Sunrise, Fla - BankAtlantic Center, the new home of the NHL Florida Panthers, offers everything a team looks for in a great hockey player: speed, grace, championship experience and team loyalty. As the Panthers prepare to open the season in their new home on October 9, here are a few of the building's unique attributes:

Speed -- Completed in 26 months, the BankAtlantic Center was designed and constructed faster than any other NHL arena in history.

Grace -- The elegant exterior has been compared to an opera house. In fact, popular artist Celine Dion will perform the first concert there October 3, 1998.

Championship Experience -- The BankAtlantic Center's architect -- Ellerbe Becket -- has designed arenas that have hosted the last two Stanley Cup Finals: Core States Center in Philadelphia (1997 Finals) and MCI Center in Washington, D.C. (1998 Finals).

Team Loyalty -- The unique "shoot-twice end" at BankAtlantic Center pushes screaming Panthers fans "in the face" of opposing players as they attempt to shoot on goal.

The BankAtlantic Center has been called a "model of accessibility" by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Besides hockey, the arena will accommodate indoor soccer, arena football, boxing, and other special events.

CONTACT: Stuart Smith,
Director of Communications at Ellerbe Becket

BankAtlantic Center
Image of BankAtlantic Center
Courtesy Ellerbe Becket
Photographed by Timothy Hursley
BankAtlantic Center
Image of BankAtlantic Center
Courtesy Ellerbe Becket
Photographed by Timothy Hursley

From West Palm Beach & Boca Raton: Take I-95 to SW 10th Avenue exit and proceed west to the Sawgrass Expressway.

The Sawgrass Expressway begins near I-95 between Powerline Road and Lyons Road heading west. The Sawgrass Expressway then proceeds directly to the South toward I-595 after Coral Ridge Drive.

Stay in the far right 2 lanes and exit at the Oakland Park Boulevard Toll Plaza. Make a left turn onto Oakland Park Boulevard and proceed 1 block and make a right turn onto Flamingo Road. Proceed on Flamingo Road in either of the two right lanes for one
block and make a right turn at the traffic signal, which is Panther Parkway. The arena is 1/2 mile South on the right. Exit at Sunrise Boulevard and proceed to the 2nd traffic signal, which is Panther Parkway. Turn left at Panther Parkway and the arena is 1 mile on the left.

Proceed through the toll plaza and stay in the far right 2 lanes and exit to the right at the Pat Salerno Drive Exit directly into the Arena Parking lot.

From I-595: From the east Exit at 136th Avenue. Proceed north on 136th Ave, which will eventually turn into Panther Parkway, which begins at 136th Ave and Sunrise Blvd. The arena is one mile north on the left. Stay in the 3 left lanes and make a left turn into the arena parking lot.

From I-75: (South)
Take the Palmetto Expressway or Florida Turnpike Extension to I-75 North to the Sawgrass Expressway Exit 10. Proceed through the toll plaza and stay in the far right 2 lanes and exit to the right at the Pat Salerno Drive Exit directly into the
arena parking lot.

From I-75: (North)
Follows signs for Sawgrass Expressway, West Palm Beach and Coral Ridge. Take Exit 10 towards the Sawgrass Expressway. Proceed through the toll plaza and stay in the far right 2 lanes and exit to the right at the Pat Salerno Drive. Exit directly in to the arena parking lot.

Take I-95 North to I-595 West Exit at 136th Avenue. Once you exit the expressway make a right on 136th Avenue. Proceed on 136th Avenue, which will eventually turn into Panther Parkway, which begins at 136th Avenue and Sunrise Blvd. The arena is 1 mile north on the left. Stay in the 3 left landes and make a left turn into the arena parking lot.

November 11, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures

The Florida Panthers might get a new owner, but local officials say the team will remain in the new BankAtlantic Center for another 30 years under terms of its lease. Team owner, Wayne Huizenga, has put the team up for sale, but local officials say the team's lease prohibits a move regardless of the owner.

The team pays Broward County $3 million a year on the new arena's debt and $500,000 of its advertising revenue. The team also pays 20% of its profits above $14 million.

BankAtlantic Center

By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell

BankAtlantic Center Ranking by USRT
Architecture 6.5
Concessions 8
Scoreboard 4
Ushers 4
Fan Support 4
Location 4
Banners/History 1
Entertainment 7
Concourses/Fan Comfort 8.5
Bonus: Weather Board 2
Bonus: Food Court 2
Total Score 51
January 18,1999 & January 21, 2002 - Of all the new arenas in the NHL and NBA, this has to be one of the prettiest. The National Car Rental Center is the home of the Florida Panthers and the Arena Football Florida Bobcats. Located in Sunrise just outside Ft. Lauderdale, the arena is built adjacent to the Sawgrass Mills Mall and is surrounded on the other sides by expressways and the Everglades. Suffice it to say this arena is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Getting to the Venue
A car is the only mode of transportation here and access to the arena is via I-595 to the Sawgrass Expressway and heading north from there to the second exit. Signs will take you right to the facility.

Outside the Venue
Once you arrive here, you are instantly dazzled by the ambience of the parking lot. Great pains were taken to set the mood of this facility - from the lush Florida landscaping to the blue and green mosaic pavement along the walkways to the cool looking umbrella shaped light standards. Huge outdoor plazas serve up as intimate gathering areas. And chances are whenever you are here the weather will range from just perfect to downright HOT!

As you walk inside, the view of the main entry pavilion has the look of a sweeping atrium. Just past the ticket checkpoints you can look up and see rows of escalators taking you to the upper levels. There are also view elevators in glass chutes for the ride up. Straight ahead is Pantherland, the Panthers team store, and right above that the Budweiser Terrace, a full service bar on the mezzanine level offering great views of the lobby and the outdoors.

The Concourses
What we liked about the concourses here are two things - first, much of these areas are carpeted, something they would never get away with in Buffalo or other cold weather climates. Second, all the concession stands are grouped together in three distinct food courts in each level, with condiment stations in the center of these courts. This means no straight lines of people sticking out into the corridors. This makes the entire concourse easy to navigate. We are amazed that such a basic design element has not been incorporated into other new facilities. The club level and suite level, sponsored by Lexus, has its own separate entrance just off the main level. A premium restaurant called Stanley's offers fine dining with a view of the playing surface.

The Bowl
BankAtlantic Center
The seats are all kelly green and match the building's motif. Balconies are lined with stationary ad panels and dot matrix message boards. The center scoreboard is an eight sided board with jumbotron video boards.

Banners/Retired Numbers
The Panthers actually won a conference championship within a short time after beginning its existence, an accomplishment worth celebrating. A second banner, heralding "most wins by an expansion team" is totally laughable and ridiculous. What a blight on what is otherwise a terrific building. Such a banner is meaningless and denigrates the real purpose of banner displays, which is to honor championships and retired numbers. We can just imagine what the banner raising ceremony must have been like - these idiot fans cheering wildly while this stupid bedsheet was raised to the heavens. The Panthers should be ashamed of themselves!

Penalties, Assists, Hat Tricks

Assist - At one end zone rim proudly hangs a weatherboard showing the weather report for the home and visiting teams. This night the report read "Sunrise - sunny 79 degrees.... Buffalo - bitter 10 degrees". (The high in Buffalo was 43 so obviously the Panthers were playing fast and loose with the facts.) On our return visit, the temperature of the visiting team, Montreal, was also exaggerated downward. Our message to you guys in South Florida is this - yes it gets cold in Buffalo. Yes we get snow, because that is what happens up north in winter. But here in Buffalo we have NEVER had to rush out to Home Depot to buy sheets of plywood to board up our windows. We have never had to stock up on candles and flashlights or fill water jugs with potable water. Can you folks make the same claim???

Hat Trick - A cool exhibit on the upper deck is a puck collection, where patrons, especially those visiting from afar, can submit a puck with their logo to be added to the display. In return, the Panthers will send you their puck. We enjoyed looking for logos from our area, and plan to submit a puck or two from around here. Nice Job, Panthers!

This is one amazing building - a must see. It might have ranked as our best arena in the NHL, except for the fact that this building is sandwiched between a mall, an expressway and a swamp. Placing it in a cool downtown setting in Fort Lauderdale, with restaurants and attractions in easy walking distance, would have really been the thing to do, especially in a warm climate city. Nonetheless, we rank this new building among the elite NHL new venues, and look forward to returning again and again.

May 7, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - A New York firm is eyeing the Florida Panthers as an acquisition and opportunity to develop land around the BankAtlantic Center.

The New York firm, known as a "special purpose acquisition company" or SPAC, raised $210 million from investors last year and has until January to use the money to buy a sports or entertainment asset. The company has looked at many teams. It made a bid for the Chicago Cubs, but failed.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Panthers, is an attractive option because it owns the pro hockey team, operates publicly financed BankAtlantic Center and wants to build a mixed-use entertainment district around the arena in Sunrise.

The company's board of directors includes Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former New York governor Mario Cuomo. Company officials said it was Aaron who suggested the company consider buying a sports team.

The Panthers have not made the playoffs since 2000, but the arena is profitable and the firm envisions a dynamic entertainment district called City of Oz surrounding the county-owned arena.

Planners project it could create 14,000 jobs, and pump $1.28 billion annually into the area and generate $80 million in new tax revenue.

If the purchase does occur, the new ownership group would get stock in the company, but it's unclear whether the team's operation and management would change. The resume of Sports Acquisition president Tony Tavares includes stints as president of the Montreal Expos and head of SMG, a venue operating company.

Any acquisition by the SPAC would need approval of stockholders. If it's rejected or if a deal is never made, stockholders would get their money back with interest.

June 4, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

South Florida businessman Alan Cohen is reportedly closing in on a $240 million deal to sell the Florida Panthers to a New York-based, publicly held company that would keep the team in South Florida. Once completed, the new ownership group will announce whether it will move forward with the current owner's proposal for a $2 billion mixed-used land project near BankAtlantic Center, the team's Sunrise arena. Development of the land is believed to interest the prospective new ownership group. The Panthers' parent company has proposed a project, dubbed Oz, on 140 acres of land around the BankAtlantic Center. It would include office space, shops, apartment units, hotels, a movie theater and classrooms. Broward County would consider leasing the land but not before determining whether the plan is economically feasible.

September 17, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - The company that owns the Florida Panthers is asking Broward County to restructure the debt on the BankAtlantic Center in order to provide financial aid to the team. The team is also asked for a $2 million short term loan, but it later withdrew that request.

The arena is owned by the county, but Sunrise Sports & Entertainment said its insurance premiums and obligations to help fund earlier highway improvements have become problematic, especially as it faces annual losses of $20 million a year.

Under its agreement with the county, SSE contributes annually to repayment of construction costs of the arena and operates the building, which opened in 1998. County hotel bed tax and a state sales tax rebate cover $10 million of the $14 million annual bond payments, with SSE picking up the rest. SSE's annual payments, plus insurance and ramp costs, are about $9.1 million a year.

If SSE is unable to meet its obligations, the county would need to take over operation of the arena and cover the payments.

October 8, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - Rule changes designed to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors are expected to have an impact on the revenues of volunteer organizations who staff concession stands at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.

Over the summer, Boston Culinary Group - which operates the concessions and restaurants and caters the luxury suites at the BankAtlantic Center - changed its policies so that only those older than 18 can staff the concession stands. Some school districts followed suit after a parent volunteer from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was cited for serving alcohol to a minor.

That minor was working with the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, said Damian Huttenhoff, the Broward school district's director of athletics and student support.

The district's rule extends to any venue where school groups volunteer, Huttenhoff said, including Land Shark Stadium in Miami Gardens and Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. But it only applies to volunteering in areas where beer is served; students can sell T-shirts or programs, serve as ushers or in other jobs that don't involve alcohol, he said.

Parents can still volunteer at BankAtlantic Center's concessions as long as they take a one-hour training course, said Bob Hough, Boston Culinary's general manager.

There are about 20 Broward schools that send volunteers to work as many as 13 large concession stands at the BankAtlantic Center, Hough said. Schools are given a list of Florida Panthers games and concerts and choose the events they'd like to work.

November 12, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

The Florida Panthers' parent company Sunrise Sports & Entertainment has signed up 24 new sponsors for this season - for a value of more than $4 million annually. That's on top of the already bursting roster of sponsor deals that total more than 100 for a value of more than $20 million a year.

December 3, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

The Florida Panthers have joined the ranks of those auctioning off naming rights. Those buying four lower-bowl tickets will be entered into a contest to name the team's practice rink. The facility recently underwent a $10 million upgrade. The eligible tickets start at $42 a seat per game, meaning that for about $7,000, a local business can score the naming rights that SSE values at more than $300,000. The contest runs through December and the winning business will be announced in January.

May 20, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

The Florida Panthers will reduce the official size of the BankAtlantic Center by 2,000 to 17,040. The top six rows in the corners of the upper deck as well as end zone seating will be covered in tarps for most home games. The tarps will be blue in color to blend in with the color of the highest seats in the building. Team officials say the move will create a more intimate experience for its fans.

May 27, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - The Florida Panthers are asking Broward County to reduce the teamís lease expense for BankAtlantic Center by refinancing the loan on the building. Sunrise Sports & Entertainment's Arena Operating Co., which operates the home of the Panthers, is seeking to cut its annual payments by $2.5 million annually through 2016, and then raise them by about $1 million a year starting in 2017.

The restructuring is expected to cost $23 million more over the life of the loan, which would also be extended a year, and be paid by Sunrise Sports, not the county.

"We're asking them for flexibility so we can save some money on our debt service," said President Michael Yormark, president of Sunrise Sports. "We're not asking the county for a handout, we're not asking the taxpayers for any money. We're asking so we can get some kind of cash relief for the next five years. It's no different from a company asking for relief from their landlord in challenging economic times."

County Finance Director Dinah Lewis' report, however, says, "the request essentially transfers added risks to the County," by, among other things, boosting the costs and extending the period of the loan repayment. Also, it does not include a cash-funded debt service reserve.

"It's giving them debt service relief now and it's moving the burden to the back of the loan and in doing so, one hopes that can keep them financially viable during the worst economic recession in our lifetime," County Commissioner John Rodstrom said. "I guess you could play hardball with them ...I'm inclined to work with them on it."

Other commissioners agreed and they voted to direct the countyís staff to come up with a new debt service schedule for the team.

Sunrise Sports contributes annually to repay construction costs of the arena, which opened in 1998. County hotel bed tax and a state sales tax rebate cover $10 million of the $14 million annual bond payments, with Sunrise Sports picking up the rest. If the company is unable to meet its obligations, the county would need to take over operation of the arena and cover the payments.

June 10, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - Broward County has decided to reject a plan by the Florida Panthers to cut the team's arena costs, but came up with another idea it hopes will provide the team relief.

Instead of restructuring the loan, which would have cut the team's annual payments by $2.5 million annually through 2016, and then raise them by about $1 million a year starting in 2017, the county offered a $7.5 million "internal loan" over three years. It will be repaid, with interest, between 2013 and 2015. The restructuring would have cost the county $23 million.

The loan would be covered by the over-collection in Tourist Development Tax (hotel bed tax) dollars that were raised 2 percent to help pay for the arena. Those dollars are typically used for beach renourishment, but the county commission determines annually what to do with the money.

"This would provide the cash flow relief sought by the [Arena Operating Co.] without the expense and risk of a full restructuring," County Finance Director Dinah Lewis wrote in her memo to commissioners.

The arena was financed through the 2 percent county hotel bed tax and a state sales tax rebate, which covers $10 million of the annual $14 million debt service payment. The team picks up the rest.

As a requirement of the loan, the Panthers agreed to reduce the profit level needed for the arena profit sharing arrangement to take effect, from $14 million to $12 million. That means that any dollars in profit more than $12 million, which is kept by the team, are split with the team receiving 80 percent to the county's 20 percent. So far, the profit sharing agreement has kicked in just once - in the first year, when the county received $364,000.

Additionally, the team will need to provide annual consolidated operating budget and financial statements for the team and Arena Operating Co.

Commissioners are reviewing the plan and are expected to consider it again in August.

August 12, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

The Florida Panthers have created what they call “The Perfect Plan” for season ticket sales, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The ticket plan allows fans to pick seats, name a price and learn within 24 hours if their offer has been accepted. The offer, which runs through this week, is available for seats in the lower and upper bowls and club level at BankAtlantic Center. Retail prices range from $60 to $130 per seat per game. Potential buyers could have their offers accepted, be offered another location for that price or work out a different agreement, the newspaper said. The team has sold slightly more than 50 full season ticket equivalents through the “The Perfect Plan” and turned away about 50 others, either because their offers were rejected or an agreement couldn't be reached, a team spokesman told the newspaper.

June 16, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - The Florida Panthers are asking for a multi-million-dollar renovation of Broward County's arena, arguing that the work is essential so the arena can attract more fans and concerts, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Broward County owns the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise and might be asked to help pay for the work, a set of six upgrades that total $14 million to $15 million. Panthers owners haven't said how it would be paid for. But Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler told the newspaper the plan relies on public financing,.

The $185 million arena, which opened in 1998, was built with public financing for then-Panthers-owner H. Wayne Huizenga. Broward leaders were sold on the controversial arena deal with promises that profits would return to the taxpayers. That happened only once, county officials told the newspaper.

The team's top management is paying private visits to Broward's nine commissioners to outline the arena needs. The work includes new digital signs indoors and out, a new center-hung scoreboard where sponsorships could be sold, a 700-seat members-only club for patrons who pay for an annual pass to all events, with food, drinks and parking included, and where they could watch events; a patio bar amidst the lower level seats where fans could stand and drink a beer while watching the show or game; smaller suites or opera boxes' that seat four or maybe six visitors instead of the 15 to 20 the larger suites accommodate now; and a new curtain system that would allow the top level to be blacked out so that smaller concerts could be booked without concern that the huge arena would look empty.

The newspaper said the hockey arena draws tens of thousands to its concerts, shows and Panthers games each year. Big time acts including Madonna and U2 have played at the arena. But at its relatively young age of 13, it's old in arena terms and needs work, Michael Yormark, president of the Panthers and its parent company, arena operator Sunrise Sports and Entertainment told the Sun Sentinel.

"It's been maintained very, very well," Yormark said. "But there've been a lot of new buildings that have been built during that time."

August 25, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - The Florida Panthers are planning a new club section for the BankAtlantic Center, but the jump in prices is concerning some season ticket holders.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel said the sections that would become Club Red - 134, 101 and 102 - straddle center ice behind the team benches. The Panthers' parent company, Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, is aiming to boost the revenue potential from those prime seats. Members would have access to a plush bar and lounge area with high-end food and beverage options.

"Obviously, it's going to be a significant revenue generator for the organization. We also think it's going to create a very unique experience for those people that become members," Michael Yormark, president and COO of the Panthers and SSE told the newspaper. "We did do focus groups, we talked to our season-seat holders. This was not something that was done in haste."

Yormark said a decision hasn't been made to go ahead with Club Red but could come by the end of the month. There would be 672 seats in the area. The change would affect about 180 current account holders who occupy about 360 seats in the area, according to the Panthers.

Pricing has not been set. A job posting on the Panthers' site for a sales director for Club Red said tickets would start at $20,000 per year.

Yormark said Club Red isn't designed for a corporate clientele and pointed that more than 80 percent of current season-seat holders are individual consumers.

"We probably need to sell about 200 memberships, which is not that big a number when you think about the size of the market. We have a lot of confidence that we'll get this done," Yormark said. "We're not creating something that's never been done before. Many buildings around North America are also moving in this direction as it relates to all-inclusive seats in the lower bowl. Our pricing for these seats will be on the very, very low end of comparable seats in the South Florida marketplace when compared to other venues."

As for fans' concerns about the jump in ticket prices, Yormark said, "The reality is we have comparable seats in the building that we can relocate these individuals to if they choose. I can tell you that everybody that we've spoken to one-on-one has been satisfied ultimately with the solution that we've recommended."

November 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Another name change is expected in Sunrise, Fla., after BBT&T purchased BankAtlantic, the naming rights sponsor of the Panthers' arena. The South Florida Sun Sentinel talked with Michael Yormark, CCO of the Panthers and the arena, who said it could take several months before the BankAtlantic Center becomes the "BB&T Center or BB&T Arena or whatever they decide."

November 10, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

The company that operates Broward County's hockey arena in Sunrise and owns the Florida Panthers wants a $7.7 million loan from the county to renovate the facility, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. In a letter from Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, President Michael Yormark told the county mayor and commissioners that he'd seek the loan to pay for improvements to the center's ice seating section and the executive suites. The team previously had talked of a $14.4 million request to the county. The county gave loans to the company twice before, in 2006 and 2010.

December 15, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - The NHL Florida Panthers has taken several Las Vegas casino operators on tours of its Sunrise property and discussed the possibility of building a destination resort casino on the land surrounding the arena if Florida legislators approve an expansion of casino gambling. The Miami Herald said the plan is similar to one being explored by the Miami Dolphins.

"As an entertainment company, obviously we're interested in any future entertainment opportunities in the South Florida marketplace," said Michael Yormark, president and chief operating officer of the Florida Panthers, who acknowledges there has been "significant interest" among several major Vegas players. "We have had preliminary conversations with most of them."

Representatives from Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International confirmed they have looked at the property. Wynn Resorts has also visited the site.

At the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, the 130 acres on which the arena sits is owned by Broward County; the Panthers hold a long-term lease on the property. About 90 acres of that land is undeveloped and largely used for surface parking lots, Yormark said.

Broward County Commission Chairman John Rodstrom believes the arena site would be "very attractive" for a casino and the possibility could yield benefits for the county. The county would not likely be the applicant for the casino license, although it owns the land, Rodstrom said.

"The money generated there could go right back into tourism," Rodstrom said.

In addition to available land, the arena site is easily accessed by major highways, with roads already built to withstand large crowds. It is also near Sawgrass Mills, the mega outlet mall and entertainment destination, the state's second-largest tourist attraction that draws about 30 million visitors per year.

The challenge: Most casino operators seem to be focusing on eastern corridor sites in South Florida that offer proximity to the beaches and the airports.

The Panthers say they have already cleared the concept with the NHL. "The league has given us the green light if we choose to pursue this opportunity," Yormark said.

January 19, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - Broward County has gotten the short end of the stick in its financial deal with the Florida Panthers, and a proposed loan would tip the scales further, the county's auditor charges.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel said to date, the county has paid more than $90 million for the arena that serves as the Panthers' home, and gotten back just $331,000 in profit-sharing.

The Panthers side of the scoreboard is far brighter, according to county records. Since the doors at BankAtlantic Center opened 13 years ago, Arena Operating Co., the Panthers' sister company that runs the arena, has rung up a reported $117.4 million in profits. That's more than 353 times what the county has banked.

Now, the county is poised to lend the National Hockey League club's sister company $7.7 million to renovate the arena in Sunrise. But the deal being proposed is "lopsided," "misleading," an "illusion" put before taxpayers, County Auditor Evan Lukic said.

"It is really, really troubling," Lukic said in an interview with the newspaper. "This is not a good deal."

Lukic's biting financial analysis derailed a County Commission vote on the loan, and provided fresh fodder for the debate about whether Broward's subsidy of a professional hockey franchise has been a good deal for taxpayers.

Under the 1990s agreement with then-Panthers owner Wayne H. Huizenga, Broward County donated 139 acres of public land for the arena, and committed itself to paying $8 million in bed taxes annually to finance the cost of construction.

The newspaper said the offer of profit-sharing, a part of the arena deal from the start, has proven elusive, if not illusory. The county got a cut of the profits just once, in the first year.

That appeared ready to change in 2012. Panthers President Michael Yormark offered the county what seemed to some a better deal in return for the short-term loan to pay for renovations. The new arrangement was said to provide an easier path to profit-sharing and a larger cut of the money for the county.

"This isn't the deal they're portraying," he said. "Clearly, it's misleading."

The Panthers have offered to lower the threshold that triggers the profit-sharing payout, from $12 million to $10 million in profits each year. They have also proposed increasing the county's cut of the profits, from 20 percent to 30 percent.

But there's a catch: The first $2 million in profit-sharing would count as the Panthers' repayment on the new loan the team is lobbying the county for.

The possible end result: The county wouldn't get back a dime beyond what it's already owed in repayments for the loan.

Once the loan was repaid, the county and the Panthers would go back to the old agreement, under which Broward hasn't gotten a dollar in profit in 12 years.

Lukic said if the terms governing the arena aren't changed, the county would make actually make money due to Panthers' increased attendance and projected increase in revenue. The club is resurgent this season, and seats for its home games have been mostly filled.

Yormark called the auditor's analysis "accurate," from a "mathematical perspective." But he said the chief value of the arena to Broward taxpayers is intangible and has little to do with profits. It's the benefit of having one of the top entertainment venues in the country here in Broward, Yormark said, and a professional sports franchise as well. It's the 200 to 250 construction jobs associated with the renovation, and the 125 permanent part-time jobs and 10-15 full time that would be added to the arena payroll. It's the bonus of having a county facility kept in top condition.

The Panthers aren't raking in millions, he said. In fact, Yormark said the team "has had significant losses" financially. The Panthers and Arena Operating Co. are part of the same parent company, Sunrise Sports and Entertainment.

The County Commission will reconsider whether to grant the Panthers the new loan on Jan. 31.

February 2, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Sunrise, Fla. - The Florida Panthers organization scored a $7.7 million loan from Broward County after reworking a deal that was blasted as bad for taxpayers.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel said Broward built the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise for the NHL hockey team, but Panthers' leaders say the 13-year-old ice-and-concert complex needs major work to bring in more millions. So Arena Operating Co., the Panthers' sister company that runs the arena, sought the loan from the county to build mini-suites and a club for all-events ticket holders.

The Panthers had offered to lower the threshold that triggers profit-sharing with the county, from $12 million to $10 million each year, making such payments more likely. Yormark had also proposed increasing the county's cut of the profits, from 20 percent to 30 percent. But the catch: The first $2 million in profit-sharing would have counted toward the Panthers' loan repayment to the county.

The new proposal reverts to the less-favorable profit-sharing terms, but replaces the loan payment provision with a caveat that the first $500,000 would count toward the Panthers' required payment into an arena reserve fund.

The Panthers made $10.4 million in profits in 2011; the county made none, the newspaper said.

The Panthers expect to make $21 million at the arena this year, because of the team's performance, and the renovations. The team had originally asked the county, last summer, for $14 million, but faced with sure rejection, the Panthers organization used its own money for some of the improvements, and reduced the request to $7.7 million.

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