Will Broward County Commissioners Spend More Money On Florida Panthers?

seeredBroward County Commissioners need to spend another $225,000 to figure out if they have a bad deal with the Florida Panthers NHL team. On Tuesday, Commissioners will be asked to give more money to Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, a full-service brokerage and investment banking firm based in St. Louis, Missouri. The previous deal called for a $117,000 payment from Broward taxpayers. Stifel has retained the services of Barrett Sports Group, LLC to help determine how much more money the public would be willing to spend on the team.

According to its website, Barrett Sports Group, LLC (BSG) offers “strategic management consulting services to the sports and entertainment industry.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says BSG founder Daniel S. Barrett “has successfully been involved in NFL stadium development processes and has demonstrated intelligence, professionalism, and an ability to achieve positive results.” On the “what’s new” section of its website, BSG declares it “has been hired to estimate the fair market value of a confidential National Hockey League (NHL) team.”

In the agreement with Broward County, BSG will perform extensive research in “Task 2.” BSG will perform a “Market and Financial Analysis of the Arena Without The Panthers.” Florida Panthers’ ownership, past and present, have repeatedly denied any plans to move the franchise out of Broward. The only mention of a potential Panthers’ move came in February 2014 by Broward Commissioner Barbara Sharief, a strong supporter of a controversial taxpayer bailout of the troubled hockey franchise.

In January 2014, REDBROWARD obtained a copy of the Panthers’ new proposal which promised to field a competitive NHL team while hosting events that “drive economic impact to Broward County and grow the BB&T Center site as a western Broward economic engine.” The proposal claimed new Panthers owner Vinnie Viola reduced and refinanced team debt, cut administrative costs, and invested in player payroll. The Panthers pledged to pay off nearly $11 million in county loans three years early.

In return, the Panthers want taxpayers to pick up their yearly $4.5 million contribution to arena bond payments. The public is already paying nearly $9 million.

The new agreement with Stifel states BSG’s “primary purpose…is to determine the strength of the market to support the BB&T Center without the presence of the Panthers.” In addition to demographics and market studies, the agreement calls on BSG to “identify and assess the level and type of public funding support necessary to ensure the financial viability of the BB&T Center and the Florida Panthers.” BSG will “assess the level of public support received at comparable NHL and NBA arenas, our extensive experience on similar projects, as well as our knowledge of the local political landscape in order to evaluate potential public participation and any opportunities or barriers that could exist in the local market.”

Hmm, sounds like taxpayers are paying big bucks to BSG who will paint a bleak picture of life without the Florida Panthers (even though the team has NEVER threatened to move). Then, BSG will help the Broward County Commissioners sell another taxpayer funded bailout of the Florida Panthers to taxpayers.

Only in Broward.


Published by Tom Lauder

Covering South Florida Politics Since 2010...As Seen On: POLITICO, The Huffington Post, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, WPLG LOCAL 10 (ABC MIAMI), The New Times

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