PANTHERS GO FOR COUNTY FUNDS: Team Looks for New Scoreboard as NHL Promises Return of Draft, All-Star Game to Sunrise ... County Auditor Questions Team
-- First photo below is courtesy of the Panthers and part of their presentation to the Broward County Commission.
-- Second image is from the Panthers and the events they say they will bring to Sunrise and their take on the economic impact. These are their numbers, not mine.
PANTHERS LOOK FOR SCOREBOARD MONEY FROM COUNTY
The Panthers go before the Broward County Commission on Tuesday as they try to get a much-needed scoreboard for the Sunrise arena.
Michael Yormark says the Panthers can get a state-of-the-art board and a new master control center for $4.2 million.
If the county agrees to pay for the scoreboard, it will be in place by this coming season.
If they don't ...
"We've put enough money into the building,'' Yormark said, adding the team is spending $1 million to replace the original flooring in the main concourse this summer.
"We're not in the position to buy one. If the scoreboard just collapses next year, which I'm sure it will, we just won't have a scoreboard.''
Yormark said Monday that an NHL rep will be with him at Tuesday's commission meeting in Fort Lauderdale.
To tell the commissioners that if the scoreboard is approved, the NHL promises to bring the draft to Sunrise within the next three years.
It will also put Sunrise back in the mix for a future All-Star Weekend.
Yormark said Monday that while Sunrise wouldn't be at the top of Gary Bettman's All-Star list, the Panthers would be near the top if the commission approves the money.
High-profile regular season college basketball as well as NCAA and Conference USA men and women's basketball tournaments are also on Yormark's radar for the arena.
The Panthers hosted the All-Star Game in 2003 and are thought to be down on the list to host again just because so many other markets want it. That could change on Tuesday.
Yormark also said the Panthers would bid for the NCAA's Frozen Four.
"Our proposal is to bring value back to Broward County and to our hoteliers,'' Yormark said. "Hopefully the commissioners see that in good faith. We're not just trying to take money. We're trying to bring money and business back to Broward County.''
The Panthers will have to contend with county auditor Evan Lukic who will speak before the Panthers get up to the dais.
Lukic told me that the team should pay for such an upgrade themselves.
"They are responsible for replacing the scoreboard,'' Lukic said. "We are not. They have other means in which to pay for it.''
Lukic is also going to report to the commission that the Panthers haven't lived up to their contract as far as keeping reserve funds paid up.
Lukic contends the AOC overpaid the Panthers by $4.2 million on arena returns yet underfunded its reserve accounts.
Yormark and the Panthers aren't arguing Lukic's finding but say it's simply an "internal accounting issue" that doesn't affect how the Panthers pay the county or does business.
According to Lukic, one account that should have $2 million actually has a balance of just $163.81. Another account should have $3.3 million; Lukic says the balance is $6,712.41.
"It's set up so the AOC would always have sufficient funds,'' Yormark said. "This is just semantics. Have we ever missed a payment? No. Have we always met our obligations? Yes. There are no issues here. We haven't missed a payment on anything for 15 years.''
Writes Lukic: "Although the AOC has historically paid its obligations to the County on time, AOC has not properly funded the reserve accounts. This violates the Agreement, reduces the security for required payments to the County and reduces the ability of the AOC to fund additions and capital repairs.''
As far as paying for the scoreboard goes, Yormark says that bill should go to the county.
The Panthers, in the middle of a 30-year lease with the county, have the same scoreboard the arena opened with in 1998.
The new scoreboard would feature super-sized high definition screens sandwiched between two LCD ribbon rings.
The arena, Yormark says, desperately needs the upgraded video and audio capability.
"We have puts tens of millions of dollars into this building since it has opened,'' Yormark said.
"The county has not put one dollar into this building as a gift or as capital improvement. Not one. We've taken loans out, but we're responsible for those. It's their building. They own it.
"The scoreboard is a permanent fixture. If the Florida Panthers leave tomorrow, we couldn't take it with us. We've been a great partner. They haven't had to put any money into this building in 15 years.''
The current scoreboard has had a number of malfunctions over the past few seasons and Yormark said spare parts are growing scarce.