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Panthers unashamed of grabbing tax payer money for their operations

Florida Panthers CEO Michael Yormark sits down with Sun-Sentinal Editorial Board to discuss why he needs more taxpayer money.
Florida Panthers CEO Michael Yormark sits down with Sun-Sentinal Editorial Board to discuss why he needs more taxpayer money.
Omar Vega

Yesterday afternoon, Florida Panthers President and CEO Michael Yormark met with the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and was peppered with questions. For example the recent Billy Joel concert was brought up by Yormark as how the arena lost money. Someone on the editorial board asked, "Then why did you have the concert if it was going to lose money?" Yormark said, "Because we have to remain competitive in the market." The interview comes before an upcoming workshop with Broward County Commissioners and staff discussing changes to current agreements between the county.

Yormark said during the interview the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, where the Florida Panthers play, is losing close to $30 million each year. Yormark is looking to extend the 2 percent bed tax paid by tourists and residents in Broward County which has mostly funded the arena. Yormark mentioned they lose money by keeping the Panthers there, yet was strongly against having them move. He said even though the Billy Joel concert lost money, the arena makes money on concerts and other events held there, while the Panthers lose money. It was suggested the arena should give the Florida Panthers the boot and fill the 43 days the Panthers play with profitable events. Yet Yormark produced during the interview a letter from the president of LiveNation, the ticketing agency they use for events at the arena, stating that if the Panthers were no longer at the arena, then LiveNation would likely no longer service the arena. Some at the interview seem scepticle at the notion LiveNation would give up the venue, but that is what the letter said.

Yormark mentioned during the interview that Florida Panthers' new owner Vinnie Viola is prepared to pay off the debt owed to Broward County of $10 million tomorrow even though it is not due until 2017.

The bed tax generates $17 million a year. The arena currently receives $8 million of that number and is asking for $12.5 million going forward. Yormark mentioned that the arena was supposed to receive the full $17 million during these many years, however those funds have been diverted for other Broward County projects as opposed to what Broward County voters had voted for when the tax was authorized.

He said the owners of the arena have put more than $27 million in maintenance, capital expenditures and renovations to the building which Yormark argued Broward County should have paid those expenses via the bed tax as required by a voter passed Broward County ordinance.

Viola and Yormark are also hoping to develop 22 acres next to the arena into a hotel and casino operation.

It should also be mentioned while this interview was taking place, soccer star David Beckham was announcing just a few miles away, his plans to soon bring a major league soccer team to Miami completely with private funds. Beckham's move is what Libertarians would like to see more of, and far less tax payer money going to subsidize billionaires in Florida.

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