BY BUDDY NEVINS
Vincent Viola’s Manhattan mansion is on the market for $114 million, about half what he paid for the Florida Panther’s hockey team last year.
The price is the most expensive ever in New York City.
Viola bought the 20,000 square foot mansion on East 69th Street for $20 million in 2005.
If Viola gets his asking price, that would represent quite a profit.
With that kind of haul on the horizon, why does Viola’s Panthers need $70 million of Broward County money?
Viola has a problem.
Few care about hockey in sunny South Florida. They especially don’t care about a team that stinks.
So the team supposedly loses money. Viola apparently believes we should use our tourist funds to subsidize the Panthers.
To the tune of $70 million!
The money would come from the so-called bed tax. It would be paid by tourists when they stay in hotels and motels.
The bed tax is designed to pay for tourist development, which creates economic activity and jobs.
Handing the Panthers a big chunk of this money doesn’t improve tourism at all. It bails out a losing hockey team owned by billionaire former head of the NYMEX commodity futures exchange and a commodity trader — Viola.
The big losers in this deal are Fort Lauderdale and its inns. They generate more than half the tourist tax. Helping the Panthers does absolutely nothing for tourism in Fort Lauderdale.
It does nothing for the Diplomat Resort and South Broward tourism. It does nothing for North Broward tourism.
In fact, the deal is shaped to hurt tourism in other parts of the county.
Part of the plan is to hand the Panthers the right to develop 22 acres north of the arena into a casino/hotel…if the Legislature approves it.
So the Panthers want to take public money from Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, etc. to compete with Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, etc.
There is a Yiddish word for that: Chutzpah.
There is also danger to Sunrise in all this.
Sunrise has residents living around the arena. Currently the arena’s impact is only during occasional events.
Do those Sunrise residents really want traffic going to a casino/hotel all day and night? I think not.
So far the Panther’s president and not its owner, Viola, has been the one to beg publicly. But Viola is known as the ultimate “closer” and will no doubt will be brought in if needed.
I got an idea, Vinnie. Maybe you can close the deal by inviting County Commissioners to stay in your mansion.
There is plenty of room — seven bedrooms. There is not shortage of things to do with a pool, sauna, game room, gym, walnut floors and 14 carat gold leaf ceilings and a two-story screening room modeled after a theater in Queens
The centerpiece of one of your nine bathrooms is carved from a single giant geode. It is described by The Daily News as a “soaking tub.”
So Vinnie, commissioners can get a good soaking…right before you and the Panthers soak Broward County for $70 million.