Panther Deal Would Rip Off Fort Lauderdale, Rest Of Broward






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.


vincent viola

Vincent 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.


soaking tubThe soaking tub in Viola’s NYC mansion (click to enlarge)

19 Responses to “Panther Deal Would Rip Off Fort Lauderdale, Rest Of Broward”

  1. SAM FIELDS says:

    Are Steve Ross, Jeffrey Luria and Vince Viola the same person?

    After honoring any contract obligations, they should take their teams and move elsewhere.


  2. SAM FIELDS says:

    One other thing.

    Nice bathroom. It looks like his interior decorator was Tony Montana…”Say hello to my little friend”

  3. Ha Ha Ha says:

    The Panthers themselves should get the heave-ho. Broward doesn’t need hockey!

  4. Duke says:

    Back when the Panthers were in the old Miami Arena, Big Daddy Wayne decided that he wanted them in Broward. His research showed that at the time, 60% of Panther season ticket holders resided in west Broward or Palm Beach County. Mr. Huizenga convinced our then county commission to approve an arena in Sunrise, across the street from Florida’s biggest tourist attraction. Not only did Wayne Huizenga get a publicly funded state of the art arena at the location of his choosing, but the county commission also awarded him the management contract for the arena.

    This was all a terrible disservice to the rest of Broward County, particularly downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

    Over the years, the team has been sold twice. Along with the team comes the contract to manage the arena. That’s the main reason anyone would want to buy the team.The team make little money. The arena is raking it in.

    The absolute best place for the arena would have been where Riverfront is. Back then the property was vacant, and not much has happened there since. I think at one point the property was in foreclosure.

    There’s plenty of room for an arena at that Riverfront location. It would be right on the water. Additionally, all those downtown city parking garages and privately owned lots would be empty at night and on weekends, so they would all be used if we had an arena downtown. Imagine all the spin-off business for the Las Olas Boulevard restaurants and bars as well as Himmershee Village. Imagine 25,000 people mingling around that area on nights and weekends.

    The arena is Sunrise is consistently one of the top ten grossing arenas in North America, yet the county is not making one dime off an arena that they own.

    It’s the management contract for that top ten grossing arena which makes it attractive to team owners, not the team. When a concert, or Disney on Ice, or the circus, or a televangelist, or pro wrestling, or the rodeo, or the monster truck pull comes to town, they don’t pay rent to the county. They pay rent to the Panthers. That is just flat-out wrong.

    What the county should have done was build an arena in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, then hire someone to manage the arena. The Panthers would be a tenant, and pay rent, just like everyone else. An actual county employee held accountable by the county commission would be running the place. Just like the way Dade County had Bob Franklin managing the old Miami arena before they built the new one on Biscayne and took a page out of Wayne’s book and handed Micky Arison the management contract.

    Back in the 90’s then then county commission and Wayne Huizenga screwed us. It’s almost 20 years and two new owners later, and we’re still getting screwed.

    The owner of the Panthers is making a fortune that should be going to the public for an arena that we built and own. Not only would I not give him another dime, I would probably fight hard to get that management contract back in the hands of the county.

  5. Piano Man loving Commissioner says:

    Where do I sign up? Screw my district, where the beach has fallen into the ocean. Spend those bed tax $$$ on the stuff out west. I heard the Cher is coming to town and I have alway wanted to give her…I mean give her a key to the county. Wait, how tall is she?

  6. West Davie Resident says:

    The real issue is the tourist bed tax is generating more money than originally anticipated because of stronger demand for those hotel rooms.

    Politicians love such free unbudgeted money! More to invest in the vernacular of Bill Clinton! Just more government wasteful spending in my opinion.

    I have a better idea. Lower the tax rate to yield the anticipated funding and allow the tourists to keep those dollars in their wallets where it belongs. Perhaps they might even spend it while here helping our merchants and not our politicians.

    As for a Sunrise destination casino, I will await Mayor Ryan’s 20 paragraph response to Buddy’s question. Of course he probably only cares if the casinos will use union employees whose dues can be funneled to his next election campaign ala Obama’s stimulas fraud.

  7. Ciar to have my vote says:

    Oh golly what I would give to spend a weekend in that place, WOW.

  8. Randy newman says:

    I love Commissioner LaMarca in LHP gave me the key to the Red Fox Diner when I played Keepers Day…in return I wrote a little tune for him

    Short people got no reason
    Short people got no reason
    Short people got no reason
    To live

    They got little hands
    Little eyes
    They walk around
    Tellin’ great big lies
    They got little noses
    And tiny little teeth
    They wear platform shoes
    On their nasty little feet

    Well, I don’t want no short people
    Don’t want no short people
    Don’t want no short people
    `Round here

    Short people are just the same
    As you and I
    (A fool such as I)
    All men are brothers
    Until the day they die
    (It’s a wonderful world)

    Short people got nobody
    Short people got nobody
    Short people got nobody
    To love

    They got little baby legs
    That stand so low
    You got to pick em up
    Just to say hello
    They got little cars
    That go beep, beep, beep
    They got little voices
    Goin’ peep, peep, peep
    They got grubby little fingers
    And dirty little minds
    They’re gonna get you every time
    Well, I don’t want no short people
    Don’t want no short people
    Don’t want no short people
    ‘Round here

  9. just saying says:

    thanks for history lesson
    a few points
    there wasn’t a big enough space let alone arena for hizenga and arison (panthers and heat owners respectively) in original miami arena
    so hizenga cut his $weetheart deal at taxpayer expen$e with bcc and got the building in sunrise
    if the fll local electeds or the bcc electeds support this payout, no harm to me as I don’t live in broward but the rest of you footing the bill better clean house at next election

    where’s the broom?

  10. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    Three things about this:

    1) Broward is bearly 100 years old and already we have 1.8 million people which, surrounded as we are by Dade and Palm Beach, makes us the second largest population mass within a 50 mile radius on the eastern seaboard of the US. We are big business and while understandable we must make a greater effort to start thinking in at a more sophisticated plane. I offer this not as an insult, but as a respectful observation we need to confront. We can keep our small town traditions and we should. But we are no small town. Not any more and have not been in a long time. In fact, we are pioneers here still building institutions both public and private to serve so great a population. Stadia is part of that mission. It is unfairly concluded on the basis of “he’s rich” without ample consideration of how it enriches us in the larger sense.

    2) There should be a clear and open financial picture, a needs analysis, anytime the government is asked for public funds and return on investment should be part of that equation. However, at present, it appears that the Sunrise Arena, though it collects millions in ticket sales, is really in the parking and pretzel sale business because that’s the only money they seem to be able to keep. The ticket money goes to pay expenses including a hefty upkeep bill to the county. And whether the hockey team stinks or not is consideration out of sequence with this discussion.

    3) I just completed 4 years as a member of the Tourist Development Council. There’s hardly enough bed tax money to pay for advertising our destination. Then there’s these deals that come into play to fund the arts, museums, new venues, stadia. Tourism is not expanding as it could and should in Broward not because we lack talented personnel in that field. I can tell you from personal experience, we have some of the very best. But because we have no plan for that future and no tactical funding plan to make it happen. Why doesn’t Broward have world-class family entertainment spots? Why don’t we have a fisherman’s wharf section with outstanding seafood? What would it take to make that happen, and why is that planning not taking place. Why should so much of the bed tax go to beach renourishment, over and over again, without a better engineering solution to that inevitably recurring problem?

    Like most areas in Florida, we in Broward have a tourist industry that also feeds our local economy. We may not in good stewardship ignore that fact or devalue the asset of our spectacular weather and natural resources. These are economic assets that must be cared for, cared about, protected and made to work for our people.

    There’s a lot of growing up to do in the beautiful community I’ve come to love and call home. It’s time we stepped up to deal with what confronts this community with a better, more positive and mature attitude. We are pioneers with a responsibility to our present AND our future.

    There’s work to do. It’s time to grow up and get on with the work.




    You made my case with #3. We need the money to develop tourism.

    Broward is a large county, but it is essentially in the same position to tourists now as New Jersey is to New York. It isn’t much more than an afterthought for the majority of tourists. It is wedged between better known places — Miami and Miami Beach on one side and Palm Beach on the other.

    Broward County, despite all the bed tax money over the past decades, have given tourists little reason to visit Broward. Our greatest attractions by numbers are Sawgrass Mills and the Swap Shop, which generate the vast majority of their business with little help from the bed tax.

    You asked: “Why doesn’t Broward have world-class family entertainment spots? Why don’t we have a fisherman’s wharf section with outstanding seafood? What would it take to make that happen, and why is that planning not taking place?”

    Your questions can be answered simply. There is a lack of real political leadership. Every member of the widely diffused political community has their hand out. Nobody has the responsibility, the power or the vision to lead the entire county towards the future.

    Part of this is caused by single member districts. Part of this is caused by the large number of unnecessary cities in Broward. And a big part, in my opinion, is because there is no countywide mayor.

    So the bed tax money goes to the loudest person (i.e., lobbyist) who asks. It has become commissioners’ honey pot to fund everything but straight up tourist development.

    (Regardless what you think of beach renourishment, which gets a good deal of the money now, at least tourists use the beach! By the way, commissioners who represent the beach will have a hard time explaining to their constituents why the money is now going to a West Broward hockey team, if the Panthers get their request.)

  11. Fort Lauderdale Resident says:

    As a Fort Lauderdale resident, we should just opt out of the bed tax all together. Our City produces more than half of the revenue yet we have no say (since neither County Commissioner that serves our City actually lives in Fort Lauderdale)in the fact that renourishment money for our beaches that bring in the tourists in the first place could be used to prop up a second rate hockey team.

    I am going to vacation in Pembroke Pines or Sunrise has never been said by anyone.

  12. Duke says:

    Buddy and Commissioner Castillo:

    You both have excellent comments on this matter.

    One problem I see is lack of vision and a “Whats in it for me” mentality among some political leaders.

    One final point concerning the arena and sweetheart deals. The building has had several names over the years. There’s big money from those naming rights. When BB&T writes the check for the naming rights to the building, who do they write the check to? The county or the Panthers? How in God’s name does a tenant of an arena who occupies it 41 nights a year get the money for the naming rights to the building that is owned by the county?

    And as far as “bed tax”, the county needs to do something about all the mom and pop motels in Dania and Hollywood that don’t charge daily rates with a bed tax during tourist season. Canadians come down for months at a time and these folks with Hotel / Motel licenses are charging tenants “rent” with no sales or bed tax.

  13. He who laughs last says:

    Hey aturd you fat fuck, here is a tune, the blues, laugh now but let’s see how much you will be laughing when Seiler kicks you to the curb when Merrigan does not get Circuit Court Judge becuase you messed with the wrong people that Gov Scott listens too when picking Judges around here.

  14. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    I didn’t suggest that beach renourishment wasn’t needed. Of course we need beaches with sand. But there’s been no long term plan to deal with that expense except the bed tax, which can’t bear the financial strain. Nor any willingness to raise more bed tax. Nor any effort to expand tourism.

    Nor is there a call for engineering solutions that are less costly over the long run and more effective alternatives.

    We just continue harvesting sand from ocean bottoms, dump it where it’s needed, and let it wash back. Over and over and over again, there has got to be a better way and there are places in this world where the problems are handled better. Take Venice for example (the one in Italy). They have the same erosion issues and have figured out ways to better manage it. I’m not saying we must do our beach just that same way. I’m saying we need to look for alternatives.

    When that question is raised a numb stare follows. I didn’t buy that answer as a member of the TDC and don’t now. Problems are there to be tackled, not to tackle us.

    This isn’t about single member districts, which is a step up not down on the governmental evolution chain. It’s about us being proud of who we are and showing that pride by self-investments in our future.

    We need to create more economic pie in this county through action. Thinner slices don’t cut it anymore. Our local economy needs to grow in order to keep pace with the demands of the people it serves.

    If the stadium and the performing arts center and the science museum and other things need help, of course we need to help them. If they show cause for that need. But if all that help comes from the same thin pie that can’t even do the job it was created to do well enough (bed tax) then there must be a reckoning with that reality.

    The bed tax has a purpose — to generate more tourism — and it is not large enough to satisfy other county projects that arguably involve tourists. Living in denial of that gets us nowhere.


  15. Alice McGill says:

    A large percentage of Broward’s tourists are cruise ship passengers who fly in, sail out, sail back, fly out. The bed taxes generated by those cruise ship tourists would be better spent on improving the concrete jungles around the inexpensive hotels in which they stay in places like Dania Beach. Eastern Broward County, especially from SE 17th Street south on US 1 is beginning to look like Newark. No wonder the cruise ship passengers leave for the islands.

  16. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    You’re right. If we’re going to be a great tourist AND residential destination, nowhere should there be signs of distress like you describe. I totally agree and the key is figuring out rational ways to to work backwards from that outcome.

    C’mon. Let’s do it.


  17. Sam The Sham says:

    The constant sand renourishment projects on Broward beaches is a result of Enviroweenies teaming up with the dredging industry to prohibit structures in the water, such as rock groins, to inhibit beach erosion. Decades ago in Deerfield Beach, a group of local businessmen stopped the beach erosion by placing boulders along the beach. It worked. Of course the enviro-wackos could not stand it so this practice is now verboten.

  18. Fort Lauderdale Resident says:

    @#13, I assume you’re referring to Mike Ahearn. Everybody knows that guy is always lurking in the shadows at the city. From what I hear around town, he also has puppets all over the courthouse. Someone should look into him and all his connections to elected officials all over town, but the press is so far up his ass too that they will never write about it.

  19. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    First we gave them all that money for the scoreboard. They had to have it. What have we gotten from the Panthers? What a lousy 200g. Where’s are cut? Now they want even more money. They are planning a casino over there if the State ok’s it. I would give them the money on one condition. If the dice come down here Broward gets 10% of their gross(not net) when the casino is up and operating forever. Ross was just as bad w/ the Dolphins. These big shots playing the role to keep up w/ the Jones but they want our money to keep up the operation. Its like me going to the County and saying give me 100g so I can remodel or tile my floors like this guy. Incidently who was the decorator? That foyer my God is that over the top. I could just see me falling on my face after one to many on that tile floor. The comment about something out of Tony Montana, you ain’t kidding(can you say tackee)…