FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Broward County Commission on Tuesday voted to pay for a new $4.2 million scoreboard for the Florida Panthers, the latest in a long list of county giveaways to the struggling team.
Just before the 6-2 vote came audit findings that the Panthers-related company that controls the taxpayer-financed BB&T Center misspent funds, failed to file mandatory financial reports with the county, and hasn't maintained required reserves.
"We have not performed the way we needed to… and for that I apologize," said Panthers President Michael Yormark.
Moments later, he and his lobbyists, John Milledge and Mike Moskowitz, were asking the commission to approve the new state-of-the-art scoreboard.
"We've never let you down," Yormark told commissioners.
Though the public was promised a share in the profits when the arena was built in 1998, taxpayers have received almost nothing in return for the nearly $100 million it has paid for BB&T. The team, on the other hand, has profited more than $120 million because of the lopsided way the deal was structured.
Yet commissioners rarely turn down the team when it asks for favors. Just last year, the county approved the latest loan for the team, this one for more than $7 million.
Those who voted in favor: Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Marty Kiar, Chip LaMarca, Lois Wexler, Barbara Sharief, and Dale Holness.
Only Commissioner Tim Ryan brought up the fact that taxpayers had been shorted for years in the generous deal. He said he would be happy to support taxpayers' money going to the scoreboard so long as the stadium deal was restructured to give the county a share of profits. That deal was quickly shot down by Jacobs, who said it would take too much time and amounted to negotiating from the dais.
Yormark and the lobbyists claimed the new scoreboard would help bring tourists, including a claim that a convention of Jehovah's Witnesses was attracted by the idea of using video from a new scoreboard and that the gathering would bring a $100 million economic impact to the area. County auditor Evan Lukic pointed out that there was no evidence to back up that claim.
"The scoreboard does not result in any value to the county," said Lukic.
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