Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca used taxpayer funds to buy a new $4.2 million dollar scoreboard and all we got was this lousy empty arena. At Monday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers fans were outnumbered by empty seats. Chip LaMarca promised that the new scoreboard, plus the $7.7 million for the elite “Vegas-style” Club Red section would make money for the county. Now, the national media has taken notice of the attendance disaster at the County-owned BB&T Center in Sunrise.
CBS Sports wrote about the Panthers attempts to boost attendance with ticket giveaways and promotions. CBS hockey writer Chris Peters wrote, “They even decided to tarp off a ring of seats at the BB&T Center to lower capacity. Even with that in mind, what the building looked like Monday night has to be stomach churning.”
Calling photos of the arena “sad,” USA Today reported last night set a record for fewest fans at a game. “The Panthers placed a curtain atop the upper level of BB&T Center to lower the capacity at the arena from 17,040 to 15,720,” Mike Brehm said. “The announced Columbus Day crowd was 7,311….”
Yahoo! Sports called the Panthers crowd “epically embarassing.” Greg Wyshynski said, “It’s a pathetically sparse crowd, lower than some college hockey games.” Yahoo! Sports offered other national media insights: “not a lot of fans are even showing up to see their efforts” according to NBC and “Sunrise, Florida, looked a bit bare” according to Sports Illustrated and “Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and assume that fans were still out buying refreshments” according to For The Win and “There is nobody at the Panthers-Senators game” according to SBNation.com.
Last month, former Broward Mayor Ken Keechl blasted Chip LaMarca for using taxpayer funds from tourism bed revenue to buy the scoreboard for a team owned by Forbes listed billionaire.
Keechl was responding to an audience question about damage to Fort Lauderdale beach. Yesterday, RED BROWARD reported this question was planted with a pro-LaMarca audience member. The audience member was identified as LaMarca’s personal foreclosure attorney Steven Stoll. When he realizes Keechl is scoring major points on LaMarca, Stoll attempts to interrupt his train of thought. Much to the delight of the smirking LaMarca.
Keechl said he was, “Very disappointed watching [LaMarca]…Basically it’s almost like he’s in love with the Panther millionaires.” Keechl told the audience LaMarca ignored the County Auditor when he voted to give the Panthers a $7.7 million dollar loan to build an exclusive club level at the BB&T Center. In 2013, LaMarca supported the purchase a new scoreboard costing more than $4 million dollars.
In September, new Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola made the Forbes 400 list of billionaires. The magazine reports Viola is worth more than $1.7 billion dollars.
In campaign literature and commercials, LaMarca continues to boast of his work on beach renourishment. Baloney.
The only ones buying this election season baloney must be the same folks sitting in those empty seats at the BB&T Center.