To commemorate their one anniversary as owners of the Florida Panthers hockey club, Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu issued an open letter to fans stating they do not plan on moving the franchise. The Panthers owners wrote, “As we said at the press conference when we bought the team, we view ourselves as stewards of the team for the community and our plan is to build an organization that makes South Florida proud and to win the Stanley Cup in South Florida. Despite media speculation to the contrary, we have no plans or intentions to move this franchise.” However, the “speculation” did not start with the media. Earlier this year, Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief started the talk about the team moving out of Broward county.
Sharief has been one of the strongest proponents of the Panthers’ taxpayer bailout plan. While trying to sell the idea of using tourism bed tax dollars to help the team, Sharief mentioned the Panthers would leave if the deal was not approved. Sharief was one of many Broward Commissioners pushing the deal. Sharief, Commissioner Martin Kiar, and Commissioner Chip LaMarca were guests of Panthers officials at a January 2014 Billy Joel concert at the BB&T Center. The county owned arena is operated by companies related to the Florida Panthers. Team officials and lobbyists financed the campaigns of Sharief, Commissioner Kristin Jacobs and others.
Here is the complete letter to Panthers’ fans:
As we close in on the one-year anniversary of our ownership of the Florida Panthers, we want to reiterate our commitment to Broward County, South Florida and our Panthers fans and business partners. As we said at the press conference when we bought the team, we view ourselves as stewards of the team for the community and our plan is to build an organization that makes South Florida proud and to win the Stanley Cup in South Florida. Despite media speculation to the contrary, we have no plans or intentions to move this franchise.
We made a commitment to the Panthers and to South Florida when we bought the team to build a successful organization on and off the ice. We have been working hard to live up to that commitment. Starting with the trade to bring Roberto Luongo, one of the world’s top goaltenders, back home to South Florida, and continuing with our committing over $80 million to new players, including bringing six talented veteran free agents to South Florida and resigning all of our restricted free agents, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the team. Off the ice, we continue to expand our community outreach initiatives and look forward to continue to contribute to the quality of life for residents.
It is no secret that the Panthers and BB&T Center have lost tremendous amounts of money over the last dozen years. We are working hard to address this situation, which we believe we can do with the support from our loyal fans, our business partners, the business community and our community-at-large.
We look forward to a winning season and bringing a Stanley Cup to South Florida.
With Warm Regards,
Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, Co-Owners