Panthers staying in South Florida for foreseeable future

Roberto Luongo is all about using your head and shoulders, knees and toes when making a save. In this one, he started from the toes and made another save with his glove right after.

The Florida Panthers will remain in South Florida for the foreseeable future.

During a meeting Tuesday evening, the Broward County Commission voted in favour of reworking the team’s arena lease and awarded the Panthers $86 million in public funds (in the form of tourist taxes).

“We are humbled and appreciative of the support from Broward County,” Panthers owner, governor and chairman Vinnie Viola said in a press release. “My partner Doug Cifu and I want to thank the county commissioners, county administrator and county staff for their work on this agreement. As we have repeatedly stated the Florida Panthers are committed to Broward County and South Florida. We will continue to work tirelessly to make the franchise successful on and off the ice and a valued member of the Broward County community.”

Cifu, the franchise’s vice chairman and co-owner, told FOX Sports during the first intermission of Tuesday’s Panthers-Ottawa Senators game that the money would be going mostly towards arena costs.

“We’re here to stay, we’re here to win a championship. We want to make South Florida proud,” Cifu added in the release. “What the county did today was really double their commitment to the BB&T Center and enable us to put a professional product on the ice and also bring world-class entertainment to Broward County.”

Although it didn’t receive the same type of attention the Arizona Coyotes’ situation did in the summer, the future of the Panthers would’ve been up in the air had Tuesday’s vote not passed.

“The National Hockey League is extremely pleased that the Florida Panthers and Broward County have agreed to work together to create an exciting future for the Panthers, their fans and BB&T Center,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “This collaboration provides a terrific opportunity for a surging team and an outstanding venue to energize the sports landscape in South Florida.”

Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Senators, the Panthers were averaging an attendance of 13,068 for home games. That number ranks 28th among NHL teams with only the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes attracting fewer fans.

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