After Broward County Commissioners committed millions of dollars to bail out the Florida Panthers, the team is making bold new plans for the team, says Peter Luukko, the team's executive chairman.
Under the plan approved Tuesday, the Panthers will get $12 million in the next year. Taxpayers overall investment in the team grows to $342 million.
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"We saw our attendance rise at the end of last year and we have seen numbers go up this year," says Luukko, who worked for the hallowed Philadelphia Flyers organization for 25 years, rising to become President and CEO before coming to Miami. "This deal really puts us in a position where we can be competitive," Luukko says.
Luukko is part of the plan to turn around the fortunes of a team that had the worst attendance in the league last year. So is Jaromir Jagr, the 43-year old winger who is the leading point scorer of all-time. Moreover, the Panthers roster is filled with players under age 25 like center Vincent Trocheck, a former Team USA member who has regularly been listed among top prospects. The team has also focused on its season ticket base, which rose from 5,000 last year to 9,000 this year.
"This building is gorgeous," Luukko says. "I know the building works. We sell out the concerts here, and we sold out opening night against my old team. We have had some good crowds to date."
The Panthers also have "well-capitalized owners" who are willing to spend more money to make the team a winner, which, Luukko says, should draw crowds. He makes allusions to the Panthers back in the 1990s, who were better and more popular. "Teams like Washington, Chicago and Boston all had years where they didn't perform as well," he says. "We are heading in the right direction. We know what this team was and what it can be."