“We said we have to be committed,” Caldwell said. “We have to have respect for our product.”
Not surprisingly, average attendance initially took a significant dip. Eventually, once fans understood that they’d have to pay the regular price to get through the gates, it started to rebound. As that demand increased, prices — and revenues — went up in lock step.
That growth continues this year. Sponsorship renewals for next season are at 82 percent, which is 19 percent better than entering the 2019-20 season. Season-ticket renewals, at 72 percent, are on pace to exceed last year’s numbers, and the club has seen a 12 percent increase in new season-ticket holders compared to last season.
“My sales goal is to pace above where we were last season, even though we’re coming out of the pandemic,” Thornton said.
The franchise is also hopeful that a new, privately financed $65 million practice facility and community center in Fort Lauderdale, about 20 miles east of its home arena in Sunrise, will help improve the club’s visibility in South Florida.
The public-private War Memorial Auditorium revitalization project was first announced in 2019. Construction began this month on the facility, which will feature two sheets of ice, a 3,800-person concert venue, a restaurant and community fitness and recreation spaces. The aging art deco building built in 1950 was in need of a facelift, and the Panthers approached the city with an idea.
“The city would get out from a tremendous financial burden, year after year, and at the same time, still maintain public facilities for public use,” Mayor Dean Trantalis of Fort Lauderdale said.