Office Depot Center
Office Depot Center
The Florida Panthers, who came into the NHL during the expansion wave of the early 90īs, shared their home with the Miami Heat (NBA) between 1993 and 1998. Both teams played at the Miami Arena in Miami and got their own new arenas at the end of the decade.
In 1998 the Panthers started to hit the ice at the new Office Depot Centers (formerly known as the National Car Rental Center) in Broward County which also owns and financed the 212 million-dollar complex whose name-rights were sold to the National Car Rental company for 20 years in exchange for roughly 40 million dollars. The move was of huge importance for the Florida Panthers who more or less suffered from financially unbearable leasing-conditions at the old Miami Arena, where most of the revenue went to the Miami Heats and the owners of the arena and the Panthers were loosing tons of money.
With a seating capacity of 19.200 for hockey and close to 21.000 for concerts or other events (at least this are the official numbers, a number of recounts might be needed to clarify on the real number of seats) the arena is one of the bigger venues of todayīs NHL. In addition to this there are about 70 VIP-suites at the arena and 2.300 club-seats. The arena itself was designed by star-architect Ellerbe Becket and was opened with a Celine Dion concert in 1998.
Besides the Florida Panthers as the main tennants the Miami Jackals, a rollerhockey-team, have also found their new home at the Office Depot Centers. But in addition to ice- and rollerhockey various other events take place at the Centre, wether itīs basketball (no NBA though), boxing, indoor-soccer or wrestling.
Various restaurants, two of them with a view on the Florida Everglades, a team-store on 5.400 square-meters and a nicely designed area around the arena complete the positive impression a visitor gets at the National Car Rental Centre. Compared to rather ugly arenas like the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey the Office Depot Center has not just been put somewhere but really appears to be part of a larger project. There are also plenty of outside views throughout the building no matter where you are. On top of that there are several excellent balcony and patio locations that offer access to the outside of the building at each level. This is a nice and unique design feature of the building, which can be considered one of the nicest arenas of todayīs sports-world. You will also find 723 toilets throughout the complex, enough of everything...
A study of the Amusent Business Magazine ranked the arena as the number 10 arena with more than 15.000 seats nationwide concerning gross profit between January and August 2000 with a profit of 7.567.745 dollars so that one can state that the arena has moved up right to the top venues of the United States within 2 years of itīs existence, joining other great arenas such as the Fleet Center in Boston or the Madison Square Garden in New York (ranked #1).
Tips for visitors:
The Florida Panthers began their NHL-existance on a very positive note. During their inagural season in 1993/94 the team only missed the playoffs by a single point, and after a similiar performance during their next campaign the team reached the playoffs in only itīs third year of existence. Carried by the growing hockey-fascination in Florida the team eventually won the Easter Conference and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals where the Colorado Avalanche stopped the impressive run in an rather exciting 4:0 series (game 4 went into tripple overtime and was one of the best Stanley Cup Finals-games of the 90īs, Patrick Roy in net for the Avs, me missing the game in a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and John Vanbiesbrouck for the Panthers combined for close to a million saves and in the end the german Uwe Krupp decided the game and brought the Cup to Denver). The Panthers ran their sellout-streat at the Miami Arena to more than 150 games during their succesfull early years of existence, but since 1997/1998 the team has been struggeling on the ice and at times even at the gate. While one should consider the fact that the historical sellout-streak took place at the old Miami Arena, seating only 14.703, it is still not really a good sign that the team only managed to sell out one single homegame during the 2000/2001 campaign when Mario Lemieux made his comeback-trip to the sunshine-state.
As long as the team does not turn into a winner again attendance numbers will probably remain flat and one shouldnīt be overly concerned about ticket availability, even for good opponents. If the Maple Leafs or Red Wings come to town it might be advisable to order tickets in advance, but both in 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 none of the games were completly sold out. Ticket-prices are rather low compared to many other NHL-cities, if you donīt mind to sit a bit farther from the ice I would advise you to buy the so-called "Panthers Pack" on game-day (only sold then). Itīs a ticket for 14 dollars, one canīt complain at all and with the team averaging a couple thousands fans less than capacity you even stand a good chance of moving down a bit. If you order tickets in advance the upper level sells from 25 to 38 dollars while the lower level tickets change hands for 67 dollars. The view is basically great from everywhere, just the distance to the ice varies. As always tickets can be ordered on the internet at Ticketmaster, the link is at the bottom of the article.
If you have never visited the Office Depot Centers before be sure to arrive early in order to take a look at all the nice features of the arena, wether itīs the balconies or the whole structure of the complex, itīs definetly quiet a change compared to the Continental Airlines Arena (still the perfect example for a really ugly venue).
Getting to the arena:
Really good driving-directions to the arena can be found at:
Links to the team:
www.floridapanthers.com (official homepage of the Panthers)
www.homeice.net (Fanpage of the Panthers)
www.miami.com/herald/content/sports/ (Local coverage of the team)
(homepage of the arena)