The Florida Panthers have only made the playoffs twice in the 21st century, but their home ice is one of the best in the NHL. The BB&T Center, the Panther’s home venue since 1998, is a great arena to watch a game, and it offers fans the coolest of seating and dining, and is a true sporting experience.
Getting great seats to see professional hockey is not that difficult in South Florida. Fans can come close to game time and buy seats near the glass from the box office. The fan is not to miss hard-hitting hockey action from any seat in the facility, but for those that are hardcore and want to sit near the glass and see all of the checks as they are about to be delivered, the BB&T Center in the place for you.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Everywhere you go at BB&T Center there is a different type of food waiting for you. You can also drink anything that your palate and liver could handle. The Pulled Pork Sandwich from the Penalty Box is outstanding. Venturing down the galley a little ways one would find a very enchanting little dessert bar that offers everything from cakes to parfaits. The food is pricey, but it is fresh and well worth it.
The Penalty Box is located on the Club Level and is a more casual setting for the sports fan looking for good food, but at a price in between concession stand prices and a fancy in-game restaurant. You can have pasta, pizza or specialty sandwiches. This is only for fans with tickets to the lower bowl our suite holders or other dignitaries.
If being waited on is more your style, Legends on the first floor is more your style. They offer sushi, personal pizzas, steaks and salads and other delights that will keep you coming back for more. Access to this eatery is available and open to anyone holding a ticket anywhere in the arena.
For those of you that are more into the regular stadium food scene, they have burgers and hot dogs and pizza. You can get a cold soda or cold beer anywhere in the arena.
The Panthers are the only professional franchise in Broward County, or that bears the Fort Lauderdale city moniker and the residents are quite proud of the fact that they have professional sports in their city.
The arena is spacious and there is plenty of seating to be had. The games rarely sell out. The seats have arm rests and the seats are plenty wide to give the fan a comfortable viewing experience.
The Panthers Ice Dancers skate prior to the game and in between the periods. The Panthers make the game presentation special for the fans and they do quite a bit of in game promotions. They have a t-shirt squad that rockets t-shirts into the stands.
There is no bad place to sit in the arena. Sitting close to the glass to see the best action is preferred.
The arena is right behind the Sawgrass Outlet Mall and is tucked away in a little part of heaven that the residents call Sunrise. Crime is minimal and you do not have to fear walking through the parking lots.
If you are looking to dine before the game or after the game, there is an Appleby's and a Friday's that are both within a few blocks of the arena. The Sawgrass Mills outlet mall offers a plethora of food and drink and is within walking distance to the arena. The mall has plenty of national chains, restaurants owned by world-renowned chefs, and a food court that is second to none.
One thing that you will see plenty of in the BB&T Center is snowbirds. The BB&T Center is unlike other local venues as you will normally see hockey sweaters and sweatshirts from all over the NHL on fans in the arena. The crowd might not always be partisan for the Panthers, but it is always loud and on point. The fans seem to assimilate pretty well as the mixture of fans in the stands do not appear to be a problem.
There is no arena that you can get in and out of quicker than this one. You are a hop skip and a jump away from the Sawgrass Expressway that will take you to either I-95, I-595 or any other major roadway that you need to get to your destination. You could also take Panther Parkway and fight no traffic to get home if you live nearby.
There are usually a lot of tickets available below face value prior to the drop of the puck. The prices are extremely reasonable and it is not that expensive for a family of four to go see a game.
The Panthers have their team store in the arena and the place takes up a tremendous amount of real estate on the ground floor and offers everything that not only a Panther fan could want, but also for fans of opposing teams. You can get your own stitched official game-issued jersey while you wait. If you prefer to shop on a grander scale, save some time to shop at the Sawgrass Outlet Mall which is located near the stadium in Sunrise. This is the largest Outlet mall in the southeast part of the United States and you can find a lot of nice bargains. The food is to die for as Wolfgang Puck has a restaurant there and there is also a Cheesecake Factory that you can go to for dessert after the game.
The Panthers put on a top-flight evening of hockey. From the competitive play to the Ice Dancers to the in-game promotions, the BB&T Center is a great place to watch a hockey game. The food is delicious and plentiful. The entire evening is a spectacle not to be missed for those travelling through South Florida.
Opened in 1998, the glitzy BankAtlantic Center is the home of the NHL Florida Panthers. When the Panthers departed from their original home, the old Miami Arena in downtown Miami, they wanted to place with a more central geographic footprint in the massive Dade/Broward market, so their new digs were built near the more upscale communities of Sunrise and Plantation. Being in a non-traditional hockey market, with salubrious warm weather and the lack of a natural fan base, have posed challenges. Yet the Panthers soldier on.
The cultural, financial, and population center of the area of the Florida East Coast known as "South Florida" is Miami, yet South Florida's hockey team, the Florida Panthers, are not in Miami - well, not anymore. They currently reside in the $185 million arena built by Broward County, the BB&T Center (formerly known as the BankAtlantic Center), which is also the second-largest professional-sports arena in the US, behind only the Blackhawks' United Center in total seating capacity (but as you'll soon read, not actual capacity).
Despite their relatively-short history, this is the second home to the Panthers. Their original home (as well as the NBA's Miami Heat) was the Miami Arena, located in downtown Miami. Opened in 1988 in time for the Heat's first season, the arena soon came under scrutiny for being too small to handle the demand for either team. Soon, the hunt was on for a new home for each, and with a deadline imposed by the Panthers' owner of August 31, 1998, the city of Sunrise and the Broward County officials came through in 1996 with funding to build a new home for the Panthers near the popular Sawgrass Mills Mall.
The arena opened 33 days after the deadline on October 3, still in enough time for the 1998-99 season to be played entirely in the new arena. Given the nickname of "The Center of It All" in the corporate naming deals and for the fact they constantly draw big names even with the Heat's AmericanAirlines Arena's location next to the core population, this arena has a lot to live up to. Especially since the Panthers aren't quite the draw they used to be.
Since 1998, the BankAtlantic Center has been the home of the Florida Panthers, the first having been the now demolished Miami Arena. The BAC was built out at the edge of the Everglades in Sunrise in order to attract fans from Broward and West Palm Beach counties. Sunrise is an outer suburb of Fort Lauderdale, home mostly to gated developments, strip malls and the Sawgrass Mills mall and outlet center.
While the Florida Panthers set the bar high early with the best ever record for an expansion team their first season and a Cinderella run to the Cup final in their third, the team has only been to the playoffs once since they moved to their current home, back in the 1999-2000 season. Nevertheless, the eternally optimistic hardcore fanbase return year after year in hopes that this is the year.
I was intrigued to hit the BankAtlantic Center, as the experience of the Florida Panthers has one of the worst reputations in the league. In Ontario, the radio personalities joke that you get free tickets when you buy a bottle of vodka at the liquor store!
I was mildly impressed with the experience. Some of the things that have been viewed as poor in the past were just fine for me. As a traveller, and not a local, being far away from central Miami is no big deal. In fact, being next door to the largest outlet mall ever was perfect. Day at Sawgrass followed by an evening of hockey. Free parking was awesome of course. The game we were at was well attended, probably because it was over the Christmas break and they were playing the Canadiens ... in front of thousands of Quebecois! What impressed me about the fans was their resiliance. They stayed true to their team, fought with their Go Panthers Go cheer, and serenaded the leaving Canadiens fans with Go Home Habs upon leaving after a Panthers victory.
What I didn't like were probably the worst concession prices I've experienced. Way too high. I also felt that my ticket price was also too high.
I loved the return of the "Victory Rat" and the return of the rat motif from back in the 90's. The highlight of the game was watching the rats fly on the ice after the Panthers won.
Overall, we had a good time, but my question is: are some of the Panther problems due to price points and not location, or apathy?
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