SUNRISE — FLA Live Arena has already hosted one big NHL event this season in the All-Star Game, but that was nothing compared to welcoming the Stanley Cup Final to South Florida.
For the first time since the barn on the edge of the Everglades opened in 1998, the Panthers will play a Stanley Cup Final game on home ice.
After a few days of prep from the Panthers and the NHL’s special events team, the place has never looked so good.
New signage is up throughout the exterior and interior of the building with workers putting the finishing touches on the place on Wednesday.
The Panthers play host to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 on Thursday night.
“With all of the NHL bigwigs in town and all of the celebrities coming in, it feels like the All-Star Game was a nice tuneup for this” team president Matt Caldwell told FHN on Wednesday.
“Of course, we did not know we would be hosting the Finals back in February, but this has the same vibe. We’re totally sold out. There has been a lot of demand and people are really excited to be part of this with us.
“We had 13,000 at our watch party and were able to donate all that money to the Florida Panthers foundation. We couldn’t get 13,000 in this building for some of our biggest games back in the early days. So, this has been awesome. It is good to play with the big boys. It has been fun.”
The Panthers are expecting a large and raucous crowd to welcome them back after they lost the opening two games of this best-of-7 series in Las Vegas.
Florida needs at least one win to keep things going a bit longer and probably need to win both at home to have a chance at hoisting the Cup.
“Very excited to be home, sleep in my own bed and come here to keep working,” captain Sasha Barkov said.
“It’s amazing, like yesterday landing and driving through the airport fans are there and I drive back to my home and there’s a lot of Panthers flags and everything everywhere. It’s very exciting. It’s the greatest time of the year and just very exciting.”
Off the ice, the Panthers have been busy making final arraignments for the biggest sporting event the building has ever hosted.
Tickets are sold out with the cheapest get-in price of $319 — not including whatever fees Ticketmaster adds on.
These next two games will undoubtably be the biggest hockey-related revenue producer in franchise history.
The Panthers increased the base price of tickets substantially as they got to this state in the postseason and have been hard pressed to keep up with the demand.
Not bad considering the Miami Heat are also in the Finals and have a large inventory of tickets to sell as well.
“Hey, this thing with the Heat has been terrific.” Caldwell said. “Having the games split up has really been great for South Florida. Everyone has been able to enjoy us in this together. There are a lot of people viewing us on par with the Heat and that’s big. They’re not just in the NBA, but Miami is one of the top NBA markets. Nice to see.”
The ticket prices are not the only thing to see a large increase in price.
Some fans pulling into the arena Thursday may be surprised to see the price of general admission parking is now $100.
For $125, you can park up close in the club section.
The NHL and the Panthers will host a pregame concert in front of the building by Flo Rida which is free to anyone wanting to come to the arena and be a part of the Stanley Cup experience.
With a chunk of the parking lot being taken out for the concert and the subsequent outdoor watch and postgame party, the team raised the price on the rest of the lots.
If you are coming to the concert and watch party — again, both are free — the team suggests you bring your own lawn chair. Parking lots open at 4 p.m. today.
“We have limited inventory with the concert in C2 and it is pretty customary as the rounds go on to increase the pricing,” Caldwell said. “There is supply-and-demand here. There’s going to be a lot of folks coming to the area. This is going to be a destination. We want people to come early, stay late and enjoy themselves and hopefully we get a win for them.”
For those with tickets to get into the arena, the atmosphere will have a big-time feel.
As was the case during the All-Star Game, the NHL have enhanced the sound system — Caldwell says plans for a new one at the arena are still on for next season — as well as on-ice introductions for pregame ceremonies.
When it comes to who will bang the large bass drum to get the crowd going, two prominent South Florida athletes — one past, one present — will do the honor in Games 3 and 4.
We will not spoil the surprise here. At least not yet.
“All the things we had for the All-Star Game from enhanced sound and lighting is in place right now,” Caldwell said. “We have a few surprises and we’re all very excited about what is next.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
GAME 3 (Vegas leads 2-0)
- When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 96.5 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — Game 1: @Vegas 5, Florida 2; Game 2: @Vegas 7, Florida 2; Game 3: Thursday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Saturday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Tuesday at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at Vegas, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
- All-time Regular Season Series: Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
- Postseason History: First meeting
- How They Got Here — Vegas: d. Winnipeg in 5, Edmonton in 6, Dallas in 6; Florida: d. Boston in 7, Toronto in 5, Carolina in 4.