Later today, FLA Live Arena — the home of the Florida Panthers — will be no more.
The Panthers have scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference to officially announce that their 20,000-plus seat venue in Sunrise will have a new name as Coral Gables-based Amerant Bank puts its name on the building.
The multi-year naming rights deal will mean the Panthers will play at Amerant Bank Arena for the foreseeable future.
Neither the Panthers nor Amerant Bank have disclosed the financial part of the deal although team president Matthew Caldwell said FHN’s $3 million annual estimation was “a little low.”
The Panthers have been looking for a naming rights partner for the past couple of years after BB&T and SunTrust merged and created Truist — with the new megabank deciding to end its longstanding financial partnership in 2021.
The team did not have to go far to find a new one as Amerant Bank has not only been the ‘official bank of the Florida Panthers,’ but also had its name on the team’s game helmets and on the luxury club located at the center of the building.
The team did hire the Endeavor Group to facilitate the naming rights process with Caldwell saying “we got a lot of great leads, spoke with a lot of new folks.’’
In the end, however, the Panthers found their new naming rights partner at home.
Jerry Plush, the chairman, president and CEO of Amerant Bank, was someone who had become close to Caldwell and the Panthers in 2021 and things just moved ahead.
“You always want to go with a local brand and they work with us and the Heat and both of us went to the championship last year. I asked Jerry what stocks he likes because he sure can pick ‘em,” Caldwell said.
“They have been with us for a couple of years, they are our official bank and we have a great relationship with them. Things evolved. Ultimately, when we looked at the whole picture with financials and a local brand … they are a great story. Jerry is passionate about the sport and our brand and they are expanding outside of Coral Gables. It definitely all made sense. But it is not just financial. You are picking a partner you are going to be working very closely with for a number of years. It all came together very nicely.”
Today’s press conference will be held, fittingly enough, in the Amerant Vault.
The team has already changed some social media handles but it will take time to put up all the new signage around the arena. It should all be in place by the team’s opener next month.
“This is a natural progression of the relationship we have had with the Panthers,” Plush said. “We started out with the home helmet and then had both home and away, became the official bank and now the naming rights. For us, it was just logical to progress to this point.’’
The naming rights deal is the most public business transaction in what has been a busy year for that side of the organization.
The team’s recent success — the Panthers have been to the playoffs three consecutive seasons, winning the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy in 2022 and going to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final — has been a boon to the bottom line.
The Panthers are closing in on having a new partner place advertising on their home jerseys (AutoNation sponsors the road sweaters) and ticket sales are at an all-time high.
During the team’s run through the playoffs, Florida’s sales staff was flooded with season ticket requests with the team now close to selling out the lower bowl for the entirety of the season.
New sponsors will be seen throughout the arena during the season as the popularity of the Panthers is as high as it has ever been.
“These last three years is the best three-year run this team has ever had,” Caldwell said. “We are really pumped. After the 2021-22 year, which was great, that offseason was our best ever as we set records for tickets, revenue, corporate sponsorships, a new media deal.
“All of those records we have shattered this offseason. We are almost sold out in the lower bowl and the upper bowl is filling in nicely. You’re going to see the biggest crowds ever this year just on tickets in the bank already.’’
Amerant Bank, which has locations throughout South Florida, also has sponsorship deals with the Miami Heat and Miami Hurricanes.
It recently opened an operation center in Miramar and announced plans for a regional headquarter in Plantation.
“I joined here in February of 2021 and one of the first things I thought we needed to do to increase brand awareness was associate ourselves with the already strong brands in our footprint,” Plush said.
“These are three very strong brands in the Hurricanes, Heat and Panthers. One of the areas we had our eye on in expansion was Broward County … doing something as a commitment to Broward with the Panthers was a logical move for us.”
NAMING HISTORY OF THE FLORIDA PANTHERS’ SUNRISE ARENA
Broward County Civic Center (construction)
National Car Rental Center 1998-2002
Office Depot Center 2002-05
BankAtlantic Center 2005-12
BB&T Center 2012-21
FLA Live Arena 2021-23
Amerant Bank Arena 2023-present
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Now: Free agency is open
- Thursday: Training Camp, Sunrise/Coral Springs
- Monday: Preseason starts; Doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends; v. Tampa Bay Lightning @ Sunrise
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (Bally Sports Florida)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)