SBD/December 17, 2013/Franchises

NHL Panthers' Owner Vincent Viola Opens Up About Vision For South Florida Market

Viola is looking to make a bigger impact in South Florida market
New NHL Panthers Owner Vincent Viola is "determined to have an impact on the South Florida landscape that goes well beyond hockey," according to a Q&A with Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Viola "aims to work with Broward County to expand the economic and cultural impact of BB&T Center, mainly through development of the surrounding area, and expand his philanthropic efforts to South Florida." Below are excerpts from the Q&A.

Q: What is your assessment of your first few months as owner?
Viola: We have been learning an awful lot. It's kind of like drinking out of a fire hose. If I had to sum it up in a couple of sentences: We're more committed now to the principles that we believe in that produce long-term excellence in organizations. The team is, I think, staring to understand that everyone must work and everyone has to be absolutely committed to excellence.

Q: Do you find it more challenging, maybe at times frustrating, to get the results you want with a sports franchise as opposed to other business you have run?
Viola: It's a real-time business. You cannot take time to deeply re-evaluate in the middle of a season. So you've got to get it right, and you basically earn the validation of your strategy on a nightly basis in hockey. Although, having come from the trading side of Wall Street, that is also a real-time business. So I'm comfortable with that. There are a lot of similarities. So I'm sort of emotionally prepared for that kind of dynamic.

Q: What plans do you have beyond hockey?
Viola: We have a family foundation, and it has a strategy to its philanthropy. Its principal focus is in support of our national defense, particularly in support of the United States Army and its mission, and that takes various forms. Second is our focus on education and educating those that might not in the normal course get exposed to the highest level of education from the primary grades up. The third is support of the church. We're going to try to serve the county of Broward in that same focus.

Q: Are there things you want to do to expand the potential of the BB&T Center, including developing around it?
Viola: We are definitely going to develop around the arena. We just want to study and make sure that we develop it with the most efficient -- from a commercial perspective -- and impactful way to the original vision. ... I think the land around the arena can clearly be the western anchor and focal point of the county's economic and cultural structure. ... It could be an entertainment-based development. It could be a science focal point of an education-based development. It's a pretty big piece of land, and it could have more than one sort of development in it. It's pretty exciting. We're very committed to that (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/15).

ON THE PROWL: The SUN-SENTINEL's Davis notes Viola "reiterated his spend-to-win vow," and said that the effort "will be evident in his first full offseason next year." Viola: "We intend on being in the free-agent market in a significant way." Viola said that he has had "numerous conversations" with Panthers fans and is "impressed by the passion of the loyal core that has stuck with the team through the lean years" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/17). 
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