Veteran-owned Florida Panthers break ground on revitalizing Ft. Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium - We Are The Mighty
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Veteran-owned Florida Panthers break ground on revitalizing Ft. Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium

Ahead of Memorial Day, the veteran-owned and led Florida Panthers hockey team held a Ceremonial Groundbreaking to celebrate the organization’s $65 million project to revitalize the Fort Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium with construction of the newly-named Baptist Health IcePlex, which will debut next summer as the team’s state-of-the-art 2-sheet practice and community ice facility. The revitalization of the community space is a massive step forward toward a future without a pandemic.

The private ceremony, which commenced with a presentation of the colors by Robert Bethel American Legion Post 220, was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean J. Trantalis; Baptist Health Doctors Hospital and Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute CEO Javier Hernandez-Lichtl; and distinguished project and community partners who joined Florida Panthers Chairman, Owner & Governor Vincent J. Viola and wife Teresa Viola, and CEO & President Matt Caldwell for an exclusive first look at the future sports & entertainment complex.

Veteran-owned Florida Panthers break ground on revitalizing Ft. Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium
Presentation of colors during the ceremony. Photo courtesy of Florida Panthers

Special guests Panthers General Manager Bill Zito, Head Coach Joel Quenneville, and Special Advisor to Panthers General Manager Robert Luongo received a warm send-off by guests before departing for Tampa ahead of tonight’s Game 6 against the Lightning.

War Memorial Auditorium has served as a pillar in our Fort Lauderdale community for more than 70 years, and its revitalization will bring new life to an important and iconic social hub.

Dean Trantalis, Mayor of Fort Lauderdale
Veteran-owned Florida Panthers break ground on revitalizing Ft. Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium
Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the ceremony. Photo courtesy of Florida Panthers.

Veterans taking care of their own

The venue itself is stewarded by Vincent Viola, a U.S. Army veteran and owner of the Florida Panthers. His father was a World War II veteran who served in the European theater. Vincent, following in his father’s footsteps, was commissioned as an infantry officer in the Army after graduating West Point in 1977. He completed Ranger school and served with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell.

The historic War Memorial Auditorium has been a home for sport and entertainment events since the 1950s. Throughout the years it has begun to show its age. However, the Florida Panthers are restoring the War Memorial to its former glory – and beyond. The new designs will have a never-before-seen ballroom-style concert hall seating 3,800 people. It will also have two NHL regulation-sized indoor ice rinks; one of which is dedicated to the community for public skating and to youth and adult hockey and figure skating programs. Additionally, it will have a sit-down indoor and outdoor restaurant, a new community fitness center and other upgrades facility-wide.

Veteran-owned Florida Panthers break ground on revitalizing Ft. Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium
Vincent and Teresa Viola. Photo courtesy of Florida Panthers

Matt Caldwell, President and CEO of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club, is also an U.S. Army veteran and West Point graduate. He served as an officer in Operation Iraqi Freedom conducting combat operations. In Kosovo he conducted peacekeeping missions as well. He was decorated with a Bronze Star and the NATO Kosovo Military Medal.

We’re deeply committed to Broward County, and believe that the addition of this world-class sports & entertainment venue in the city of Fort Lauderdale will not only provide a unique and exciting opportunity for our players to connect with fans, but create a vibrant, centrally-located recreation destination where local families and members of the community can have fun and stay active. As we look to meet the demand of a rapidly-growing Florida hockey community, our youth hockey and hockey scholarship programming as part of this new facility will work to further diversity and inclusion by providing a younger, more diverse generation of local kids with increased access and exposure to the sport.

Matt Caldwell, President & CEO of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club

Joint ops with the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County

The War Memorial is located on the 93-acre Holiday Park at the western end of Fort Lauderdale. It is dedicated to Broward County’s veterans and serves all members of the community. In addition to the recreational programs, the facility will also be home to the Florida Panthers Foundation’s Youth Hockey Scholarship program in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County.

The Baptist Health IcePlex was also announced as the future home of the Florida Panthers Foundation Youth Hockey Scholarship Program during a special jersey presentation introducing the Scholarship’s first young recipients. Created in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County to increase access, inclusion, and diverse representation within the sport of hockey in South Florida, the Scholarship Program will cover the full cost of skating and hockey training, equipment, practice clinics, and more for each of the 10 selected boys & girls, ages 7-10, throughout their entire hockey journey.

Recently, the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator on April 1, 2021.

Charity Navigator has awarded the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County the coveted “4-star rating out of 4-stars” for the tenth consecutive year. This is the highest possible rating awarded by Charity Navigator and indicates that BGCBC is strong financially and committed to accountability and transparency when it comes to our organization…Only 3% of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator received at least 10 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that BGCBC has continued to outperform most other charities in America.

BGCBC.org

To receive the latest project and construction updates, please visit FTLWarMemorial.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @FTLWarMemorial. 

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