‘War’ footing work to revamp War Memorial



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Florida Panthers start construction on training facility Image: Florida Panthers & Rossetti

The National Hockey League (NHL) team Florida Panthers revitalization of the War Memorial Auditorium (US) and construction of a new avant-garde practice and community ice facility in Fort Lauderdale is now fully underway and slated to go on stream in Summer 2022.

The ‘Florida Panthers’ stated that originally announced in April of 2019, the Panthers privately financed $65 million War Memorial Auditorium revitalization, created through a public-private partnership (PPP) with the City of Fort Lauderdale, marks one of the largest revitalizations of a community space in South Florida since the onset of COVID-19 which has torn to shreds the United States.

The Florida Panthers are a professional ice hockey team based in the Miami metropolitan area in the US. They compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Central Division.

The 20,737-capacity BB&T Center is an indoor arena located next to Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Florida (US). It is the home venue for the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers. It was completed in 1998 at a cost of US$185 million, almost entirely publicly-financed, and features 70 suites and 2,623 club seats.

The War Memorial Auditorium is a 2,110-seat multipurpose arena and convention center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US. The venue hosted professional wrestling cards from the Championship Wrestling from Florida promotion between 1951 and 1987.

The ‘Florida Panthers’ further stated that standing as a tribute to military heroes on the western end of Fort Lauderdale’s 93-acre Holiday Park, the historic War Memorial Auditorium first opened in 1950 as a popular music and entertainment venue, drawing US Presidents and celebrity icons from American singer-songwriter Buddy Holly to world boxing champion Héctor Camacho (Puerto Rican) professional boxer over the decades.

The Panthers-led War Memorial Auditorium revitalization project will not only restore the historic landmark to its pristine glory through an adaptive reuse of its existing structure, but will also transform Fort Lauderdale’s largest community park into a vibrant sports, entertainment and recreation destination for all members of the community.

Upon its completion, the new ROSSETTI (architectural design and planning firm headquartered in Detroit)-designed 144,000 sq foot sports and entertainment venue will house South Florida’s first-of-its-kind ballroom-style concert and performance venue, capable of holding up to 3,800 people for intimate live music and events. The redesigned theater will carefully preserve the iconic War Memorial Auditorium’s classic art-deco character, while new enhancements and technical upgrades will lend a futuristic look to the space to accommodate global tour productions and big-ticket events. The auditorium will also continue to serve as an honored memorial for the Broward County community’s military veterans under the stewardship of the veteran-owned and -led Florida Panthers.

Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Viola is an American billionaire businessman and US Army veteran who is also the owner of Florida Panthers.

The addition of a state-of-the-art practice facility will feature two regulation-sized indoor ice rinks, including a dedicated public rink that will host a robust variety of youth and adult hockey programs, public skating and figure skating for community members of all ages. The Panthers practice rink, which will primarily be used to further support community ice programing, will also feature stadium seating for up to 1,000 fans during practices and training camps. The facility will also be home to the Florida Panthers Foundation’s Youth Hockey Scholarship program, to be launched in Spring 2021 in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County in Florida.

Additional project components include a sit-down indoor and outdoor eatery, new community fitness and recreation spaces and upgrades to the park’s existing sports and recreation facilities.

Remarked Panthers President and CEO Matt Caldwell, “We’re deeply committed to Broward County, and believe that the addition of this world-class sports and 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 will also create a vibrant, centrally-located recreation destination where local families and members of the community can have fun and stay active.”

Added Caldwell, “As we look to meet the demand of a rapidly-growing Florida hockey community, our youth hockey and hockey scholarship programing 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.”

Stated Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, “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. This project will serve as an example of an innovative public-private partnership and will create a unique space for our residents to safely gather with each other once again. The project coupled with the renovation of Parker Playhouse and planned Holiday Park improvement projects will change the landscape of our city’s ‘Central Park’ and become a true centerpiece of our City. As a City we are beyond excited to welcome the Florida Panthers and excited to play a part in their success and in the growth of hockey and figure skating in our community.”

Maintained Matt Rossetti, CEO, ROSSETTI, “Through the careful preservation of the War Memorial Auditorium’s historic design, the completed project will carefully balance the existing Civic Mid Century Modern aesthetics with a new public arts overlay and multiuse spaces for community recreation and gathering. Working in lockstep with the Panthers, the project’s design will foster connectivity and diversity as a cornerstone, and seamlessly carry the War Memorial’s iconic legacy forward for years to come.”

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