Of all the new arenas in the NHL and NBA, this has to be one of the prettiest. The National
Car Rental Center is the home of the Florida Panthers and the Arena Football Florida
Bobcats. Located in Sunrise just outside Ft. Lauderdale, the arena is built adjacent to the
Sawgrass Mills Mall and is surrounded on the other sides by expressways and the
Everglades. Suffice it to say this arena is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
Getting to the venue
A car is the only mode of transportation here and access to the arena is via I-595 to the
Sawgrass Expressway and heading north from there to the second exit. Signs will take you
right to the facility.
Outside the venue
Once you arrive here, you are instantly dazzled by the ambience of the parking lot. Great
pains were taken to set the mood of this facility - from the lush Florida landscaping to the
blue and green mosaic pavement along the walkways to the cool looking umbrella shaped
light standards. Huge outdoor plazas serve up as intimate gathering areas. And chances
are whenever you are here the weather will range from just perfect to downright HOT!
As you walk inside, the view of the main entry pavilion has the look of a sweeping atrium.
Just past the ticket checkpoints you can look up and see rows of escalators taking you to
the upper levels. There are also view elevators in glass chutes for the ride up. Straight
ahead is Pantherland, the Panthers team store, and right above that the Budweiser
Terrace, a full service bar on the mezzanine level offering great views of the lobby and the
What we liked about the concourses here are two things - first, much of these areas are
carpeted, something they would never get away with in Buffalo or other cold weather
climates. Second, all the concession stands are grouped together in three distinct food
courts in each level, with condiment stations in the center of these courts. This means no
straight lines of people sticking out into the corridors. This makes the entire concourse
easy to navigate. We are amazed that such a basic design element has not been
incorporated into other new facilities.
The club level and suite level, sponsored by Lexus, has its own separate entrance just off
the main level. A premium restaurant called Stanley's offers fine dining with a view of the
The seats are all kelly green and match the building's motif. Balconies are lined with
stationary ad panels and dot matrix message boards. The center scoreboard is an eight
sided board with jumbotron video boards.
The Panthers actually won a conference championship within a short time after beginning
its existence, an accomplishment worth celebrating. A second banner, heralding "most
wins by an expansion team" is totally laughable and ridiculous. What a blight on what is
otherwise a terrific building. Such a banner is meaningless and denigrates the real
purpose of banner displays, which is to honor championships and retired numbers. We
can just imagine what the banner raising ceremony must have been like - these idiot fans
cheering wildly while this stupid bedsheet was raised to the heavens. The Panthers
should be ashamed of themselves!
Penalties, assists, hat tricks
Assist -At one end zone rim proudly hangs a weatherboard showing the weather report for
the home and visiting teams. This night the report read "Sunrise - sunny 79 degrees....
Buffalo - bitter 10 degrees". (The high in Buffalo was 43 so obviously the Panthers were
playing fast and loose with the facts.) On our return visit, the temperature of the visiting
team, Montreal, was also exaggerated downward.
Our message to you guys in South Florida is this - yes it gets cold in Buffalo. Yes we get
snow, because that is what happens up north in winter. But here in Buffalo we have
NEVER had to rush out to Home Depot to buy sheets of plywood to board up our windows.
We have never had to stock up on candles and flashlights or fill water jugs with potable
water. Can you folks make the same claim???
Hat trick - A cool exhibit on the upper deck is a puck collection, where patrons, especially
those visiting from afar, can submit a puck with their logo to be added to the display. In
return, the Panthers will send you their puck. We enjoyed looking for logos from our area,
and plan to submit a puck or two from around here. Nice Job, Panthers!
This is one amazing building - a must see. It might have ranked as our best arena in the
NHL, except for the fact that this building is sandwiched between a mall, an expressway
and a swamp. Placing it in a cool downtown setting in Fort Lauderdale, with restaurants
and attractions in easy walking distance, would have really been the thing to do, especially
in a warm climate city. Nonetheless, we rank this new building among the elite NHL new
venues, and look forward to returning again and again.
Food and team store 8
Scoreboard and electronics 4
Fan support 4
Location and neighborhood 4
Banners and history 1
In game entertainment 7
Concourses/fan comfort 8.5
Bonus: weather board 2, food courts 2
January 18, 1999
Buffalo Sabres at
Car Rental Center)
January 21, 2002