The BB&T Center (previously known as the National Car Rental Center, Office Depot Center and BankAtlantic Center) is an indoor arena located next to Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Florida. It is the home venue for the National Hockey League (NHL)'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.
In 1992, Wayne Huizenga obtained a new NHL franchise that would eventually become the Florida Panthers. Until the team had an arena of their own, they initially played at the now-demolished Miami Arena, sharing the venue with the NBA's Miami Heat. Sunrise City Manager Pat Salerno made public a $167-million financing and construction plan for a civic center near the Sawgrass Expressway in December 1995, and Broward County approved construction in February 1996. In June 1996, the site was chosen by the Panthers, and in July, Alex Muxo gathered more than a dozen architects, engineers and contractors for the first major design brainstorming session. Architects Ellerbe Becket were given 26 months to build the arena, which had to be ready by August 30, 1998, to accommodate the 1998–99 NHL season. Despite never having designed a facility that had taken less than 31 months from start to finish, they accepted the job.Seventy suites were completed with wet bars, closed circuit monitors and leather upholstery. Averaging over 650 square feet (60 m2), the suites are the largest in the country for this type of facility. All the activity was generated by over 50 subcontractors and 2.3 million man hours without a single injury. Known as Broward County Civic Center during construction, the naming rights were won in July 1998 by National Car Rental—a company purchased by Huizenga in January 1997—leading to the venue being named the National Car Rental Center. A certificate of occupancy was given on September 12, and the arena opened on October 3 with a Celine Dion concert. The next day, Elton John performed, and on October 9 the Panthers had their first home game at the new arena.As NRC's new parent company ANC Rental went bankrupt in 2002, the Panthers sought a new sponsor for the arena. It later became the Office Depot Center in the summer of 2002, and the BankAtlantic Center on September 6, 2005. As BB&T purchased BankAtlantic in July 2012, two months later the arena was rebranded as BB&T Center.
In February 2019, it was announced that BB&T is merging with SunTrust Banks, with a name change expected for the merged banks.BB&T Center is currently the largest arena in Florida and second-largest in the Southeastern United States, behind Greensboro Coliseum.
During the 2011 offseason, the BB&T Center replaced the original green seats in the lower bowl with new red seats, as a part of the Panthers' "We See Red" campaign.In October 2012, Sunrise Sports and Entertainment completed installation of the Club Red seating sections encompassing the center ice seats during hockey games. It is an all-inclusive nightclub experience following the trend of other sports and entertainment venues in incorporating high-end seating sections and clubs.The ADT Club located on the club level offers food and beverage. The Duffy's Sky Club at the BB&T Center encompasses approximately 8,000 square feet (740 m2) and caters to approximately 500 guests. The Penalty Box offers fans another seating and dining option inside the BB&T Center. The Legends Lounge is a restaurant located on the Lexus Suite Level and offers sit down service.The BB&T Center is also the home for private lounge box seating.
On May 14, 2013, Broward County voted to fund a new scoreboard for the county-owned BB&T Center On October 11, 2013, the scoreboard made its debut for the Panthers' 2013–14 home opener.
In addition to the Panthers, the arena was formerly home to the Florida Pit Bulls of the American Basketball Association, the Miami Caliente of the Lingerie Football League, and the Florida Bobcats of the AFL, along with the only season of the Florida ThunderCats. This arena also serves as the host for the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic held every December in conjunction with the namesake college football game.
The Florida Panthers hosted the 2001 NHL Entry Draft & 2015 NHL Entry Draft at the arena.
The arena served as the site for the 2003 NHL All-Star Game on February 2, 2003. The Western Conference defeated the Eastern Conference, 6-5, in a shootout victory. It marked the first "official" shootout in the NHL.
Boxing, mixed martial arts
The arena has held boxing and mixed martial arts events such as EliteXC: Heat featuring the main event of Seth Petruzelli and Kimbo Slice took place on October 4, 2008. On February 15, 2009, a lightweight bout between Nate Campbell and Ali Funeka took place in the arena.
Strikeforce MMA made their debut at the arena on January 30, 2010, with the Strikeforce: Miami event on Showtime.UFC on FX 3 took place at the arena on June 8, 2012. It was the first UFC event ever held at the arena.
WCW Bash At The Beach - July 11, 1999
WWF Armageddon – December 12, 1999
WWE Armageddon – December 15, 2002
The Professional Bull Riders brought their Built Ford Tough Series tour to the BB&T Center in September 2005 for a bull riding event, which was won by Kody Lostroh (who ultimately became the Rookie of the Year that same year).
On May 23, 2008, Senator Barack Obama held a rally as part of his presidential primary campaign.
Several months later on October 29, Obama returned to the arena to hold a rally as part of his presidential campaign. The rally was presented as a paid programm airing on several major broadcast and cable networks live.
On August 10, 2016, President Donald Trump held a rally as part of his presidential campaign, and addressed the nation live on several television networks.
On February 21, 2018, the venue hosted a CNN town hall meeting on gun control in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that occurred a week earlier; it was attended by 7,000 people, including survivors of the shooting and relatives of the victims.
On June 27, 2018, rapper XXXTentacion's fan memorial and public funeral was held at the arena.
On November 26, 2019, President Donald Trump held a campaign rally.
End-Stage Concerts: 15,207 – 23,000
Center-Stage Concerts: 25,000
17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) of arena floor space for trade shows and other events such as circuses and ice shows.
Parking and loading docks
Total: 7,045 Spaces (Does not include production or bus/oversized vehicle parking)
General Parking: 4,787 Spaces
Suite/Club Seat Parking: 1,430 Spaces
Garage: 226 Spaces
Disabled Parking: 90 Spaces
Event Staff: 512 Spaces
Truck Doors: 5
Waste Removal Docks: 2
Food and novelty concessions
Plaza Level: 3 Food Courts and Pantherland Retail
Mezzanine Level: 3 Food Courts and two Points of Purchase Kiosks