PANAMA CITY BEACH — Local and visiting athletes soon could be using a new training facility at a popular park on the Beach.
The City Council on Thursday approved entering into an exclusive negotiating agreement with RHR Ventures for the development of an 8-acre parcel of land at Frank Brown Park.
The group has proposed building a 22,000-square-foot D-BAT Sports indoor facility on about 4 acres of the parcel, which currently is a dirt parking lot.
‘Win-win’:PCB considers adding indoor baseball, softball training facility at Frank Brown Park
PCB:Council to consider deal for 22,000-square-foot D-BAT facility at Frank Brown Park
Focused on youth training, D-BAT is known for its indoor batting cages, sporting goods shops and bringing professional athletes to its facilities. It also offers professional training.
“Youth sports is one of the most important things that we have in our society, and this is a great amenity to (complement that) at Frank Brown Park,” Mayor Mark Sheldon said. “There’s thousands of kids who come to Frank Brown Park every year through baseball and softball, so we want to make sure we’re adding an amenity (that will benefit) something that’s already there.”
Mary Coburn, the lone council member who voted against the negotiating agreement, said she likes the idea of adding a D-BAT facility to the community, but does not believe it is best suited for Frank Brown Park.
“I do not feel that this meets the needs of our residents,” Coburn said. “This is the people’s land, and we should not be using it for commercial use.”
Coburn said she would prefer the 8 acres be developed into a community center with additional basketball courts, allowing PCB to diversify recreational activities at the park.
Baseball and softball popular in Panama City Beach area
According to information provided at Thursday’s meeting, baseball and softball are by far the most popular sports in the area.
“We have an immense amount of ball sports, as far as baseball and softball, going on right now (at Frank Brown Park) that we can cater to and take care of without having to build more facilities for something we don’t have yet,” Councilman Michael Jarman said. “We have such a high level of baseball and softball out there, and those people who support that park through those programs could really use a facility like (D-BAT).”
Jarman noted that although the Beach now has an exclusive negotiating agreement with RHR Ventures for the D-BAT facility, the development is not set in stone.
The vote only establishes exclusivity so the company can comfortably spend the money needed to develop a design for the project, he said. PCB officials still could reject the plan if the council has any issues.
“This is the initial stage,” Jarman said. RHR Ventures has “to spend an exorbitant amount of money to prepare a proposal (for) us to be able to move forward with this. No one is going to spend that amount of money if they don’t have exclusivity.
“… The action we’re taking today (gives) them the right and the knowledge that they can spend that money and not be competing against other companies.”