PANAMA CITY BEACH — A “transformational” project to expand a popular sports complex is gaining serious momentum.
According to Dan Rowe, president and CEO of Visit Panama City Beach, local officials approved last week a plan for Lose Design, an engineering firm with offices in Tennessee, Georgia and Colorado, to design two new buildings slated for construction at the Panama City Beach Sports Complex.
One is an indoor sports center that will span 100,000 square feet and include eight basketball courts, an emergency operations center and safe room. The other is a 17,000-square-foot building that will offer additional space for offices, meetings and events.
“It’s been gaining momentum for a long time, but we’re now getting (close),” Rowe said of the project. “It will be a game changer for us.”
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Because the indoor sports center will act as an extension of the Bay County Emergency Operations Center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency contributed about $7.7 million to help fund its design and construction.
“We had proposed this facility prior to Hurricane Michael,” Rowe said. “When Hurricane Michael hit, we realized there were no structures in Bay County that could serve as a secondary storm shelter.”
He also said the project is not an expansion of the Publix Sports Park, but the PCB Sports Complex, which is comprised of about 165 acres located off Chip Seal Parkway. The 13-field park is just one of a few amenities in the complex’s footprint.
The Bay County Commission approved for Lose Design to design the indoor sports center during a meeting on Sept. 20. The TDC then approved the request for the same company to design the smaller second building in a meeting on Sept. 21.
Rowe said the eight basketball courts in the indoor center will double as 16 volleyball courts and 24 pickleball courts.
Two of the eight courts also will be used by the A. Gary Walsingham Academy, a kindergarten through third-grade school located adjacent to the PCB Sports Complex.
Along with strengthening the area’s emergency services and benefitting the neighboring academy, the indoor sports center also will give Visit PCB the ability to advertise the area as a destination for basketball, volleyball, gymnastic and wrestling events. Travel baseball and softball events already are common at the Publix Sports Park.
For Rowe, this will be a huge benefit for the local economy.
“To expand and diversify our tourism economy helps strengthen our overall economy,” he said. “Sports tourism … is a huge part of what we do, and it’s a big reason why a lot of folks like to come here, especially outside of the peak months of June and July.
“This gives us a lot more arrows in our quiver. It really will be transformational in our ability to host tournaments on a year-round basis.”