The Triumph application states that the sports park is expected to create 1,074 additional full-time jobs.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — A proposed new sports park could have a profound positive impact on the local economy on a year-round basis, new studies show.
The project also could be larger than previously thought, with the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau seeking to add a 109,000-square-foot indoor athletic and event facility to the plans, funded with $20 million in Triumph Gulf Coast oil spill damages.
In the first year of operation, the park would generate 60,000 room nights and $23.2 million in economic impact, according to a study by Sports Facilities Management, a sports complex planning and managing company working with the TDC on the project.
The project is expected to bring 81,611 non-summer visitors into the market after the initial ramp-up period, the study found.
“Triumph Gulf Coast’s investment in the project will help spur more than $200 million in new investment on the east end of Panama City Beach,” the study shows. “Infrastructure improvements in the areas surrounding the park will attract new private capital investment in retail businesses.”
The CVB’s Triumph application states that based on research conducted by Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, one full-time job is created for every 76 unique visitors to the state, which means the sports park is expected to create 1,074 additional full-time jobs.
“I think that the numbers are actually on the conservative side, and they are right in line with the economic impact that we generate from sports currently,” said Dan Rowe, executive director of the Bay Tourist Development Council. “The tournaments we are able to generate from this will be a game changer for Panama City Beach.”
TDC Chairman Philip “Griff” Griffitts said the whole idea of the park is to increase tourism in the shoulder season.
“Like now, the beach is a ghost town,” he said. “If we had a tournament to play in November and December, it would be great. (The sports park) would have a major impact (on the economy). It is something the TDC has needed for some time.”
He said families coming to Panama City Beach to attend sporting events also will spend money at a wide range of Beach businesses.
“They are going to go to WonderWorks or the beach or play putt-putt, lots of things,” Griffitts said.
Beach Mayor Mike Thomas, also a TDC member, said visitors to the events will boost sales at many businesses on the beach on a year-round basis.
″(The park) will have people visiting during the fall and winter when we normally can’t play because the grass ain’t growing,” he said, adding the indoor facility is a good use of the Triumph dollars.
The sports park application is competing against many other applicants for the Triumph funds, including those who want the first $300 million spent on workforce training.
“I agree we need workforce training, more money for education,” Thomas said. “But this (Triumph) money should be used to enhance the business in the tourist area, so when we have an oil spill again it will make us more resilient.”
The proposed sports park complex is slated to be located on 151 acres in Breakfast Point at 8222 Back Beach Road.
According to the Triumph application, the park will ensure Bay County remains a competitive tourist destination; stimulate growth into new seasonal sports-related markets; serve as a catalyst for private sector development; address the region’s workforce development needs; generate tax revenue; strengthen existing businesses; and provide more year-round employment.
“The combination of high quality visitor amenities, state-of-the-art amateur athletic fields and creative sign design will set a new standard for sports complexes throughout the country,” the application states.
The Triumph funds, should they be approved, would pay for a 109,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility that would house eight basketball courts or 16 volleyball courts, team meeting rooms, locker rooms and training/physical therapy rooms. In addition to the court sports, the facility is proposed to accommodate indoor sports such as wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading, as well as exposition and trade shows.
Plans also call for an outdoor complex with 13 fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, football, baseball and softball, with nine artificial turf fields and four natural grass fields.