J.D. Wood is taking a page out of his beloved Texas A&M’s playbook by heading to SEC country. The native Texan has moved from College Station (home of A&M) to Panama City Beach, Florida, where he is the first general manager of the city’s anticipated new sports complex.
While the Panama City Beach Sports Complex won’t debut until June 2019, there’s much for Wood to accomplish early in his new gig. Namely, as the turf and grass is laid on the complex’s fields, Wood will be laying the proverbial groundwork to bring tournaments and other events to the facility for years to come.
Wood’s arrival is welcomed news for Chris O’Brien, director of sports marketing and special events at Visit Panama City Beach. “He is the right guy at the right time for the start of the facility,” says O’Brien. We caught up with Wood at Connect Sports in Salt Lake City to learn more about the move.
You are synonymous with Texas sports. You are aware this job is in Florida, right?
Ha. I did work for Connor Sport Court in Salt Lake, but it is going to be a change. I was born and raised in Texas and went to Texas A&M, but this opportunity checks all the boxes. Everyone knows how much I love College Station, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. That’s how excited I am.
What are some of the boxes it checked?
It’s still in the southern U.S.—SEC country—and there’s the beach, this amazing facility and organization with SFM [Sports Facility Management], who I’m working for. You can see it’s a community really buying into tourism that wants to make it a year-round destination and not just a beach destination. That’s where the complex is going to come into play.
What can you tell us about the facility?
The complex has 13 fields all together—nine synthetic and four natural turf. You can put soccer, football, lacrosse quidditch, Ultimate… everything, plus baseball and softball. There will be a diamond championship field and rectangle championship field that seat 1,500. There are 1,000 parking spots and 16,000 hotel rooms nearby. It checks a lot of boxes to host events.
Since the complex isn’t open yet, what will you be doing right away?
It’s supposed to open in June. We are going to be selling the vision and building relationships with community and events rights holder to fill up dates. I’ll be working on staffing the facility—we have benchmarks for every couple of months until June. When it does come on board, I’ll be continuing to manage the staff and manage the budget, and make sure we provide the level of service I expect. We’ll be continuing to differentiate Panama City Beach as the destination to be in southeastern U.S. We’ll be creating a culture and setting expectations.
How will you be working with Chris O’Brien and the VPCB team?
Chris and I have been friends for many years going to conferences like Connect Sports. The opportunity to work with Chris and Richard Sanders is very exciting. I know the partnership is a must. It’s one community, one team as we push forward in Panama City Beach. We’re going to take networking he and I have and bring it together and fill every weekend.