Panama City Beach, Florida, already a hot spot for youth baseball and softball, took a big step toward attracting soccer and lacrosse tournaments. Bay County Commission recently signed off on a land-swap arrangement clearing the way for a major new sports complex.
If all goes according to plan, Panama City Beach Sports Park
—estimated to cost between $27 million and $30 million—will add up to 13 fields to the region by spring 2018. Visit Panama City Beach is funding the facility through a tourism development tax.
“I think every sports destination outgrows what it starts with, but this facility will allow us to hold some large events in soccer, lacrosse and football,” says Chris O’Brien, CSEE, director of sports marketing and special events at Visit Panama City Beach
Because of the popularity of baseball and softball, the destination is at capacity between May and July. The ability to draw national and regional soccer and lacrosse events will boost the spring and fall months. With 16,000 hotel room nights, the city is ready to host most major tournaments, O’Brien notes.
The fields will be multipurpose and, as such, have multiple benefits. Besides soccer and lacrosse, the complex will be well-suited for Ultimate, flag football and football. Five fields can be converted into full-size diamonds for baseball—a welcome addition given the plethora of youth-size baseball fields.
“It opens up spring business for training and midsize tournaments,” says O’Brien of the baseball fields.
Panama City Beach already draws more than 100,000 visitors from sports tourism, generating $75 million in economic impact.