Residents filled Aaron Bessant Park Friday night for the opening of the newest addition to Pier Park
"I can remember when this was called Wayside Park and it was full of dollar weeds and sand spurs," recalled Panama City Beach mayor Gayle Oberst. "We've come a long way to this beautiful park."
That long journey included several renovations to the park, the most prominent, and most controversial, is the addition of the amphitheater.
"What an amazing facility," said TDC Chairman, Andy Phillips. "I just want to say that this is your park. So enjoy it, it's for locals, it's for visitors that come to this destination, and we have a lot to be proud of."
"I'm glad to see this expansion on Panama City Beach and the opportunity to have more music and more venues and more festivals," said resident Lori Becerra. "It's just a fun time for all of us as full time residents of Panama City Beach."
When plans were first announced, some residents raised questions about noise levels and traffic, but city officials say they're working to ensure that those concerns are addressed.
"We are monitoring the sound in the surrounding areas and we have a person on board that checks the sound every few minutes to be sure that it's not over the limit," said Oberst. "So we feel sure that it's going to be much much better as far as the sound carrying out in the audience and into the neighborhoods.
Friday night's fun featured cameos from the Sheriff's Office and Panama City Beach Police Department to introduce the maestro, Eddie Rackley, as well as dancing, fire, and of course, fire works to close the night out.
Officials with the city say residents have a lot more to look forward to than just music at the new amphitheater. They're also looking into bringing plays and other performances to the new venue.