PANAMA CITY BEACH - Sporting events bring in millions of dollars every year to the local economy, but could new competition to the west take some of that
Walton County commissioners recently announced they're working on building their own sports complex. With this in mind, Panama City Beach TDC board members are making efforts to expand their sports marketing.
The sound of a whistle is one noise you'll hear at the annual Snapper Bowl in Panama City Beach this weekend. It's one of more than 100 sporting events that have been planned this year.
"You're seeing a lot of businesses now stay open longer than they normally do and I would like to think that a lot of that has to be with the sports participation that we're providing at those key times of the year when it's kind of shoulder season," said Richard Sanders, Vice President of Sports and Events at the TDC
Some of the larger tournaments include the USFA Girls Fast Pitch World Series that brings in 500 teams and about $15 million to the local economy.
The Ironman Triathlon is another with 3,000 athletes and it contributes more than $5 million to local businesses.
Part of Panama City Beach's sports marketing strategy is to have people spend the night at condos or hotels. A majority of teams that participate are from out of town.
"You know we want to make it where not only do these families and teams come and compete here, but they also come back here in the future to vacation," said Dana Lent of Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort.
Restaurants also get a big financial boost. While these booths aren't full now, Sonny's BBQ franchisee Wayne Lindsey says they become packed when a sports tournament is in town.
"We love to see clay on the carpet in here. We love seeing the grass and the mud that the kids bring in here. It's a big impact for us," said Lindsey.
All of this adds up to about a $53 million economic impact, but could some of that money be sacked by the a new sports facility coming to Walton County?
"We're very much aware of their plans. They have come to us and pretty much told us what their plans are that they want to be good neighbors and not so much competitors," said Sanders.
Dothan is also another competitor that has an established parks system.
"The biggest difference between what they're doing and what we're doing is percentage of teams that we're drawing that are spending the night here. Their highest percentage is local teams that are commuting," said Sanders.
Richard Sanders says the TDC is thinking about building a new indoor recreation complex to house sports such as volleyball, gymnastics, and cheerleading.
This is all to make Panama City Beach a year round destination for sports.
One of the locations TDC board members is considering for the new complex is Aaron Bessant park. Frank Brown park can't expand any further since it's on protected wetlands.