PANAMA CITY BEACH Bay County Tourist Development Council officials may not wait for a group of private investors, wanting to build a minor league baseball stadium. The group's plans also include amateur sports fields. Local tourism leaders say the demand for those fields already exists, and they want to get the ball rolling now.
Youth sports tournaments attract thousands of players and their families to Panama City beach. However, hundreds are turned away each year, because there aren't enough fields at frank Brown Park.
"We know that we have a demand for more amateur fields,” said TDC Chairman Buddy Wilkes. “We have tournaments now where we send young people all over the county to play ball, so we know we need more ball fields in Panama City Beach."
The Tourist Development Council has plans to work with local investors to bring in a minor league baseball team and stadium.
That would come with additional amateur fields. But Tuesday, the TDC decided they don't want to wait to build more fields.
"We need to keep pushing forward and not just wait around for the future, but we need to help start making decisions and moving forward in that expansion of those fields," explained the TDC’s Exective Director Dan Rowe.
The TDC would like to add the fields to Frank Brown Park.
"The piece that makes the most sense is to incorporate into the Frank Brown Park area where all the, the other teams would be playing. Ultimately if we can make it all centrally located into a tournament venue, then that's what we will do,” said Wilkes.
The TDC has money ready to spend, including funds from BP.
"There's currently 7 point 5 million dollars that the TDC has available to put to a project such as this," said Rowe.
A project that could keep the beach ahead of the game in the competitive sports marketing industry. If bay county commissioners approve the plans, the TDC hopes to have fields in place as early as next year.