A first-hand look inside the new Tommy Oliver Stadium

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PANAMA CITY, Fla (WJHG/WECP) - Tommy Oliver Stadium in Panama City has served as a "home" to Bay County sports teams since 1955.

It's a place where many have scored their first touchdown, crossed their first finish line, laced up their cleats, put on their helmet and even thrown off their graduation caps.

"I mean, Tommy Oliver Stadium was 62 years old," Steve Moss, Bay District School Board Member said. It's a great stadium and Lord knows we got our money's worth."

Over $11 million to be exact and the first thing that Moss says people will notice is the scoreboard.

"The scoreboard is going to be awesome," Moss said. "This one is going to have LED, a replay scoreboard on there and so it's going to be really, really neat compared to what we've had."

Speaking of neat, the first team names you'll see on the new scoreboard are the two oldest high schools in the county.

"The first game at the new Tommy Oliver Stadium will be Bay verses Rutherford. I think those fans are really in for a treat."

To have a state of the art facility, you have to have state of the art playing surface. Bay and Rutherford football will be the first to dig their cleats into certified 4x19 bermuda.

"The grass has taken root and is filled in for that first game," Moss says.

Being built around the grass is an eight lane rubberized track which means now being able to hold regional and district track meets.

"At the finish line there will be a laser timing system that'll actually measure the athletes as they finish down to the hundredth or thousandths of a second," Moss said.

Another thing that Tommy Oliver's never had, "There's 253 chairbacks and they're right on the 50 yard line and they're premium seating," Moss said. "It's a neat opportunity for every home team to sell season ticket packages. It's another way for them to raise some extra money to put back into their program."

Fans can get to those chairbacks by using the stairs or the new elevator.

"Folks that do have some type of disability can now have easy access," Moss says.

Moss says teams will be able to hear things better than they've ever experienced before on T.O's new sound system.

And speaking of hearing, "When people hear stadium they think it's just going to be sports," Moss said. "Boy that's a lot of money to spend on a stadium for sports, but Tommy Oliver Stadium is really so much more than a stadium because it's used for so much more in our community than just that."

One of the biggest things people will probably like most is the triple amount of parking now at Tommy Oliver.

Visiting teams and fans will also have their own concession, bathrooms and facilities on the away side.

Kind of ironic, but the first event that'll be held at the new stadium isn't sports, but high school graduations in May.