Future of Marina Civic Center replacement still in question

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 8:02 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Marina Civic Center in Historic Downtown Panama City still sits vacant.

“The Civic Center was the art-hub of everything going on in Bay County,” Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen said. “Certainly not having a facility of that size or capability is absolutely detrimental to the art community.”

City officials originally asked FEMA to help pay for repair costs. They requested around $33 million, but the agency denied the full amount. They instead went back to the drawing board.

“FEMA did not feel the air conditioning system, the electrical system, or the fire suppression system were damaged by Hurricane Michael,” McQueen said. “We contested that, they disagreed, but at this point we’re moving forward.”

City commissioners could vote in the next two months to demolish what was once a staple for Downtown Panama City.

“We’re going to put in a temporary green space there,” McQueen said. “It’ll be a multi-purpose field. A lot of the comments we received from our citizens were about having outdoor music opportunities, amphitheater-like opportunities, outdoor food events, and picnicking opportunities. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The green space could also be the site of a new civic center. That location is one of two city leaders narrowed down for the ‘Panama City Performing Arts and Events Center.’ The other spot is right behind City Hall.

Officials said they don’t have a timeline for the estimated $170 million project.

The Marina Civic Center being closed can also impact the neighboring businesses in the area. Harrison’s Kitchen & Bar opened its doors last summer and could capitalize on folks wanting to grab a bite to eat or a drink after a show. However, staff said business is still doing well there.

“Well I’ll tell you, I think we planned on about 150 covers per day,” Matt Moore, Corporate Director of Concepts and Development for The St. Joe Company, said. “We opened and we had about 750 covers per day.”

An operating multi-use facility could help take things up a notch, too.

“When the marina is built in full, there’s just no telling,” Moore said.

McQueen said the parking spaces and the boat ramp will remain open.