Tourism leaders to discuss Sports Village budget in Tuesday's meeting

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panama City Beach is home to the area's newest playing fields, and soon they'll have even more. They kicked off a project that's been a long time coming, but the east side will soon catch up to the west side in terms of places to kick, bat and throw the ball around.

After recent renovations at Frank Brown Park, and all the success that came with its improvements, city officials decided it was time to bring something similar to the area, this time on the other side of town. The Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council is excited to announce "Sports Village" will officially break ground in January 2017.

The new sports complex is coming to Panama City Beach. This one will be on the east end in the Breakfast Point area. It will feature 13 sports fields and is expected to be completed by spring 2018.

"Right now, we're on time and on budget. Things are going well, we didn't really hit any unexpected hiccups along the road. So far, so good for this project," said David Demarest of the Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council.

At Tuesday's TDC meeting officials will discuss the bond needed to pay for this $27-30 million project.

"Visitors and locals both get to use this. Because of all the visitors that come in to use our sports park, that puts a lot of money right into our economy," Demarest said.

According to Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas, that part of the city needs a project like this.

"We thought it'd be better to have it on that end of the beach, that end is suffering a little bit, tourism wise, especially when Pier Park came to this side," said Mayor Thomas.

Officials believe one of the best ways to bring money in is sports.

"Sports brings families," said Mayor Thomas. He says families is what the city is looking for.

"It's better money for our economy. It's a crowd that's easier to handle. It's what we're trying to be, and it's working," said Mayor Thomas.

"Sports are great for us, they bring people here, and they do it at a time when the traditional summer travel isn't here," Demarest added.

According to the Panama City Beach TDC, sports brings in more than 100,000 room nights per year for the city, which translates to about $75 million.

The St. Joe Company donated 200 acres of land and the TDC purchased ten acres. Officials are hopeful kids will be playing ball on the new fields in spring 2018.