Taking advantage of a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” J.D. Wood has resigned as Panama City Beach Sports Complex general manager to become the director of business development and events at the Dallas Sports Commission.
Wood fills the position vacated by Joe Albsmeyer, who left the commission to become director of sales and strategic planning at Team Travel Source. It comes amid a flurry of movement within the sports tourism industry in what is becoming a season of change.
The move represents a bit of a homecoming for the Texas A&M alumni, who came to Florida after five years working in tourism at College Station—home of A&M. He previously worked at Visit Dallas for nearly two years.
“The opportunity to do what I love on the grandest scale and be within two hours of all of my family was a chance that I could not pass up,” Wood wrote in an emotional Facebook post this week. As of Thursday morning, 440 people had reacted to the post, a testament to Wood’s popularity and respect within the industry.
Wood led Panama City Beach’s long-gestating sports complex to fruition during his 18-month tenure, which included celebrating the facility’s grand opening late last year. While an employee at SFM, manager of the complex, Wood partnered with Visit Panama City Beach Director of Sports Marketing & Special Events Chris O’Brien, CSEE, to expand the destination’s prowess and reputation.
O’Brien will remain the point person for booking events along with SFM National Account Executive Lori Moore, who will be on-site to assist the transition.
“It was an offer he couldn’t refuse and we are happy for him,” O’Brien says of Wood.
For his part, Wood expressed the difficulty to leave the position and Panama City Beach community. Less than two months after Wood moved to Florida, Category 5 Hurricane Michael slammed down on the destination, largely sparing the sports complex but greatly damaging Wood’s home.
In many ways, it would define his experience—but not necessarily in the way you may think.
“It was an experience that had some negatives for everyone in the community and for us personally, but it was a springboard to an experience that will define me moving forward in my life,” Wood wrote. “To see a community come together and lift everyone up, to work together to move everything forward is something that I will always remember and embrace that I had the privilege to be a part of.”
The storm closed many Panama City Beach’s parks, placing greater pressure to complete the next sports complex on time. The team there delivered, earning rave reviews for the state-of-the facility and service.
“The memories and relationships that were forged in the many hours this team worked together is something that is so special to me,” he wrote.