The $37-million Panama City Beach Sports Complex is home to 13 multi-configurable athletic fields and poised to become a premier go-to soccer destination for the Southeast region of the U.S.
Panama City Beach Sports Complex has more than 900 soccer teams scheduled to compete in 2019 alone with more than 17 tournaments on the books. Summer Soccer Youth All America Series did the honors breaking in the fields.
Soccer isn’t the only sport the complex aims to attract. The fields (nine synthetic and four natural grass) are easily set up to host baseball, softball, lacrosse, football, rugby, quidditch and Ultimate Frisbee. Two championship fields have seating for 1,500 and all are lit for night play. The synthetic fields are specially equipped with cooling systems to keep surface temperatures down and players comfortable.
The facility sits upon 150 acres with on-site parking for 1,000 vehicles. More than 16,000 hotel/condo rooms are within 15 miles, and the beach is only a mile down the road.
Warm-weather communities increasingly view sports tourism as economic rocket fuel for development, and the PCBSC readily gained public and private support through a partnership between the Panama City Beach CVB, the St. Joe Company and Bay District Schools.
Big numbers are expected, says Catie Feeney, public relations manager for Visit Panama City Beach. The complex is projected to have a first-year economic impact of $23.2 million, bring in more than 80,000 non-summer visitors and generate 60,000 room nights.
Creating PCBSC from the ground up gave Visit Panama City Beach the opportunity to incorporate custom design elements attractive to visiting teams.
“Our complex is designed for tournament play with not just the teams but the fan base in mind,” says J.D. Wood, SFM general manager of Panama City Beach Sports Complex.
Northern-area high school and university baseball teams find much to their liking with the Panama City Beach Sports Complex. “We're seeing an influx in the spring for our large-size baseball fields,” says Wood. “From collegiate and college club teams, down to large high schools, our five 390-feet fence fields are great venues for them.”
Visit Panama City Beach already has an eye to the future, including the potential for expansion. The community is eligible to apply for economic development funding from Triumph Gulf Coast, the nonprofit corporation overseeing funds recovered by the state of Florida from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Chris O’Brien, director of sports marketing and special events at Visit Panama City Beach, is awaiting word on funding for a 100,000-sq.-ft. field house designed for cheerleading, dance, basketball, wrestling and gymnastics.
“It would be a game changer for us with likely as much business as the outdoor fields,” says O’Brien.
The cherry on the PCBSC sundae is its home in the sought-after destination of Panama City Beach, a “play-cation” beachside community with attractions and broad appeal for multigenerational families. “The greatest part about having facilities that can support large groups like this is that families can really make a vacation out of their trip here,” says Feeney.