Sports tourism now another attraction putting PCB on the map

More indoor sports tournaments and a safe place to go if severe weather were to hit will soon...
More indoor sports tournaments and a safe place to go if severe weather were to hit will soon be added to the Publix Sports Park in Panama City Beach.(WJHG)
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 6:49 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panama City Beach is famously known for its emerald waters and white sands, but in more recent years, there’s been another attraction stepping up to the plate and putting PCB on the map.

In a race for economic opportunity, it seems sports tourism is taking the lead.

“It helps, you know, bring year-round investment and not just folks coming from memorial day to labor day,” Dan Rowe, President and CEO of Visit Panama City Beach, said. “It’s part of our DNA, you know, and it has helped this community out during good times and in times of challenges.”

Visit PCB was recently awarded by Sports Destination Management for four locally-held events. Those include the 2022 Grand Slam World Series of Baseball, United States Fastpitch Association, 2021 Visit Panama City Beach Ironman Florida, and one new event.

“We had with Ripken Baseball. The beginning of June, it was a smaller event, but the really the return on that investment was huge,” Rowe said.

Tourism leaders said the events together brought in a whopping $80 million to our area. That’s not to outshine the Publix Sports Complex though, which brought in roughly $139 million last year alone.

“It doesn’t matter if there’s a recession or a boom time, you know, the families are going to travel with their student-athletes,” Rowe said.

Now tourism leaders are looking to step up their game by building an indoor sports facility right across the street from the current complex.

“Build a really unique building that will help propel Bay County into the future. Has a cool factor to it, a vibe,” Rowe said.

The complex will be a spot for athletes to play on a gloomy day, while bringing in new sports to the area.

“I have a cheerleader in my house and with cheerleading events being able to come in different things, just watching them be able to compete, local teams being able to compete with others throughout the country. It’s something that I’m looking forward to being able to see,” Bay County Commissioner Doug Moore said.

It’s just a matter of time before they get the ball rolling. Right now, architects are working on the design phase for the complex. The plan is to break ground in a year.