Tonight, the Panama City Beach City Council voted and approved a variance request in the zoning of a particular parcel that rests in Pier Park from T-3 to T-3A, which will allow some amusement rides according to the zoning and future land use plan of Panama City Beach.
Something’s been a brewin’ in Pier Park and a movement is afoot to bring a little life revival to the new “downtown” of Panama City Beach.
Just recently, the contract was awarded to a local excavation company to begin demolishing a badly worn and dilapidated piece of Panama City Beach history. Miracle Strip Amusement Park, right on Alf Coleman Road had been a long time Panama City Beach favorite for the old and young alike. Countless locals and vacationers have endless memories riding on the rides, hanging in front of the attractions and smelling the warm salt air among the amusement lights.
“It’s so sad,” Karen Smith said one day when we were nearby shooting another episode of The Beach Show, “Miracle Strip was a HUGE part of my childhood and adolescent years.” One of the most common affections we’ve heard is the shame that this great part of Panama City Beach was closed in vain at the prospect of progress. The opportunity to make millions in pre-construction resort development buyout was too tempting for the owners who sold the property to a development group that was set to build Miracles, a sprawling, amenity-rich resort.
With the downturn in the previously booming condo industry, the property sat there for years, literally untouched but by vandals, vagrants and pests.
“They had approached me before to buy some of the old rides,” said Teddy Meeks, owner of the Miracle Strip Carousel in Pier Park. “They knew I had bought the carousel and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.” Teddy just recently bought the old Balloon Ride and The Red Barron Plan ride from the former Miracle Strip Amusement Park. He’s been working with Pier Park for months trying to conceptualize the perfect combination to ensure absolute nostalgic charm that is clean and tasteful. The trick is to add to Pier Park without bringing any element that is less than the high-standard that Simon Property Group has set.
In addition to the old balloon and Red Barron rides, Meeks has purchased a 50 foot tall Ferris Wheel. “We want to have that charm that the old rides have, but we want everything to look and feel new,” Meeks said, “we didn’t want those new rides with the fancy graphics, we wanted to keep it retro and clean.” More rides are being planned for the future.
When they brought the carousel into Pier Park, there was quite a bit of skepticism as to how well it would do and how it would be received by the Pier Park community AND Panama City Beach. But, interestingly enough, it has brought a sense of belonging to Pier Park and opened the shopping center up to former PCB loyalists that before were unsure if they could accept the change and evolution that has been sweeping over Panama City Beach the last several years. Pier Park is becoming quickly ingrained into Panama City Beach and becoming a memory-generator in its own right.
Adding amusement rides to a Simon Property Group mall is a far stretch from normalcy, but the cool thing is that they are willing to look at new ideas on a community by community basis. Miracle Strip Amusement Park is almost as much a part of Panama City Beach history as the white sand PCB’s famous for. Generations enjoyed the entertainment found there for decades. To bring a little bit of Miracle Strip back to life in Pier Park is a bold move, but it is something that is sure to win over the hearts of thousands, earn the trust of Panama City Beach loyalists and seal the relationship and future prosperity of Pier Park in Panama City Beach.
Bravo guys, bravo.