The development of a new Walmart next to Pier Park and the talk of improvements to the performance infrastructure at Aaron Bessant Park have brought some strong opinions for both sides of the argument. Some agree, some don’t.
One of the arguments that seems to be consistent is that we don’t need more traffic in that area. Based on conversations with city officials, planners and the TDC, the purpose of the Aaron Bessant Park improvements isn’t to necessarily increase the per-event occupancy, but rather increase the comfort by which events can set up and decrease the cost it takes to erect the staging.
And, Walmart coming here isn’t really a matter of government decision, it’s a private industry matter.
The issue of occupancy of Aaron Bessant Park
The improvements will increase the per-event occupancy to 10,000, up from 7,500, but this doesn’t mean that every event will have 10,000 attendees there. Sure, some events will, ideally, they all would (more people at the event means more money for Panama City Beach), but most probably won’t. In addition, don’t think that 10,000 people will mean 10,000 cars. Studies have shown that on average, events like these bring 5 people per car to the event. So, with that figure in mind, the parking spaces at Pier Park and the additional parking that will be provided in the western improvements should suffice.
The issue of traffic in the Pier Park area
Where we stand today, infrastructure improvements will need to be made to handle traffic in this area. When the new Walmart is done, and tourism numbers are up, traffic along this corridor will increase. However, at this time, plans to signalize Powell Adams Road are in place (look for this in the next 12 to 18 months) and three-laning this whole stretch of road will likely happen within 24 months, which will help.
The reality is, people want to come here because it’s paradise. Businesses want to come here because people want to come here, and growth will happen, whether you want it to or not.
The question is not IF we’ll grow on this end of the beach, but rather HOW we’ll grow. It’s up to members of the Panama City Beach community to help the city commissioners make right decisions in our path of growth so that 15 years down the road, we’re not looking back going, “that was a dumb decision,” or “why didn’t we do it like that?”
The issue of noise from Aaron Bessant Park
Many residents are concerned about the noise that will come from events at this new facility. I totally understand this concern. But, there will not be any more noise then what was already there during past events. During any large event held at Aaron Bessant Park, the music can be heard from many of the condos and homes within a mile radius of the park. If anything, I would think the improvements would cut some of that noise down as it is being discussed to build the structure out of concrete block. This should insulate the sound projection to the south.
And again, the music projection from these new improvements would only be during events, which are not necessarily every weekend.