Wednesday, the TDC’s Revenue Enhancement Committee (fancy for bed tax committee) met to discuss improvement ideas for Panama City Beach and how to fund it all.
The ideas range from a new beach trash disposal system to a grass amphitheatre with bathroom and concessions facilities at Aaron Bessant Park.
The ideas stem from the Strategic Plan and include:
- TDC Marketing and Awareness
- Welcome to the Beach campaign which would include welcome signs west of the Hathaway Bridge and along Highway 79, and replacing existing signs.
- New beach trash disposal system to replace the existing blue refuse containers.
- Beach safety campaign to increase public awareness about the flag warning system and fund additional flag poles. (THIS ISN’T ENOUGH, PEOPLE, AND YOU KNOW IT!)
- Estimated total cost of $500,000 per year.
- Special Events Marketing
- Construct a permanent stage suitable for concerts and theatrical performances at Aaron Bessant Park, at Pier Park.
- Build an amphitheatre ‘bowl’ with a grass covered berm with restroom and concession space on the back/underside of the grass ‘bowl’. Should be capable of a 5,000 capacity.
- Create space for tents, vendor areas, or other festival support areas in the flat areas of the park.
- Estimated total coast of $5 million
I think this is a really neat idea, and definitely worth looking into, but we need to be planning for 25,000 people, not 5,000 people. Aaron Bessant Park needs some renovation, but will never have the capability to have anything much larger than the summer Concerts in the Park series. We need to be looking at improving larger capacity facilities, like Frank Brown Park.
- Sports Marketing – Frank Brown Park
- Develop two additional ‘pinwheels’ of softball/youth baseball fields with the appropriate infrastructure.
- Make two of the fields in the new ‘pinwheels’ the ‘marquee’ fields with additional seating, dugouts, press boxes, etc., one for baseball, one for softball.
- Look at building a warm-up pool and permanent seating at the aquatic center to enhance potential at attracting regional swimming competitions.
- Enhance the equestrian facilities
- Estimated total cost is $7.5 to $10 million
- Sports Marketing – Sports Village Complex (in addition to Frank Brown Park, would need to acquire additional land)
- Develop indoor field house to expand offerings to include court and mat sports.
- Develop 8 to 12 rectangular fields for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, flag football, etc. Some would have grass, others artificial turf
- Develop 8 full-sized baseball fields for additional tournaments and practicing facilities.
- Estimated total cost is $33 to $35 million
- Destination Marketing
- Begin international marketing efforts when the new airport comes online and our area becomes more easily accessed.
- Increase domestic advertising – more money is needed in order to fully penetrate our core markets and expand outside the southeast (or we could just use the $500k that was wasted on the Summer White Sale campaign for something that is more innovative, creative, and effective)
- Enhance the Visitor Center with new technology and look and feel
- Estimated total cost is $1 to $2 million
Now, where did all these numbers come from? That is an unknown as of now, just estimations. The committee requested of Dan and Staff to ‘zero-base’ the numbers and give details to how much each aspect of these improvements will cost, ideally to have everything spelled out by the December TDC meeting. The goal is to have everything in order to request an additional 2cents be added to the bed tax first part of the year.
Staff counsel, Doug Sale said that from implementation to actual collection could be up to 90 days, so if they could get the tax implemented first of the year, collections could start rolling in for the new season in spring break.
I’m in total agreement that we need to collect additional bed tax in order to keep up with the competition. I’ve not been too impressed with the way the money has been spent in the past, however. I will give kudos to TDC Chair Andy Phillips for staying on everyone to be sure the numbers included will have some specificity in the near future.