The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

County approves $37M sports park !

    When it is complete, the project, located on 210 acres on the east end of Panama City Beach within the Breakfast Point development, is proposed to consist of an outdoor field complex, an indoor sports center and a new elementary school.

PANAMA CITY, FL — A new sports park on the Beach that is projected to bring in thousands of visitors each year should be open by next spring.

The Bay County Commission on Tuesday gave the final approval on the project, which is expected to cost about $37 million.

The first phase consists of 13 fields, including eight rectangular fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, football and flag football, as well as five collegiate-sized baseball and softball fields.

When it is complete, the project, located on 210 acres on the east end of Panama City Beach within the Breakfast Point development, is proposed to consist of an outdoor field complex, an indoor sports center and a new elementary school. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying to secure Triumph Gulf Coast oil spill funds for the indoor center.

“This project really will transform Panama City Beach as a tourist destination,” said Dan Rowe, executive director of the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC). “We anticipate during the first phase that you are approving today it will generate an additional 75,000 rooms of (hotel) business every year, with a majority of those happening outside the summer months of June and July, which really helps to diversify our economy. It helps to strengthen Panama City Beach as a year-round destination.”

The commission had three final votes to get the project off the ground Tuesday, voting to give Phoenix Construction a $23.7 million contract to build the park; modify and transfer an agreement with the St. Joe Co.; and hire Compass BBVA for financing.

The county is borrowing up to $35 million from a bank loan to pay for the park and is getting a 4.05 percent interest rate on the 15-year note. The county’s 5 percent bed taxes, paid by people staying in hotels, generates about $18 million to $20 million a year, and it has been continuing to increase as more hotels are built and more events are held on the Beach.

The annual payment on the sports park bond will be about $3.1 million, which officials estimate to be less than 20 percent of what the bed tax will generate.

“That is more than enough to pay the debt service” on the loan, said County Finance Director Ashley Stukey.

The resolution the commission approved pledges bed tax revenues as the funding source for the loan payment.

“This resolution states that if the (bed) tax were to go away, the county is not obligated to pay the debt,” Stukey said.

But Bay County Clerk Bill Kinsaul said if there were a default on the loan— which he could not envision happening — it potentially could hurt the county’s credit rating.

“Ultimately, if something happened, the TDC is the county,” Kinsaul told commissioners. “I don’t think the county could completely divest itself from it if something were to occur.”

Kinsaul said after the meeting that three-fifths of the bed taxes aren’t pledged to projects, so there should be plenty of bed tax money to pay off the loan.

“That’s why we are getting this interest rate in this environment. We have a great rating, a great revenue stream,” he said.

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