South Walton Sports Complex Update

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by WCTA, Jul 28, 2009.

  1. Beauty hunter

    Beauty hunter Beach Fanatic

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    We could get Patrick Dempsey to MC and Anderson Cooper 360 CNN to cover it- that's a beautiful thing. Let's do it. I say we do it at the boat house at Alys Beach- that area is a bit too stiff- needs to be broke in to give it some life. They can use designer port-o-potties, no problem! We could sell white t-shirts that say Texas tarballs don't rock or roll or clean energy rocks. Good stuff here- keep it rollin...:D
     
  2. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

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    Anyone have updates on the sports complex proposal?
     
  3. centerlinewc

    centerlinewc Beach Comber

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    I think it's a wonderful idea. It's just what the area needs
     
  4. Abby Prentiss

    Abby Prentiss Beach Fanatic

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    After reviewing the $50,000 feasibility study, it was decided not to proceed with the sports complex. It was mentioned that the type of groups a complex would draw would not spend much, stuffing many people into one unit, and since the proposed locations were on the east end that many groups would probably stay in pantymawcitybeach anyhoo.

    http://partners.visitsouthwalton.co...36/Walton+County+Final+Report+Sept+6+2011.pdf
     
  5. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    Who made this decision? This summer I umpired several softball tournaments in Tallahassee, Gulfport, MS, Donaldsonville, GA, Panama City and Pensacola. I saw first hand the large crowds these events draw. Money was spent by these people for lodgings, food, fuel, and other misc. needs, providing a big boost to those local economies. The parks are all operated by local government and the rentals on these parks provide substantial income. A few jobs are also created for locals. When you include the amenities for locals (tennis courts, pools etc.) that would serve to raise property values in the area, I think this wold be a win/win for the area.
     
  6. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    From Ron Romano email:


    Dear Commissioners and Friends,

    We are at an unprecedented time in Walton County. The south part of the county is seeing dynamic growth. DR Horton, the nation’s largest home builder, is selling nearly 40 homes per month and now has 13 communities in the South Walton area with more coming on line every day. My real estate company is seeing large numbers of buyers that are planning to call South Walton home, not part time, but full time. In fact a majority of our sales are now to full time residents. Historical vacation communities like WaterColor, Rosemary Beach and WaterSound are seeing more and more full time residents. We are no longer a vacation home community that provides the economic engine to run Walton County (nearly 90% of the tax base for Walton County is South of the bay!). We are now a large full time community with actual needs.

    Our schools are seeing amazing growth. Our new middle school that had “plenty of room” when complete last year, is already adding 8 classrooms which will still not be enough to meet demand this year. Butler Elementary ended the last school year with 903 students and there were over 400 more at Bay Elementary. The Middle School is looking at the prospect of 750 students this year. The area has multiple private schools a charter school and many children that are home schooled. It is estimated that there are 2,500 kids in South Walton grades K-8. There is currently ONE legal football/Soccer field for all of South Walton. That field is extremely taxed and is in very poor shape. We have multiple youth soccer, football, baseball and softball teams along with adult teams all fighting for space.

    The TDC commissioned a study in 2010 that looked at the need for a recreational sports complex. That study concluded that one was needed (I have attached a portion of the study). Based on today’s numbers and increased tourism the numbers in the study are very conservative and already outdated. The report states the need for an outdoor sports complex with six lighted baseball/softball fields, four to six lighted multi-purpose soccer/football/lacrosse fields, supporting elements (concession stands, restrooms and administrative offices) and on-site parking. The study estimated around 200,000 attendee days at the park with approximately 175 new jobs created in Walton County as a result, It estimates the complex adding roughly $5.7 million in personal earnings in South Walton created along with 32,000+/- rental room nights generated from activities at the complex, directly generating $11-$12 million in annual direct spending in South Walton. The result would generate $179,000 to $193,000 annually in TDC revenues. The estimated cost of running the complex is $378,000 to $431,000 per year. If the TDC and the county would split the cost the TDC would actually make money as a result and the county would have a sports and entertainment complex for its citizens costing only around $200,000 per year. The sheer number of new homes being completed every month in South Walton, raising the tax base, only further serve to make this a very small amount.

    Sporting activity would only be one aspect of the new complex. We need entertainment space. South Walton has already lost the Seabreeze Jazz Festival to Panama City Beach and ArtsQuest has been told they are no longer welcome at Seaside as it has become too of large an event. The 30A Songwriters Festival would like to bring larger acts to the festival in January but has no venues large enough to accommodate them. This complex could host car shows, equestrian shows, art shows, concerts, food festivals and more. In addition the Tourist Development Counsel could house their new offices in one corner of the complex, alleviating the need for an 11 acre complex for that purpose. It is estimated that Frank Brown Park in Panama City Beach brings in over $16,000,000 per year in revenue to the city.

    The estimated cost of the complex is between $11.3 and $13.5 million. Congress has just passed the Renew Act. With the Renew Act, Walton County is set to receive between $30,000,000 and $150,000,000 from BP fines that are to be used for “Economic Projects”. This represents a unique opportunity to make lasting improvements for the county. This money must not be squandered into the general operating budget. This is a project that will benefit the entire county, serve the citizens and increase revenue and quality of life for our citizens and guests. The park could be expanded in the future to include swimming pools, performing arts and even convention space. Now is the time to act. Land along the US 98 corridor is still relatively depressed but that is changing rapidly. DR Horton is buying everything they can get their hands on. Now is the time to secure the land and we now have the resources in place. The TDC could even build their new offices on the site alleviating the need for the 11 acre site that has been proposed and saving that money.

    In addition, the county budget has forced our Parks and Recreation Department to cut all funding of Youth Football, Soccer and Baseball teams for the entire county. This is a community disgrace, we need to find money in in the budget for the kids. This is why you see kids panhandling at the intersections along 30-A, they don’t even have money to buy uniforms. Let your commissioners know to put money back in the budget to fund kids sports. This is a very small amount of money each year, $75-$95,000 per year should enable all youth leagues from DeFuniak Springs to South Walton to get at least $5,000 to help with insurance, uniforms and equipment.

    With continued inaction in South Walton, we as community members need to explore incorporation for South Walton. By putting incorporation on the ballot we can keep our money in South Walton and have many of the community amenities of a city (better roads, parks, etc.) Please call your county commissioner and let them know your thoughts.

    Thank you for your time. Please forward this email to everyone you know that may be interested!

    Ron Romano
     
  7. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Incorporation adds another tax. My feeling is that the developer of subdivisions should include parks/ green spaces in their plans. I do like the idea of a sport and music complex and believe Walton County would benefit from it. I think Freeports is under used and the primary reason is the lack of motel/ hotel. I like the idea of TDC/ Restore Act money being used for these type of projects.
     
  8. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Ron Romano's very thoughtful and insightful email is absolutely on target. I, when officiating sports events such as baseball and football, noted the same things Danny Glidewell portrayed in his post. A sports/venue complex could add much to our already wonderful piece of paradise. Whoever made this horrendous decision should reconsider it.
     
  9. DaleDalbey

    DaleDalbey Beach Fanatic

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    Tourist or economic impact aside, I think it is a quality of life issue for those of us in South Walton that play sports. Currently there are not enough fields at Helen McCall to support kids' desire to play. Baseball for 7 year olds continues until after 10 p.m. because there are not enough fields to play on and they have to stack three per night. Not enough soccer fields for practice or games. The fields are also in awful shape. Research shows that kids involved in sports are less likely to do drugs, commit crimes, and are more likely to stay in school and graduate. Not to mention the childhood obesity issues we face. To those who say, don't want it, don't need it...I assume you have no children, or your children are grown.
     
  10. DaleDalbey

    DaleDalbey Beach Fanatic

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    Regarding incorporation, I see one value if we want to take it that far. Other areas throughout the South (Birmingham area is an example), have incorporated and split their school system out from the county and formed a local district school system more accountable to the people in the community. If this is a vision for incorporation, I am all for it. No, you don't have to build all new schools -- if you had to nobody would have ever done it. Not saying it is completely feasible, but saying it might be worth a look. For those who want to jump down my throat, just please have very specific FACTS, not just emotions to say it is a bad idea. It just seems to me the locals need to decide what happens in South Walton, not the developers or the absentee owners.
     
  11. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    I agree 100%. This is an infrastructure project with no down side and multiple advantages. If this project is not included in the Renew Act spending then someone should investigate. Like I stated before, it is a win.win for everyone.
     
  12. buster

    buster Beach Fanatic

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    We appreciate the interest and need from residents regarding the sports complex but wanted to make sure you had the context of the study results. Since the TDC revenues comes from bed tax revenue it is only prohibited to spend those dollars for tourism promotion. So a complex would have to be able to drive bed tax revenue and the study only factored tourism impact and not residential impact.

    The study did mention some of your points below but unfortunately did come back unfeasible at this time. You are correct that it was done nearly 2 years ago and is dated. However, it was stated in the report findings that it would take several more years (approximately 10 years) for the market to support such a venture. Again, not factoring in the local needs. One of the challenges is our ADR (average daily room rate) is much higher than those around us and where these complexes typically are found. It also noted the challenge with not having budget driven hotels, services, restaurants, fast food chains, and similar development in a concentrated area directly near a site. Lastly, timing was an issue as many of the tournaments and games would occur during peak season rather than in off season. This was based on sporting organizations and teams that book these complexes participating in a survey. Lastly, since the available land was on the eastern part of the county it also suggested that Bay County would reap the biggest benefit since they have more budget friendly accommodations.

    This is a quote from the executive summary;

    “Although there appears to be potential market demand for a proposed new sports complex in South Walton County, the direct financial benefits to the TDC generated from the TDT do not appear

    sufficient to support on-going financial operations or debt service on the project.”

    As a result the TDC & BCC voted that it was not feasible to expend bed tax dollars for this purpose at this time. Any new discussion would have to be brought back to them to reopen the dialogue. Our next meeting is September 11th at 9:00 am. If you would like to be on the agenda to ask for their reconsideration please let me know and I will get you a submission form to fill out.

    I just wanted to make sure you saw the complete report, ultimate findings, and TDC/BCC decision. Again, this is solely based on tourism and not residential needs.

    You are right that the Restore Act has passed and there will be a substantial amount of funds coming to the gulf coast states. I was at an all-day session yesterday regarding the Restore Act and while we are all very excited it has not been determined what the amounts or timeline will be. However a project of this nature would be considered based on the information provided yesterday. The next 6 months will be focused on developing the Consortium model, developing policies & procedures, accountability, oversight, formulas and models for identification and allocation of funds, etc.

    After that occurs they will start to focus on projects and hold public meetings/workshops.

    I am sure more will be made available as it gets determined and passed down from the federal and state officials to the respective counties.

    Please let me know if you need any additional information on either of these.
    Dawn

    Dawn Moliterno
    Executive Director
    South Walton TDC
     
  13. buster

    buster Beach Fanatic

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    More from Ron Romano

    ===========================================

    The argument is also a chicken or the egg argument. If you build it, restaurant and hotels will come. I have had an overwhelming response to my email. One of the emails was from a group proposing Public/Private partnerships where they will build the park and hotels surrounding it. I will forward you that email as well. http://www.goodsportsvillage.com/impact.aspx

    A major part of this complex would be for events like the Seabreeze Jazz Festival, ArtsQuest, concerts, car shows and other special events. An arts center, bandstand and other amenities could be added to the site in the future. Land will never be as inexpensive as it is today. The Feasibility Study did not seem to put much weight into these issues. We are losing events and revenue from our area as a result of not being able to provide event space. Many events like the 30A Songwriters Festival take place in months like January where the cost of rooms in South Walton is very reasonable and occupancy rates are low. They are looking to bring in larger acts but do not have a venue to support this. The argument that we don’t have affordable lodging is short sided in my opinion. I am personally working with many hotel operators that are looking at locations on US 98 in South Walton and many events could be brought in during our “off season” serving to further develop our tourist season. There are sports camps around the county year round as well. Many people would like the opportunity to attend one of these in a place like South Walton.

    The TDC could participate with the county and have their new TDC building on the site alleviating the need for a separate 11 acre site for TDC offices and serving to reach the multitudes that will use the facility in a central location. I speak in my email about the site serving the needs of tourism and citizens and possibilities for costs to be shared. I think TDC funds would be much better served on sticks and bricks improvements to our area as a tourist destination. Funds for this would seem to generate more tourist dollars and a better tourist experience than may dollars spent on things like the 30A song for instance.

    I am not trying to be difficult, but I think things can be looked at differently and the argument that we don’t have the lodging and food resources to support is off base. In South Walton we have McDonalds, Whataburger, Taco Bell, new Five Guys, Beef O’Brady’s, Applebees, KFC, and many many more. One brings the other, build the park and the hotels will follow as you will see in the Good Sports Village concept. Due to the outpouring of support I have received we will be meeting and may ask to speak with others at an upcoming TDC meeting. Please keep me posted on meeting times throughout the fall.


    Ron Romano
     
  14. buster

    buster Beach Fanatic

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    Personally, I don't see the addition of hotels, fast food, and more traffic as a plus for South Walton.

    Sure it's great for kids to have ball fields, and it would be nice to have a large open field for festivals, but let's hold off on adding stuff for more and more commercial development.

    I saw an agenda item the other day for making 98 in South Walton more friendly towards businesses like car dealerships. Is it too tough to drive a bot east or west? Do we need to be like every other town in Florida, or the country for that matter. We have such amazing natural resources. Let's not lose sight of that. Get the kids out on the beach, the lakes, the rivers, the bike path, the trails. Kids don't need more hotels and fast food joints!
     
  15. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    I support the additon of ball fields, larger entertainment venues, etc., but I have one very important question. When all the new lodging is added, where do these people go to the beach? Our beach access are already woefully inadequate for the large number of visitors already here.
     
  16. shellak

    shellak Beach Fanatic

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    I agree. We have to think about what made this area special in the first place and why so many of us moved here. It was not because of convenience to anything but the beach. We loved the solitude of 30a. I understand that the parts of Hwy 98 that are not owned by the state will eventually be developed, but we really need to go slowly and make sure we do not destroy this area. I will keep saying it - I do not want south walton to become another Destin. We would not have moved here to live in Destin - no offense to those who live there. The one thing I would like to see is more facilities for the public, the locals, such as well designed parks. I would love to have public tennis courts!!!
     
  17. marilu120

    marilu120 Beach Comber

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    Support South Walton Sports and Recreation Park

    South Walton is in need of a state-of-the-art sports complex as a vehicle to generate tourism and increase bed tax dollars through sports tournaments and events, as well as improve the quality of life for our citizens. Please take a moment to "LIKE" the Facebook page at the link below and learn a bit more about the proposed park.

    https://www.facebook.com/SupportSou...k#!/SupportSouthWaltonSportsAndRecreationPark
     
  18. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

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  19. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    I am curious about affordable lodging and dining for the large numbers of families and teams that would be the target market for large tournaments. Will they all stay in PCB and drive over for their games? We don't have a budget travel infrastructure for huge groups in South Walton.
     
  20. tsutcli

    tsutcli Beach Fanatic

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    Why would they not use Frank Brown Park and stay in PCB for tournaments and Pier Park for large venue music events? Are we going to compete with PCB for Thunder Beach next? Is this a public or private undertaking or a combo? A small sports complex for local use would be fine.
     

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