Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater Grand Opening set for April 5

Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater Opens in Pier Park, PCB, FLAaron Bessant Park Amphitheater Grand Opening set for April 5

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Construction is complete at the Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater in Pier Park, and Panama City Beach officials are looking to schedule events at the new venue slowly once spring approaches.

The Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and Panama City Beach will host a grand opening ceremony at the amphitheater April 5, featuring the Panama City POPS Orchestra as the first live stage performance.

City Manager Mario Gisbert said the city has been receiving calls from event promoters eager to host concerts at Aaron Bessant Park. But for now, Gisbert said, they would rather “err on the side of safe” by being selective about what shows they bring in.

The $2.6 million improvement project at Aaron Bessant Park, located just west of Pier Park, included the construction of the amphitheater and also new restroom facilities and three full-sized soccer fields.

Funded by a BP tourism grant provided to the city from the Bay County Tourist Development Council, the project received criticism from area residents concerned with noise levels, trash and heavy traffic the amphitheater could bring. Despite objections, work crews broke ground on the project last August.

Gisbert said the amphitheater will serve as more of an amenity than a revenue source. Officials have set a maximum occupancy of 7,500 at the venue and capped the number of major events at 20 per year. The amphitheater also holds a long list of blackout dates for big events, including the months of March, June and July and the first week of August.

“That’s part of the whole rationale that we built this thing to promote the shoulder season, not to add traffic to our peak season,” Gisbert said, referring to the period between the peak and slow seasons. “Basically, [event organizers] will come to us with a proposal and we’ll give them a yes or a no.”

The venue’s occupancy parameters were laid out using an impact study that examined potential effects on traffic, utilities and noise in surrounding areas.

Gisbert said sound crews recently performed a sound check at the amphitheater using 320 amps while police monitored sound levels at nearby neighborhoods Palmetto Trace and Lullwater Beach.

“It met the thresholds of our sound ordinance, and the goal of that is to not bother our neighbors,” Gisbert said. “I can’t tell you we’ll make everyone happy, but the goal is to do the best we can.”

Following the amphitheater’s grand opening, the Seabreeze Jazz Festival will take place at Aaron Bessant Park from April 17-21.

At this month’s TDC meeting, the board mapped a route for a generous block of project funds, with $1 million dedicated to projects involving the amphitheater. The board recommended staff use $500,000 to buy equipment such as curtains, lighting and sound equipment to make the stage more usable and cost-efficient for those interested in utilizing the park. Another $500,000 was earmarked to fund a concert series with “headline talent” this year.

“Getting some good, solid concert series (could) really generate some incremental visitation to Panama City Beach,” TDC Director Dan Rowe said at the meeting.

The TDC also is planning community concerts in conjunction with the city’s July 4 celebration and the Pirates of the High Seas Festival held on Columbus Day weekend.

“Our role is to promote Panama City Beach as a tourist destination, and the amphitheater provides us a great venue to do it,” Rowe said.

 

Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater Grand Opening set for April 5 was last modified: April 6th, 2013 by Dawn Dunlap

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