County officials broke ground on Thursday for the long-awaited $2 million Publix Sports Complex park.
The park's skating surface will cover about 20,000 square feet. Officials said it will be paid for with money from the Tourist Development Council, and park and impact fees.
It is expected to be completed by April of next year.
County Commissioner Philip "Griff" Griffitts attended the ground breaking, saying the new park will be huge for the skating community.
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"This should just add on to the quality of life for our kids who like to skateboard around the Beach and Bay County," Griffitts said. "It's something that's been sorely needed and this will be something that everybody will be proud of when it's done."
The key features of the park will be half pipes, quarter pipes and snake runs. There also will be a lot of multi-functional facilities for skaters to do tricks on, Griffitts said.
Top designer Tim Payne, whose career of building state-of-the-art parks has spanned three decades, created the facility.
"Payne ... is a world-renowned skate park facility designer, designed for the X Games, those sorts of things," Griffitts said. "What he's going to bring to the table are going to be some very impressive skating. We're gonna see a lot of talent in this park. We're probably gonna see a lot of talent come out of this park in the future."
The project has been a long time coming, with the county's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board approving conceptual designs in October 2020 and the County Commission approving the construction bid during their Feb. 1 meeting.
"This has been a couple of years in the works, we've been talking about this for a long time with the TDC in the county," Griffitts said. "The design package took a little while. ... It's been a long process but we're glad to finally see some dirt be moved."
Just a couple of miles from the new park is the county's existing skate park — McElvey Road Skate Park, which is about 5,242 square feet. County officials noted that local contractor Earnest Watkins has been a huge help by donating his time to keep McElvey up and running while they work on the new park.
The only other skate park in the county is the Panama City Skate Park in the downtown area. It is about 4,130 square feet.
Once the new facility is completed, officials said they expect to hold tournaments and special skateboarding events.
Griffitts said county officials are seeing strong support from the community for the park.
"The locals are very excited ... we appreciate their patience," Griffitts said. "Government is slow moving sometimes, so we're glad to finally see this come down to the ground. Thinking by this time next year, you're gonna see a lot of happy skaters on this Beach."
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Bay County officials break ground for Publix Sports Complex Skate Park