Panama City Performing Arts and Events Center finally sees progress

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 10:42 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Some Panama City residents said they thought this day would never come. Dozens gathered for a public workshop meeting Tuesday, where city leaders announced phase 1 of the new performing arts and events center was complete.

For some residents, having just another center is not enough. It has to be stronger than the existing one that’s been out of commission since Hurricane Michael.

“Did you consider all the other similar venues in the area when you were considering the types of activities,” one resident asked.

“Hurricane and storm deviation for the building. Is that factored into this cost? And do you have a plan,” another resident asked.

Community members had countless questions as city officials reviewed phase 1 results of the new center.

“This is new territory for all of us. There’s never been a commission that’s been in this situation after all you know all the chaos the storm created. It’s a scary time a little bit but it’s also a very exciting time,” Panama City Commissioner Jenna Haligas said.

The flexible-first design is fit for a variety of programs, seating 2,500 people, with a capacity of more than 3,000 people. The state-of-the-art facility is only one piece of a much larger puzzle, to develop the entire Marina Arts District. Possible additions include an outdoor amphitheater, promenade, new marina store, retail shops, an art museum, and tons of parking. But that comes at a historically steep price.

“Never has been done. There’s never been anything done for $150, $170 million in Panama City,” Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki said.

It has officials asking if and how they will find the funding to push this project forward because the why is not even a question.

“I mean will it be more expensive to build a new civic center? Absolutely,” Haligas said. “But are we building just to be back in the 1950′s or are we building to move forward with our children and our great-grandchildren and the future of Panama City?”

Officials estimate the project to take anywhere from 3.5 to 4 years from now to complete. But nothing is finalized yet.

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