The $37 million sports park, including an outdoor field complex, athletic fields, walking and biking trails and more, is set to open in May 2019.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Officials dug into the ground that will become the Panama City Beach sports park at a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.

“This is an exciting event for us,” said Tourist Development Council member Buddy Wilkes. “This project is much more than 13 sports fields. It’s a way we’re going to introduce people to Panama City Beach. It’s a tremendous way for us to enhance tourism.”

The $37 million sports park will include an outdoor field complex, athletic fields, walking and biking trails and more. It is expected to have a $23.2 million economic impact in its first year and is anticipated to bring in more than 1,000 jobs.

Sports Facilities Management will manage the park, located at 8222 Panama City Beach Parkway, and Phoenix Construction Services will build it.

The park is scheduled to open in May 2019, said TDC Executive Director Dan Rowe. He also said officials are working on a huge event at the park scheduled for Memorial Day 2019, though details are not yet available.

At a combined TDC and Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting in February, officials wrestled with the number of lanes at the entry road and funding opportunities from the St. Joe Co., which donated land, and the Bay District School Board, which will use the road for a new elementary school.

“We are proceeding with a two-lane, but we have until late summer to exercise an option of widening it to four lanes,” Rowe said.

He said St. Joe has decided to donate $2.8 million to the project, and Bay District’s funding for road costs is included in land transfer agreements. Rowe said officials have included the funds in a Triumph Gulf Coast application to make sure the school is able to be built. He said board officials still are reviewing the Triumph application, which asks for $20 million to add an indoor facility to the park.

Officials also honored Chip Seal, former CVB sales manager, by naming the road to the complex Chip Seal Parkway. Seal died in January 2017, and his family was in attendance to receive the honor.

“It’s a super amazing thing I’m proud of, and something my children can drive by and look at,” said Amy Seal, Chip’s widow.

Rowe said Seal was a great asset to the tourism industry.

“His heart was with sports, and his heart was with his family,” he said.