Aaron Bessant Park, Walmart [OPINION]

by August 26, 2011 • 5 comments

The development of a new Walmart next to Pier Park and the talk of improvements to the performance infrastructure at Aaron Bessant Park have brought  some strong opinions for both sides of the argument.  Some agree, some don’t.

One of the arguments that seems to be consistent is that we don’t need more traffic in that area.  Based on conversations with city officials, planners and the TDC, the purpose of the Aaron Bessant Park improvements isn’t to necessarily increase the per-event occupancy, but rather increase the comfort by which events can set up and decrease the cost it takes to erect the staging.

And, Walmart coming here isn’t really a matter of government decision, it’s a private industry matter.

The issue of occupancy of Aaron Bessant Park

The improvements will increase the per-event occupancy to 10,000, up from 7,500, but this doesn’t mean that every event will have 10,000 attendees there.  Sure, some events will, ideally, they all would (more people at the event means more money for Panama City Beach), but most probably won’t.  In addition, don’t think that 10,000 people will mean 10,000 cars.  Studies have shown that on average, events like these bring 5 people per car to the event.  So, with that figure in mind, the parking spaces at Pier Park and the additional parking that will be provided in the western improvements should suffice.

The issue of traffic in the Pier Park area

Where we stand today, infrastructure improvements will need to be made to handle traffic in this area.  When the new Walmart is done, and tourism numbers are up, traffic along this corridor will increase.  However, at this time, plans to signalize Powell Adams Road are in place (look for this in the next 12 to 18 months) and three-laning this whole stretch of road will likely happen within 24 months, which will help.

The reality is, people want to come here because it’s paradise.  Businesses want to come here because people want to come here, and growth will happen, whether you want it to or not.

The question is not IF we’ll grow on this end of the beach, but rather HOW we’ll grow.  It’s up to members of the Panama City Beach community to help the city commissioners make right decisions in our path of growth so that 15 years down the road, we’re not looking back going, “that was a dumb decision,” or “why didn’t we do it like that?”

The issue of noise from Aaron Bessant Park

Many residents are concerned about the noise that will come from events at this new facility.  I totally understand this concern.  But, there will not be any more noise then what was already there during past events.  During any large event held at Aaron Bessant Park, the music can be heard from many of the condos and homes within a mile radius of the park.  If anything, I would think the improvements would cut some of that noise down as it is being discussed to build the structure out of concrete block.  This should insulate the sound projection to the south.

And again, the music projection from these new improvements would only be during events, which are not necessarily every weekend.

 

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1 Biggen August 27, 2011 at 8:03 am

The parking issue is a problem whether Simon, PCB Council, or anyone else wants to admit it. You only look at half the problem when you talk about:

“Studies have shown that on average, events like these bring 5 people per car to the event”. What about the average daily traffic that Pier Park gets on any given day during the summer? What about the employees and support staff that run the complex? Parking is already bad at Pier Park during the summer months. Now certain people want to add a complex that will bring an additional 2500 people into an already crammed area?

Have you been to Pier Park during the 4th of July or New Years firework show? If so, did you feel parking and traffic control was sufficient? Now we are talking about adding a venue that will have the capacity to bring this level “disfunction” to every event??

The bottom line is Pier Park was not designed to hold events of upwards of 10,000 on a normal basis. Sure, once or twice a year for fireworks are ok. People are willing to put up with exceptions now and then. But on a normal basis? If I am a tenant in Pier Park then I’m firmly against this move. I want parking available to paying customers that can come into my business. I don’t want them parking and walking over to the “stadium” and then going straight home after its over which is what will happen. People look at Pier Park and think because it is busy all the time then all that money “walking around” equates to dollars spent inside of Pier Park but that just doesn’t happen.

Just ask Guy Harvey’s, Borders, that smaller Pottery Store, or the other dozen businesses that have gone out of business over the last 2 years how hard it is to make it there. They will tell you it just isn’t about “traffic”…

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2 RonB August 27, 2011 at 9:59 am

I for 1 am glad to see thoughtful, controlled growth taking place. The Wal-Mart deal makes sense and a new structure for shows in the Park will help the noise problem not add to it.

As for the Business that have failed in Pier Park, Borders business model was good in the 80’s but not today, and the whole chain is gone. The others that went out didn’t realize that traffic alone does not ensure success. You still need a good product at the right price to succeed something a few eateries in Pier Park didn’t realize, but those that know how to run a business are doing great.

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3 steve gilmore August 27, 2011 at 11:43 am

the proposal of improving Aaron Besset park is fine but for God’s sake do we really need another Walmart? Talk about gumming up traffic!

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4 Helen Kimbrough August 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm

My opinion is that if Walmart wishes to pay for the improvement ,Walmart should be willing to pay for the improvement with no expectation of ever being reimbersed. We dont know what the economy will be on down the road . Costs of having such improvements done at a later date might be much , much less costly and we could wait till that later date. Yet if the work is done now ,to accomodate Walmart now, before we are desperate for such improvement ,the cost at the time we must reimberse Walmart, plus interest could well be absobitant. If they are paying for the highway, They might include overpasses for instance or gold street lights. When someone is paying for something they usually call the shots. Their reimbersement may well come with a pricetag extremely high price tag for the economy when it becomes due. Economy is still shifting. No one knows when it will settle down. or what price things will be at a undisclosed time. I say if Walmart wants a highway precisely for their business, they should be willing to pay for that road with no encumberances for our future tax money.

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5 Jeremy August 29, 2011 at 8:31 am

Three-laning the whole stretch within 24 months? Is that just speculation or are there actual plans for this? This would bring traffic very close to adjoining houses at both Summerwood and Palmetto Trace, presenting even more noise and safety issues.

Also, I think the ‘average 5 people per car’ studies must have been done at events close to mass transit options such as train, subway and train, or with easy pedestrian access. That or a lot of the cars are being overloaded?

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