New Amphitheater coming to Aaron Bessant Park

by July 18, 2011 • 16 comments

Improvements to Aaron Bessant park have been in the works for a few months.  In fact, talks of improvements have been going on for years, but money has always been a challenge.  This year, BP money in excess of $1 million, will help make park improvements a reality, and last week the Panama City Beach City Council approved the improvements.

Improvements include a new, larger amphitheater.

The new improvements will be a welcome addition to a heavily used facility.  Currently they have several large events there each year that requires spending 10’s of thousands of dollars on erected staging and equipment.  The new facility will have a large covered stage, integrated electrical and a solid infrastructure to host events with a capacity of 10,000.

All the improvements include:

  • 60’x40′ amphitheater with permanent roof and walls suitable for theatrical productions, orchestral performances and musical events
  • Expanded amphitheater lawn area (see diagram below
  • Vegetative buffers around the parameter to prevent the need for temporary fencing
  • The Festival Lawn (the sandy area that’s used as overflow and vedor parking behind the park) will be improved to the quality of Frank Brown Park’s festival area
  • This area will support parking, play fields, and will have sod and irrigation
  • Additional bathroom facilities
Renderings, conceptual and imagery

The teal boundary area is the existing sidewalk paths around the amphitheater area.  The purple lines indicate the other sidewalk areas and paths that lead around the park.  The black lines will be the new amphitheater lawn area.

This is a conceptual of what the amphitheater could look like. The final product will have a beachy feel and should be consisten with the look and feel of neighboring Pier Park.  The stage area could be approximately 60 feet across and 40 feet deep offering 2,400 square feet of space.  There will be permanent walls and roof.

This is an example of another amphitheater.  Ours could look similar.

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you think this will bring more traffic problems to this area?  Or do you think the improvements will be better for the community as a whole?

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1 Greggt July 18, 2011 at 9:47 am

I think the concept is great, it is something that is needed however the location is a real concern. Any activity in Pier Park brings traffic to gridlock, New Years Eve, 4th of July, etc. as examples. Not sure what a good alternative would be as Frank Brown Park empties only into Back Beach Road, Pier Park has both Back and Front Beach Roads as exits………


2 Joe Farrell July 18, 2011 at 10:36 am

Please consider the parking and related traffic in and around pier park! this is a must! 4th of july was a nightmare traffic jam. I sat in the parking lot for 2 1/2 hrs. after the fire works. kicker is i only live on the other side of Back beach rd in Palmetto Trace. Please consider the traffic.


3 Lee July 18, 2011 at 11:46 am

Knowing that there are only two exits from Pier Park, traffic problems will ALWAYS arise, and it will always take at least an hour and a half to get out after a big public event. Strangely, I believe that it should be the least of our worries, however. I’m actually concerned about it being used on a regular basis. I would hate if PCB spent all this money only to leave a big venue unused with its paint fading due to the sun and ocean salts.


4 Brittany July 19, 2011 at 8:20 am

Love, Love, Love the beachy Pier Park looking one!


5 Nancy July 19, 2011 at 9:44 am

It will definitely bring more traffic problems. However, it is the price you have to pay to bring more people to a venue for bigger named acts. The stage is a major improvement as any performance on the existing stage has dire consequences for the equipment and the performers in case of inclement weather. A real nice idea for patrons would be mosquito control in the summer months and possibly misting stations. Its a shame that road planning was not done well enough for larger events.


6 Brian July 19, 2011 at 10:06 am

This is nice. I like it. Traffic flow and parking should also be improved sometime in the future. Good investment of BP money.


7 Lana Williams July 19, 2011 at 10:39 am

This is great news for Panama City Beach and our surrounding area! I have been attending the Seabreeze Jazz Festival for 8 years now and this is going to be a welcome addition to the festival and to Pier Park.


8 Jason Koertge July 19, 2011 at 11:00 am

Alright, here’s my opinion.

Currently, there are traffic issues when an event uses the Aaron Bessant park facility. But, there WILL ALWAYS be traffic problems when you have an event that draws crows of 5,000 to 10,000 people to a single location – whether you’re here or in Atlanta. Large concentrations of people in a single area will do this.

The building of an amphitheater is to enhance the events already happening there and make possible other events there. But, with that said, this doesn’t mean that we’ll have large events there every single weekend. In fact, it would be reasonable to assume that there wouldn’t be many more events then what are already held there. The new facilities would just make them better quality, a more suitable venue for acts, and would save everyone money in the long run because costly equipment wouldn’t have to be constantly assembled and taken down.

If anyone’s been there during the Fourth of July or New Year’s events, you know that getting out of there takes time, but you also know that they’ve gotten very good at getting everyone out. I remember the first time I attended a huge event at Pier Park, it look me almost two hours to get home. Last New Year’s it took me about 45 minutes.

I think this will be huge for the area, and I think it’s a great idea.


9 karen arrigo July 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Sooo Cool!!!


10 Cathy July 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm

BP funds in the excess of 1 million…… wow, wasn’t that a nice gift? I can’t help remembering back past articles written on the hardships of merchants, condo owners etc. about profits falling off due to the BP Oil mishap. It wasn’t that PCB beaches were hurt by the oil but, that business (vacation travelers) changed their destionations “somewhat” fearing oil on the beaches & went elsewhere.
I hope this project will help amend & satisfy the ones whom I remember posted some rather crude articles. It certainly is an impressive structure and I’m sure it will delight many vacationers and hometown neighbors.
Traffic….. Yes, anytime beautiful developments grow there will be dreadful traffic. It’s just one of the prices we pay. Each time our family visits PCB/Pier Park we are in traffic especially if it’s the “Summer” season. The Fall brings on cooler temps and far less traffic around the “Hot” spots such as Pier Park.
As for me, I can’t wait to see it constructed and I thank BP for the funds negotiated to make this possible, I’m sure we will all enjoy it!
As always, in my own opinion.


11 Local July 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

I think that it will be nice to have, but will it actually be used? There have not been that many big events at the current amphitheater, so I wonder if it will be well-spent.


12 Ricky Jones August 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm

This is an excellent use of city funds. This adds to the whole beach/entertainment feel that has made Pier Park so popular. It will be especially welcomed during the non-prime summer rental season to draw out-of-town guests into the smaller specialty venues and band performances.

And it blends in perfectly with the whole PCB beach scene, unlike the proposed WalMart. We can use another Wal-Mart, just move it out west of Hwy 79. It will still get the same amount of business and eliminate an even bigger traffic issue.


13 Chris Burks April 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The plans look great. It will be a welcome improvement. We visit for the Seabreeze Jazz Festival every year. If that even keeps growing the existing facility would be greatly stressed.


14 JOE JEZEWSKI October 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm

According to the overhead shot, the speakers will be pointed towards Pier Park Drive, correct? And I see NO houses there. The only housing area I see is to the REAR of the theatre area…so why the fuss over noise? Jeeeeez. Hope they bring in some big acts for this venue. The Seafood Festival was always a money-pit, so it MUST have more current performers to make any real money, in my opinion. Always enjoyed the Seafood Festival in the Fall…gonna miss it…but it was a $$ drain, according to all I’ve read regarding it. Anyone have other information than that?