The Panama City Beach City Council set master plan priorities for Frank Brown Park recently, which enabled staff to move forward on amenities that include additional basketball and pickleball courts, a skate park, a BMX park and more paved parking and bathrooms.

“Other than our beaches, this park is one of the greatest amenities we have in Panama City Beach,” said Vice Mayor Paul Casto. “Hundreds of people utilize the park every day, and thousands come in for special events.”

Frank Brown Park marked 40 years recently in a special ceremony that honored the legacy of longtime educator Frank Brown. It is the City’s largest and one of the oldest parks. It is used by thousands of local and traveling sports teams each year and is the home of several special events that draw thousands more to the area.

The park features the Aquatic Center’s Olympic-size pool and separate kids’ feature, tennis courts, indoor pickleball, softball/baseball/T-ball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts, fishing ponds, dog parks, walking and biking trails, multiple playgrounds, classrooms, a gymnasium, pavilions, a 22-acre festival site and more. Before it was officially renamed in 1983, Frank Brown Park opened as Beach Memorial Park in 1977 with two baseball fields and a soccer field.

Seeing the growth in the community and particularly in sports tourism, elected officials last year commissioned a master plan for the facility, which was prepared by Goodwyn Mills Caywood. The group came back with proposals, which the City Council and staff tweaked last year.

At that time, there were discussions about straightening out an outer road connecting Mandy Lane to Pier Park Drive. If a curve were removed from that side road, more room would be created for added amenities. That portion of the project is still under design.

In a special meeting of the City Council on April 27, several additions at Frank Brown Park were agreed to. These included the construction of:

  • Four north/south-facing basketball courts to be on the south side of the park
  • Up to 10 pickleball courts near the center of the park, where the basketball courts are
  • A beginner skate park near Miracle League Field
  • A BMX park
  • New expanded restrooms at the center of the park
  • Handicapped-accessible restrooms next to Miracle League Field
  • More paved parking north of the basketball courts and next to the festival grounds
  • More lighting throughout to allow a longer time to use the new amenities.

Officials noted the park should have had a master plan long ago to use the land most efficiently.

“These amenities will add a new dimension to the park,” Mayor Mark Sheldon said. “Many things, like BMX and the skatepark, widen the park’s use by adding these new features. The restrooms for Miracle League Field were desperately needed. This is a big overhaul.”

Assistant City Manager Holly White said it makes sense to work on the skatepark and the Miracle League Field bathrooms first as the access road is realigned. A private recreational development, DBATS, is also going in south of this access road.

City staff noted, however, that as the park gets larger, so do the maintenance needs. Officials agreed to the renovation/reconfiguration of the maintenance yard at the back of the park, which was already budgeted for this year. This effort will include installing a taller pole barn for park equipment and adding a break room for staff.

The improvements are partially funded by a $4 million American Rescue Plan Act grant and recreational impact fees.

A safe room/community center annex for field and special event evacuations is also going in at the park next to the community center. This annex was previously approved and is partially funded by $4.4 million from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program through the Florida Department of Emergency Management. The safe room is under architectural design.