Visit Panama City Beach Announces Updates on Sports Tourism Leadership, Facilities and Career Opportunities | Sports Destination Management

Visit Panama City Beach Announces Updates on Sports Tourism Leadership, Facilities and Career Opportunities

Feb 26, 2024

 Visit Panama City Beach is pleased to announce the appointment of sports tourism leader Richard Sanders as Vice President of Special Projects. In this new role, Sanders will focus on the continued development of the Panama City Beach Sports Complex, and Chris O’Brien, Director of Sports Marketing and member of the Sports Events and Tourism Association (Sports ETA) Board of Directors, will assume leadership of Panama City Beach’s nationally recognized sports tourism enterprise, tasked with enhancing, aligning and growing the program to capitalize on the exciting opportunities that the developed complex will bring to the destination. 
“For over 25 years, Richard Sanders has been instrumental in the destination’s continued growth as a leader in sports and events, and we are thrilled to announce his transition to overseeing the evolution of the Panama City Beach Sports Complex,” said Dan Rowe, president and CEO of Visit Panama City Beach. “We look forward to continuing the destination’s momentum under the valuable leadership and expertise of Chris O’Brien, who will spearhead our ongoing sports tourism endeavors.”
A trailblazer in the sports tourism industry, Richard Sanders has worked to elevate sports tourism and special events in Panama City Beach since 1998, bringing over $1 billion in economic impact to the destination over the last 25 years. From the additional fields at Frank Brown Park, numerous renovations, and the $42 million Publix Sports Park, Sanders has played a significant role in establishing Panama City Beach as a leading destination in sports tourism and events. 
As Director of Sports Marketing for Visit Panama City Beach, Chris O’Brien oversees the marketing of Panama City Beach as a preferred sports destination for tournaments and fosters business development in sports and special events. Since joining the team nine years ago, O’Brien has played an integral role in the design, planning and development of the destination’s nationally recognized, award-winning sporting events.
Visit Panama City Beach attracts 125,000 annual visitors for sports tournaments and sports events, generating well over $100 million in economic impact annually. The destination’s state-of-the-art sports facilities include Frank Brown Park and Publix Sports Park, the premier sports tourism and community recreation venue that offers 13 multipurpose fields, nine AstroTurf fields, and 160 acres of space.

Plans are underway to add much-needed indoor space to the Panama City Beach Sports Complex with the development of a new 130,000-square-foot indoor facility that will allow the destination to expand and diversify its sports tourism offerings for large-scale events in gymnastics, cheerleading, volleyball, basketball, wrestling and pickleball. The indoor complex will feature eight courts, banquet space, concert capabilities plus thousands of square feet for conference and meeting spaces. This innovative project will also serve as an alternate Emergency Operations Center for the community. While no date is set for opening, contact for more information.
Panama City Beach’s extensive portfolio of annual events includes a selection of incredible national partners, such as IRONMAN Group, College Club Sports, United States Fastpitch Association (USFA), Ripken Select, Grand Slam Tournaments, SNAP Soccer, GameDay USA – Athletx, Perfect Game, United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), Spiderz Mega Draft, Pylon 7 v 7, Soccer Youth All American, Kings Hammer Bay United Soccer, Baseball Youth, United Tykes Football, ACO Cornhole Major Series, Spring Fling Lacrosse, Southeastern Women’s Lacrosse and World Sports League (WSL). Three annual week-long events were just named Sports Destination Management’s 2023 Champions of Economic Impact: Grand Slam World Series, USFA World Series and GameDay USA NYE Baseball Festival.

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