DESTIN — A potential events center that might replace the city Community Center is worth learning more about, several City Council members agreed Tuesday.
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That’s when the seven-member board heard a pitch from a Pensacola businessman to potentially develop a multi-use facility on about 10 acres somewhere in Destin.
“This kind of facility … would replace your existing community center,” Jay Patel, chief operating officer of the Nashbuilt Inc. construction company of Pensacola and a member of a group of businessmen called Pensacola Arena Development Partners, told the council.
The conceptual events center would include meeting rooms and offices, a plaza where Destin officials could conduct the city’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and other activities, and multi-use sports facilities, Patel said.
The conceptual space for sporting events might include basketball courts and/or ice rinks, and the overall center could house a local sports hall of fame, as well as a hotel, Patel said. Parking spaces could be set up in various areas, he said.
According to data from Patel, a conceptual field house with basketball courts and space for other sports would have a direct annual economic impact of more than $24 million while leading to at least 450 new local jobs.
And a conceptual arena with ice rinks would have a direct annual economic impact of $7.4 million while leading to 250 new local jobs.
Depending on the facilities that would be included, the cost of the overall events center might range from about $17 million to $65 million.
A potential site for the conceptual center, some council members said, might be a commercial chunk of land northwest of Main Street and U.S. Highway 98 that currently contains both operating and defunct businesses.
Councilman Skip Overdier, however, wondered if a potential events center in Destin would compliment or steal business from Okaloosa County’s Emerald Coast Convention Center on Okaloosa Island.
Overdier used to represent the city on the county Tourist Development Council.
A Destin events center next to Main Street would stand seven miles east of the convention center.
Patel said activities at the potential events center in Destin would include sporting events, high-school graduations and church services.
The possible center would not be a conference center, said Patel, who added that most of its events would work “synergistically” with the convention center.
Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell, who is helping to spearhead Destin’s first high school, said she wants to work with Patel and his partners on bringing multi-use sports facilities to Destin. Ramswell said if the council doesn’t go forward with the proposal from Patel and his partners, she would be interested in it, in order to potentially benefit the future Destin High School.
While Councilman Rodney Braden said an aquarium would suit Destin better than a new community events center, Councilman Chatham Morgan said it’s worth exploring whether the potential center is financially feasible.
Mayor Gary Jarvis, who only votes on council matters if there’s a tie, is a big hockey fan. He said he’d like the council to learn more about the conceptual events center.