Make Pcb great again Reestablishing Panama City Beach's Reputation

Panama City Beach was once beloved for the natural beauty of it's heaping dunes of sugar white sand and clear turquoise waters.

LONG BEACH RESORT

In the 1960s, jungle gyms and shady pavilions lined the sandy white beaches where people of all ages could enjoy their vacation. Long Beach Resort was the lone attraction for several years. It was a place with a casino for adults and an arcade for children. Teenagers spent their days dancing their own version of the shag at The Hangout, a dancing deck at the back of the resort. (Photos courtesy of Florida Memory)

Activities lined the beach, drawing many families (Photos courtesy of Betty Miller)

goodbye good-ole-days

Fifty years later and Panama City Beach has found a new normal that stemmed from balcony fatalities and raging parties. So many now recognize PCB for it's infamous spring breaks.

So, how did this shift happen? Why did a sleepy beach town turn into a raging yearly party? There are a few theories. Some say it happened when MTV began hosting concerts every year in the eighties. Others believe it was a case of bad marketing. The beach did in fact endure some very bad press in recent years.

Bad Press or Bad Eggs?

In 2000, Joe Francis videotaped under aged girls inappropriately for "Girls Gone Wild" in Panama City Beach. He was sued several times, and was convicted of prostitution but settled other claims out of court. This publicly displayed lawsuit was another step in the wrong direction for the city's reputation.

Sean Hannity devoted segments of his show on Fox News to uncovering the evils of Panama City's spring break scene in 2014 and 2015. The news crew filmed inebriated teenagers, illegal drugs, and sex scandals on one particular section of the beach behind Club Lavela and Spinnaker Beach Club. The news further tarnished Panama City's name.

Locals, like Bill and Theresa Husfelt, who have seen Panama City grow and develop, have their own theories about the downfall of the beach.

The most recent evaluation of the situation revealed that the most dangerous of the crowd during spring break were what are called the hundred-milers. These are not college-goers, but are older individuals who come to prey on the students. Some are drug dealers, some sexual predators, but all of them visit the beaches for the wrong reasons.

these Still REMAIN

Despite waning appearances, not everything about Panama City Beach has changed altogether. There are a select few locations that have remained mostly the same. The two most iconic of these are Goofy Golf, which began in 1959, and St. Andrews State Park which traces back to 1947.

1961

A popular mini golf course, named Goofy Golf, has been functioning since 1959. (Photo courtesy of Carlene Brewer)

2016

Today the course remains unchanged from it's original state. Betty and Ricky Miller, who have both lived in Panama City since they were teens, remember Goofy Golf in it's prime.

(Left 1958, Right 2016, Courtesy of Carlene Brewer and Ashley Childs respectively)

St. Andrews State Park has also held it's youth. By charging a small fee per car and by renting out campsites, the State Park has been able to preserve the natural landscape that it had in the earliest years.

Turning a New Leaf

To combat the increasing danger of certain areas of PCB during the spring months, county officials decided to take matters into their own hands. In March of 2015, there were a series of laws passed which aimed at out-of-control spring breakers. They first banned alcohol on the "sandy beaches" for the entire month of March. Another law shut down bars at 2:00am. These laws were largely effective in persuading the spring breakers and 100-milers to spend their break elsewhere.

The new laws were frowned upon by many business owners, who took hard losses. This year was especially difficult for bars and hotels. The month of March served a pretty major hit, squandering around $40,000 in revenue for the beach.

Numbers provided by The Bay County Tourist Development Council (Statistics for October-December 2015 were not available)

Mr. Husfelt, Superintendent for Bay County Public Schools, knows much about the area's economy. He believes the loss in March proved to be worth-it in the long run.

What's Next for THE Beach?

Tony Johnson, owner of Mr. Surf's Surf Shop, has been in the beach business since the eighties. In a question and answer with Tony, he revealed much about the beach's storied past and detailed his hopes it's future. Click the button below to interview Tony.

Despite it's many setbacks, Panama City Beach seems to be resounding. The establishment of the Pier Park outdoor shopping mall has brought in more families and jobs. The mammoth shopping center spans 900,000 square feet. Aaron Bessant Park, now hosts concerts in a grassy field, just steps from the ocean. A new sports complex is set to premiere in 2018, which will also help with positive growth. All this in hopes of making PCB great once again.

Created By
Ashley Childs
Appreciate

Credits:

Photos Courtesy of: Ashley Childs, Betty Miller, Carlene Brewer & Florida Memory

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