Bed-Tax Projects: Destin wants more public beaches, FWB invests in sports/parks, Niceville looking at aquatic center

As part of the expanded Tourist Development District in Okaloosa County, local municipalities each receive a proportionate share of 12.5% of the bed taxes that are collected.

  • Initial expenditure plans were reviewed by county staff and legal for compliance with the Interlocal Agreement, Tourist Development Plan, and Florida Statute.
  • Okaloosa staff met with each municipality to discuss project details and provide direction regarding additional information needed.

During last Tuesday’s Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners meeting, the expenditure plans for each municipality were approved heading into fiscal year 2023.

Here’s a brief look at the plans for each municipality:

City of Crestview – $425,000

  • Wayfinding Systems & Kiosks – $15,000
  • Brookmeade Park (Skate Park & RC Track) – $275,000
  • Sports Complex & Nature Trails – $120,000
  • Marketing & Promotions – $15,000
Screenshot via Okaloosa County Public Information

The Brookmeade Park improvements project includes improvements in the new EFCU Skate Park and RC Track at Brookmeade Park. Since 2020, the City has invested about $270,000 in design and construction of this site.

An observation deck area between the two facilities will include shops for each activity with equipment rentals, as well as space for concessions and restrooms. The area will include shaded seating to eat as well as watch events taking place on the track or at the skate park.

The construction of the deck will also drastically improve ADA accessibility for those using the RC Track by connecting to the existing observation tower at the track itself.

  • The creation of 10 RV Parking spaces and accompanying power connections are proposed as well, for use by patrons of either the skate park or track.

City of Destin – $2,740,545

  • Beach Acquisition Phase I – $1,920,545
  • Harbor Boardwalk Improvements – $500,000
  • Captain Royal Melvin Park – $120,000
  • Beach & Boardwalk Operations – $200,000
Welcome to Destin, Florida
Welcome to Destin, Florida

An Interlocal Agreement exists between the County and the City of Destin for the acquisition, development, maintenance, and other matters related to Phase I of the public beach acquisition project.

  • Destin intends to use $404,920 of the FY22 12.5% TDC allocation and $1 ,515,625 of the FY23 12.5% TDC allocation to advance this initiative. 

The completion of the Phase 1 project will greatly increase the available public beach for both tourists and residents to use. The lack of available public beach has been a significant problem in recent years, according to the county. 

Read the full breakdown on Destin’s plans.

City of Fort Walton Beach – $957,500

  • Arts & Cultural Strategic Plan – $150,000
  • Batting Cage Shade/Rain Structure – $80,000
  • Downtown/CRA Branding/Wayfinding – $50,000
  • Heritage Park & Cultural Center Addition – $390,000
  • Liza Jackson Waterfront Park Design – $37,500
  • Athletic Complex Expansion – $150,000
  • Travel Tournament Maintenance/Repair – $100,000
Jeff Peters - City Fort Walton Beach Athletic Complex

The City of Fort Walton Beach opened the Preston Hood Sports Complex, along with the FWB Recreation Center in 2016. The $9 million project has been very successful in drawing thousands of teams to play in Travel Tournaments in this area.

With the city committed to growing sports tourism, they are looking to cover the batting cage area with shade structures for protection from the heat and rain.

  • The Travel Tournaments play from 8am-10pm, and temperatures get well over 100 degrees in the batting cage area, as well as regular rain showers in the area.

The city is also developing plans to expand the Preston Hood Athletic Complex to host larger tournaments. The $5 million expansion includes the addition of:

  • Up to four lighted multi-purpose athletic fields
  • New restroom facilities
  • 250 parking spaces
  • Other amenities such as meeting space and a playground

Lastly, the city is developing design plans for Liza Jackson Park to construct a new boat launch area, restrooms, boat trailer parking area, connectivity between east/west sides of park for boat traffic, and a boat wash station.

Currently, the existing boat launch area is too short for larger boats, causing launching/retrieving issues and the waterfront restrooms are old and in need of replacement.

  • There is also no driveway connectivity between the east and west boat trailer parking areas, which requires vehicles with trailers parked on the east side of the park to pull out across eastbound traffic on U.S. Highway 98.

City of Niceville – $150,000

  • Community Aquatic Center Complex Design – $150,000

The City of Niceville is looking to add a multi-purpose aquatic center complex that would provide for the training and competition of organized aquatic programs and for the recreational use of the public in general. 

The current basic project would be to develop a multipurpose, multi-membership, Olympic-style swimming and diving center to serve the entire county on one of several potential sites in Niceville. 

The project is intended to provide a home for all the Okaloosa County swim teams and provide a location for multiple swim meets and competitions.

  • These swimming teams from Florida (statewide), Alabama, and Tennessee bring swimming competition families and spectators year-round.

City of Shalimar – $54,280

  • Combs Park Improvements – $54,280

City of Laurel Hill – $32,500

  • Welcome Signage – $32,500

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