On Tuesday, March 14, 2023, Okaloosa County approved an interlocal agreement to purchase 20.3 acres of the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds property from the City of Fort Walton Beach.
- The agreement, which also includes the sale of .42 acres of County-owned property to the City, was approved by the City of Fort Walton Beach on February 28.
The 20-year agreement obligates the County to maintain the property for public use and prohibits its sale without approval from the Fort Walton Beach City Council. Additionally, the County must allow existing events and uses to continue while working towards enhancing and improving the facility for future events. The fairgrounds property will also serve as a staging area for first responders during emergencies or crisis situations.
Located off Lewis Turner Boulevard, the property is near the south County courthouse facility, including fairgrounds, ballfields, and a fire training center. The City will retain approximately 6.03 acres, containing the City’s fire training tower and an area leased to Emerald Coast Harley-Davidson for use as a driving course.
- The City will also purchase the County’s .42-acre triangle-shaped frontage parcel located east of the driveway, directly abutting the property the City is retaining.
Okaloosa County says their primary objective is to keep the property in public ownership. The County’s general plan for the fairgrounds includes maintaining it as an event center for the foreseeable future, utilizing it as a lower-cost alternative to the convention center for events, and having the County tourism staff manage the facility.
The County aims to preserve current events, grow and enhance those events where possible, add new events and increase bookings, and develop a long-term capital improvement plan to transform the fairgrounds into a better event facility.
Following the expansion of the bed tax district in 2021, the County will use $4,050,000 of tourism bed tax revenue for this transaction. The sale is expected to close within 120 days.