Bay County Florida Airport Completes Master Plan After Record Year
PANAMA CITY BEACH – Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) reached a new milestone on July 28.
It was then, during a meeting of the airport’s board of directors, that officials announced that the update to the facility’s master plan was complete. The 20-year roadmap, which is revamped every five to seven years, includes various renovations and expansions – plans that come as the airport has seen rapid tourism growth this year.
The master plan is now awaiting final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation.
“It’s been a pretty long process,” said Parker McClellan, executive director of ECP, who added that it had taken about two and a half years to revamp the plan. “It helps the staff, the board and our consultants maintain the same direction and understand … how we plan for the future.”
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McClellan noted that it could take at least a few months for state and federal agencies to approve the plan. Its future developments will be based on demand and not on a strict schedule.
The airport continues to experience tremendous success in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. McClellan reported that ECP recorded its busiest month in June, when more than 180,000 passengers passed through the facility.
“Our plan reflects what we call ‘planning activity levels’,” he said. “When we hit certain thresholds, that’s when things (will) happen. It allows us to adjust our planning cycles and… gives us a lot of flexibility.”
Among the developments included in the plan that the airport aims to tackle first include renovating its baggage claim system and expanding customer and aircraft parking lots. Designs for All were approved at Wednesday’s meeting, and McClellan said he hopes work will begin soon.
Mayor Mark Sheldon, who is also a member of the Airport Authority, said the continued increase in the number of visitors who flock to Panama City Beach each year proves the need to expand the ECP.
Sheldon added that he believes the plan is a critical part of the airport’s long-term success, not only because it helps the facility “keep pace with demand”, but because it is necessary to have the support of the FAA.
For the future, he has high hopes for the future of ECP.
“I see our airport going from its current structure to one with 12 gates and many direct flights across the country,” Sheldon wrote in an email. “I think people will continue to find us everywhere. Our region will continue to grow.”
The current master plan, as well as the old master plan from 2015, are listed on the airport’s website.
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