PANAMA CITY BEACH / WEST BAY — Thanks go to the News Herald for this article. We are on the first direct flight from Nashville to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) and should land at 2PM. Pictures to follow!
ECP is only 11.5 miles from our Panama City Beach Condos for rent at Celadon Beach Resort http://www.bestpanamacitybeachcondo.com so it will be a short cab ride to get to the beach from ECP.
Alton Carroll, 65, said he has always been interested in airports, airplanes and navigational equipment, so he drove in from Washington County on Saturday for the grand opening of the $318 million Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.
“They have done a real nice job here,” Carroll, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said as he sat in his scooter and looked around the new terminal. “It’s turned out real nice.”
Hundreds of other visitors toured the new terminal building Saturday, looking over the baggage carousels near the seven rental car counters or taking an escalator to the upstairs concourse.
Howard Langsford, 70, of Southport, taking a break in a seat near the rental counters, said he liked the way the different parts of the terminal all worked together.
“Everything is well marked,” he said. “It’s easy to look up and get around. And there are plenty of bathrooms.”
Outside, near the front entrance, the Arnold High Jazz Band was entertaining the crowd with Panama City Beach Police Chief Robert Harding watching.
“We’ve waited a long time for something like this. It looks good,” Harding said of the new airport. “With the economy the way it is, I hope it does well.”
State Rep. Jimmie Patronis, taking a break from a succession of television interviews, said now that the airport was open, it should produce a bounce in the economy if it had enough “support, leadership and vision.”
On the first floor of the terminal building, The Dive-In Bar and Grill was doing a brisk business.
Grill workers said they had sold about $2,000 worth of beverages by 11 a.m. One of their customers was Sherry Anderson, 61, of Panama City, who said she was sipping a Gatorade-type drink.
“Everything looks great,” Anderson said. “We just wanted to come check it out and participate.”
Upstairs, 63-year-old Doris Griffin of Lynn Haven was enjoying the view from the large windows. She had lived in the area for 53 years and was excited about the opportunities the airport might bring.
“I just think it’s a wonderful thing for the area to have a new airport,” she said. “We fly out a couple of times a year.”
Both upstairs and downstairs, the two gift shops were open. Upstairs worker Jessica Stanley, 19, said her shop had 12 sales by about 10:45 a.m. The downstairs shop had served 30 by 12:30 p.m.
Employees of Bay County’s Innovations Federal Credit Union got into the spirit of the opening just prior to the ribbon-cutting by sparking a seemingly spontaneous dance line near the tarmac stage.
As music played over the loudspeakers, first one, then several, then a large group of dancers all began moving to the same beat, with cameras snapping and a crowd forming.
At the end, everyone removed their shirts to reveal yellow Innovations T-shirts.
IFCU President Davis Southall called the demonstration a “flash mob.”