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Okaloosa County celebrates opening of Veteran's Park and Bayview Plaza

Okaloosa County tourism leaders introduced two new features that they hope will bring more tourists, and their money, to the county.

County leaders cut the ribbon on the Okaloosa County Veteran's Park, and the new Bayview Plaza, outside of the Emerald Coast Convention Center. The plaza is a 30,000 square foot concrete pad, with its own electricity and water, that can hold events independently of what's happening inside of the center itself.
Tourism director Ed Schroeder said "with this addition, we have a variety of events and trade shows and other vendors that can come in here for space they can't find anywhere else in Northwest Florida."

Ed Schroeder talked about one event, the Athletic Championship Cheerleading Competition, as one that will be able to grow, thanks to the outdoor space. The event currently brigns over 3,500 athletes a year, and could host more in the future because of the expanded space.

Schroeder said "they could do, both their regular event, their practices, they can increase the number of teams they can bring in here, twice the number of teams. I don't know if we have enough sleeping rooms to handle that many! But we have the space here to do it."

The county also officially opened its new Veteran's Park. With 14 acres of wildlife and bird sanctuary, complete with nature walks along the Choctawhatchee Bay, it's designed to give locals a place to celebrate the military traditions of the area.

Tom Rice said "There aren't very many veterans parks or things that are open for folks that aren't the military installations. So one more recognition of all the people who have served our country from all the various services is always a good thing."

Rice says the whole facility is good for tourism, but that locals will benefit as well.

"We can do a lot of things here, and when we have a big benefit, you know, for Fishcer House or for Building Homes for Heroes, for various groups, this will be a great sight to do that type of thing."
While crews finish up work here on the Veteran's Park, county officials hope that it, plus the Bayview Plaza, will have an immediate positive impact on the county. On Okaloosa Island, Rob Brown, Channel Three News.