Tag Archives: sports

Okeeheelee Park Wins Venue of the Year From the Florida Sports Foundation

The Florida Sports Foundation, which is the official sports promotion and development organization for the State of Florida, recognized one of Palm Beach County’s premier parks during the annual Florida Sports Summit. The Florida Sports Foundation presented its annual awards to recognize Florida communities and sports commissions for their efforts to cultivate sports tourism in Florida. The awards were presented at the annual Florida Sports Summit, which was held November 8-10.

Okeeheelee Park, which is a Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation venue, has been named the 2021 “Large Market Venue of the Year” by the Florida Sports Foundation. This award is presented annually to Florida’s small, mid, and large market venues that excel in fostering sports development while creating tourism impacts within the state.

Okeeheelee Park is one of the largest parks in south Florida, which covers over 1700 acres. Okeeheelee Park is a catch-all for traditional and action sports. One of the most versatile venues in Palm Beach County, Okeeheelee Park includes eight tennis courts, six pickleball courts, five lighted youth baseball diamonds, four lighted softball diamonds, and four lighted multi-purpose fields that are ideal for soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, and more. Okeeheelee Park not only contains a 27-hole public championship golf course; it is also one of the few venues in the region with an 18-hole course for disc golf. Five expansive water-skiing lakes allow for professional water-skiing competitions. One of the nation’s premier cable wakeboarding facilities, Shark Wave Park, also resides within Okeeheelee Park. The site also features a premier equestrian venue in the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center and the top-ranked BMX track in Florida, Okeeheelee BMX.

Okeeheelee Park was a launching pad for sports tourism recovery in The Palm Beaches. The Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation partnered to host a diverse collection of sports events at Okeeheelee Park over the past year. The first youth sports tournament to take place in Palm Beach County, during a post-Covid-19 era, happened at Okeeheelee Park through baseball. During the year, a variety of youth baseball events, girls fastpitch softball tournaments, soccer showcases, and tennis contests filled the venue while providing an economic and tourism benefit to The Palm Beaches. Okeeheelee Park was also home to a national BMX event in addition to professional and amateur water ski events. The Jim Brandon Equestrian Center hosted national equestrian showjumping events and provided a stage for the Kids Fitness Festival of the Palm Beaches, which introduces Palm Beach County’s youth to a variety of sports.

“The Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation have an incredible partnership, which sparked a sports tourism recovery in The Palm Beaches,” said George Linley, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. “Okeeheelee Park is one of Florida’s most comprehensive and resourceful venues with a sprawling footprint that is a setting for a multitude of sports. Together, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation utilized Okeeheelee Park to deliver sports tourism products over the past year. We are extremely grateful to the Florida Sports Foundation for recognizing Okeeheelee Park as Florida’s Large Market Venue of the Year.”

“I am very honored that Okeeheelee Park was selected as Sports Venue of the Year by the Florida Sports Foundation,” said Eric Call, Director, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. “The park was master-planned in the ’70s-’80s as Palm Beach County’s central park and designed to offer recreation and sports opportunities for both amateur and professional athletes. We’re very proud of the relationship we have established with the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and look forward to collaborating on many more events at Okeeheelee Park in the future.”

Power of Parks: Andres Avello

Welcome to Power of Parks, a podcast produced by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, where we share inspiring stories from people who have benefited from nature, parks and recreation.

Episode 18 features Andres Avello, the co-founder of PADL, a self-service, solar-powered paddle boarding startup with stations throughout South Florida, including in three PBC Parks — Burt Reynolds, Ocean Inlet, and Juno Park. These stations provide easy access to the county’s waterways without having to own a paddle board.

Power of Parks: Colby Zebarth & Greg Norman, Jr.

Welcome to Power of Parks, a podcast produced by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, where we share inspiring stories from people who have benefited from nature, parks and recreation.

Episode 13 features Colby Zebarth, a Palm Beach County resident and 14-year-old rider at Shark Wake Park inside Okeeheelee Park. Colby was recently crowned the 2020 Junior Pro World Champion at the World Wake Association Wake Park World Championships just 15 months after starting his wakeboard training at the park.

Also joining the conversation is Greg Norman, Jr. – the owner of Shark Wake Park inside Okeeheelee Park. They offer a variety of adventurous water activities, including cable wakeboarding and kneeboarding, a floating obstacle course, and more.

Park Feature: Dyer Park

Dyer Park is a 560-acre regional park located in West Palm Beach. A former landfill, the park features “The Hill” allowing visitors to walk up and around it, and even bike along it! The park allows visitors to experience a unique green space that is not typically found in the flat South Florida landscape. Watch this video to learn more about opportunities for play at Dyer Park!

Volunteer Spotlight: Eddie Ott

Edward “Eddie” Ott has been a volunteer for 11 years at John Prince Golf Learning Center. He picks up golf balls on the range and helps keep the fire ants under control by surveying the property in the hunt for anthills, so they can extinguish them before they cause patrons harm. He also helps keep the golf greens, green aprons (collars) and fairways in tiptop shape by fixing ball markers and filling divots, keeping them as some of the best in South Florida.

Fellow staff, volunteers and patrons have always said that he has been a pleasure to talk to due to his wealth of experiences and knowledge.

Eddie has always been a very diligent working volunteer. He is kind, optimistic and very cordial to all and a role model to the whole facility.

The biggest personal benefit he’s received as a volunteer with our department? “I get to play golf and work with Geoff!”

Eddie started playing golf at the age of 42 and moved down to Florida from Ohio when he was 50. His previous occupation was an auto mechanic. What’s most interesting is he is 97 years old, who calls 85 year olds ‘kids’. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Brad Davis

Brad Davis has been a volunteer for 10 years at the CMAA Therapeutic Recreation (TR) Complex. Brad works in all areas of the Therapeutic Recreation Complex. He helps assist at the reception desk with greeting customers, provides information about the facility and answers phone calls, and he helps with cleaning and setting up equipment for events and programs.

Brad is one of biggest advocates for Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, Special Olympics Florida & Arts4All FL-Palm Beach County. He is always willing to assist with activities, events and campaigns, and truly has an effect on everyone he talks to, even if it is just putting a smile on their face.

The biggest personal benefit he’s received as a volunteer with our department? Building relationships with all of the staff and customers at TR. He loves to be around people, he loves to help others, and he loves to advocate for TR. Volunteering with Palm Beach County provides him with purpose and excitement.

Brad is a great volunteer at TR because he is flexible and willing to help with anything. Not only is Brad a helpful part of our team, but he encourages friendship and teamwork among everyone.

Outside of volunteering, Brad works at Publix and loves to participate in Special Olympics Florida and Arts4All FL-Palm Beach County. Brad also loves to sing, dance, swim and play tennis!

Free Fridays at Rick macci Tennis aCademy brings tennis to kids

Palm Beach County residents can enjoy a new amenity inside Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park – the Rick Macci Tennis Academy features newly-renovated tennis and racquetball courts, as well as plans to build indoor tennis courts! The facility now offers a “Free Fridays” program, where kids under the age of five can receive tennis instruction for free. Watch this video to find out more!

PBC PARKS named 2019 Annual FRPA Award Winner for Excellence in Sports Tourism Award

The Florida Recreation and Park Association (FRPA) has awarded Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation as the 2019 recipient of the Excellence in Sports Tourism Award given out at the FRPA Annual Conference held in Orlando. This award recognizes the outstanding work done by the Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation department to advance the park and recreation profession in the area of Sports Tourism. To be considered for this award, a department must be an FRPA member in good standing and nominated by a Florida Sports Foundation Industry Partner in good standing (Regional Sports Commission).

“Sports Tourism is dependent upon partnerships such as the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation department and the Palm Beach County Sports Commission working toward the common goal of not only continually bringing in repeat events each year, but increasing the scope of those events where possible and working together to identify new events. This award demonstrates just how important it is to have a great parks and recreation system in place in order to boost sports tourism”, says George Linley, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.

The Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department is committed to engaging the Palm Beach County Sports Commission in order to effectively develop, promote and provide outstanding recreational opportunities and amenities for the purpose of sports tourism. In doing so, this partnership annually contributes over $27 million in economic impact and continues to be a premier destination for sports enthusiasts around the world to “Just Bring Their Game” to Palm Beach County.

“I am extremely proud to have been awarded the 2019 FRPA Excellence in Sports Tourism award. The Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation department prides itself on being a nationally recognized parks and recreation leader that connects people and parks by being the premier outdoor recreation destination in south Florida. By partnering with the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, we ensure that sports enthusiasts from around the world know of, visit and use our parks, and spread the word about the great sporting opportunities here in Palm Beach County.I’m also grateful to the County Commission and our Administration for their unwavering support of the Parks and Recreation Department and the benefits our services generate for the community,” said PBC Parks Director Eric Call.

The Florida Recreation and Park Association annually awards park and recreation agencies, employees, volunteers and partners that have made an impact on their community. Nominees must submit information and details supporting the nomination and a volunteer committee made up of their peers reviews and rates the submissions. The FRPA Awards presentation takes place at the Annual FRPA Conference in August. Winners are presented with a plaque and recognition through the FRPA Journal. More information on the Awards Program can be found at frpa.org/awards.

Palm Beach County Golf Shines in Audubon International’s Annual BioBlitz Competition

red fox sitting on grass
The award for Best Photograph went to Southwinds Golf Course, for their photograph of a Red Fox on the course.

In Audubon International’s BioBlitz, Southwinds Golf Course received the Community Engagement Award with a total of 271 participants. The key to their success was both a Lady’s Night Out and a Junior BioBlitz session that included crafting both animal masks and birdhouses along with the hunt for wildlife. The Southwinds clubhouse joined in by featuring a wildlife-themed drink menu throughout the week of the event. Park Ridge Golf Course came in second place for Community Engagement.

The award for Best Photograph went to Southwinds Golf Course, for their photograph of a Red Fox on the course. Sharon Painter, Southwinds’ General Manager, says, “We make it a priority to educate our golfers of all ages about the habitat our golf course provides to the diversity of species that call Southwinds Golf Course home.”

Now in its fifth year, this annual event, sponsored by the United States Golf Association (USGA), provides a unique opportunity for golf courses to engage their community members in activities designed to showcase and record the abundance of wildlife found on their course landscapes. Participating courses went above and beyond in their outreach and environmental stewardship efforts. Participants also competed for awards in Community Engagement, Biodiversity, and Best Photograph.

All five Palm Beach County golf courses are certified Audubon International courses, a distinction that is given to golf courses that employ environmental-friendly practices in maintaining their facilities.

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Audubon International is a not-for-profit environmental organization dedicated to creating sustainable environments in all the places people live, work and play. To meet this mission, the organization provides training, services, and a set of award-winning environmental education and certification programs for individuals, organizations, individual properties, recreation sites, and entire communities.

Southwinds Golf Course and Park Ridge Golf Course are operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. For more information on county-operated golf courses, visit www.pbcgolf.com.