On Saturday, April 15th, Richard Sanders, Vice President of Sports Marketing and Special Events for Visit Panama City Beach, was honored at Gulf Coast State College during the double header game between Chipola and Gulf Coast. In recognition of Sanders being a longtime supporter of Gulf Coast State College Athletics, Athletic Director Mike Kandler presented Sanders with his own Commodores jersey along with a plaque commemorating his impact on college and sports tourism. Some of Sanders' accomplishments over the years include the development of numerous preseason tournaments in all sports, including the highly successful November basketball events, the use of Gulf Coast State College for summer basketball and baseball, plus the annual Visit Panama City Beach JUCO Baseball Classic featuring the top baseball programs in the country. This event features some of the top players in the nation and brings in over 100 Major League Baseball scouts.
Sanders has worked to bring sports tourism and special events to Panama City Beach since 1998. From the additional fields at Frank Brown Park, numerous renovations, and the $42 million Publix Sports Park, Sanders has led the way. His next project in his "retirement" is to oversee the plans for the 130,000 square foot indoor multipurpose sports complex that will be built next to the Publix Sports Park.
On hand for this "surprise" event, emcee Scott Rossman, Sports Director for WJHG-TV led the ceremonies with comments from Visit Panama City Beach CEO Dan Rowe and former Gulf Coast Basketball head coach Pastor Jay Powell. They recounted how Sanders has always been willing to support them from the beginning and it was always a "yes" when it came to new ideas for tournaments and support. Other honored guests included Sanders' wife, Debbie Sanders, brother Collier Sanders and sister-in-law Joan Sanders. Many community members came out to celebrate including Panama City Beach City Manager, Drew Whitman, Panama City Beach Council Member, Phil Chester, TDC Board Member, Andy Phillips, and several Visit Panama City Beach staff members.
When interviewed by WJHG's Rossman after the ceremony, Sanders gave this quote: "Was very surprising, and you know I love Gulf Coast State College and the people that have been here and still here doing athletics and even the school itself. A very important part and everything that I say we need to do, we have them in mind when we do it to help their programs along, so it's been a great relationship. You know, it's times like this that you really can look back on what's happened over the last 25 years and sometimes it takes what happened today to realize it because you just go day to day, event to event, so it was very special today."