It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Downtown Panama City. The lights are up, the wreaths are out, and holiday cheer is fresh in the air. One attraction, returning on an even larger scale, may brighten the season even more.
Long time Panama City residents know about the Old Marie hotel built in 1938 on the corner of 5th and Harrison. For the next month, a cool idea is bringing it back to life.
The memories are frozen in the mind of downtown businessman Bob Hurst.
"A bank, a savings and loan, I think there was a beauty salon in there, there was a shop or two, and a parking garage," Hurst said.
"Where they put all that stuff I do not know."
Its been 28 years since the vacancy sign flickered off for the final time at the Marie Hotel. Once upon a time it was a pretty exclusive place.
"The Marie Hotel was one of the first buildings that had air conditioning in it, when they advertised the hotel they said it was air cool I believe," Hurst said.
Now, in a way, history is repeating itself.
"It's finally coming to life, just to finally see lights on, just to see activity going on, it's a huge win for downtown," Dutch Sanger with the Downtown Improvement Board.
Once again you'll be able to put on your skates at the ice rink this holiday season, but this time in a venue twice the size on the bottom floor of the old Marie hotel.
"We found that it worked extremely well last year, people had fun with it, we're just making it available on a larger scale," said Brian Hinton with the Downtown Improvement Board.
Crews have spent the past few months clearing out the ground floor to make room for the rink. Sanger says long after the ice melts, the potential at the Old Marie lives on.
"I'm really excited about the possibilities of a huge building, in the heart of downtown, being used for something else on an interim use or maybe development down the road," Sanger said.
For Hurst, the fond memories will remain, as he embraces what the rink represents for the short and long term of downtown.
"Just to get people acquainted with the downtown I think It'll be an excellent thing to do," Hurst said.
The rink will open up next Friday, December 7th, and will be open on the 14th and the 21st as a part of the downtown's 'Dickens of a Christmas.' The rink will be open from 6PM to 9PM. Skates will be free and available on a first come, first serve basis.
To take a look at some pictures of the Marie Hotel, visit the Bay County Public Library's Local History Room at http://pac.nwrls.lib.fl.us/TLCScripts/interpac.dll?SearchForm&Directions=1&config=pac&Branch=,0 and enter 'Marie Hotel Graphic' in the search box.
For more info on 'Dickens of a Christmas,' visit http://www.pcdib.com/#!vstc2=page-3/vstc1=dickens-of-a-christmas