BY PATTI SMITH; PHOTOS BY RICK COOPER & STERLING RESORTS
Donned in a bright pink sunhat and swimsuit, 1-year-old Anabrooke Burkett sat comfortably in her mother’s lap enjoying the cool water of the swimming pool at Splash Resort on Panama City Beach. David and Andrea Burkett of Vidalia, Georgia, brought Anabrooke and her four-yearold sister, Ava, to the beach to enjoy a few days of fun in the sun.
Andrea’s internet search for “kid friendly resorts” revealed Splash condominium development on the west end of Panama City Beach. The property is managed by Sterling Resorts which works with unit owners who do not live on the premises full-time. Owners might visit and stay for a few weeks out of the year and, for the majority of the time, vacationer renters enjoy all the amenities of the white sandy beaches and the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
This is music to the ears of Michele Manning, a Splash condo owner. She purchased her unit in May 2012 as an investment property. Michele says owners are dedicated to keeping Splash a kid’s paradise. “I bought my condo because Splash was very family-oriented, and that was my target market. It’s been a very good investment,” reveals Michele, who lived in her condo for a few months while she was looking for a home to buy in Panama City Beach. She was happy to experience families enjoying themselves and was pleased with the high security presence. “Splash has security around the clock. They are out on the beach patrolling. They are very apparent,” Michele observes. Michele believes families feel safe knowing the complex is being monitored.
After she bought a home and moved out of Splash, Michele found it difficult to go and spend time there. “I couldn’t enjoy it because I had other things to do,” she says. Michele had her own business making draperies and window coverings and it kept her too busy to take a break. Her Splash condo was often rented.
Splash owners’ commitment to the familyfriendly environment is revealed in the rental agreement. Those who rent a Splash condo must commit to following the rules and regulations. They must wear an armband so security knows they are guests who belong on the property. Also, Splash is a no smoking environment. Last December Michele moved back to Tennessee. She and her daughter, Shelby, came down recently to stay in the condo while visiting. “I got to enjoy the condo like being on vacation,” Michele says.
Sterling Resorts’ General Manager for Splash, Lindy Harcus, says the resort stays at 95 to 100 percent capacity most weeks from mid-March through the end of October. There is a lull in November and December, but snowbirds fill it back up in January and February.
Kid-friendly attractions are what make Splash a fun place for families. The Splash Pad features water canons, fountains, and slides. Children’s favorite thing about the Splash Pad, however, is the huge bucket overhead that fills to overflowing with water. As the bucket fills, it slowly tips until it is full and eventually dumps the water out onto the squealing children below. Lindy says the resort was built with children and families in mind. A gated toddler area, for example, is a place where families can spend the day, play in the water, and grill out. For adult visitors, Splash features two heated pools, a hot tub and a fitness center.
About two years ago, Splash owners decided to spruce up the look of the towers which, over about five-years, had been sun bleached to an unappealing shade of pink. The façade is now a vibrant orange with royal blue splash marks. Those trademark splashes appear on walls throughout the development including an arcade that caters to preteens and teens.
Lindy says Splash keeps kids in mind even down to the color choices made for furnishings, walls and flooring. The floor of the lobby and skybridge, for example, were recently recovered in vividly colored carpeting. What had been a muted shade of primary colors with images of sea animals is now a brilliant blue, purple, and
green palm leaf and fish pattern. The swimming pools even change colors at night.
Lindy drives 45 minutes from her home in Bonifay. As she reflects on the long drive she makes to work each day, she takes one look at the crystal clear Gulf waters and says, “I get to see this every day. This is worth it.”
David Burkett is glad he went along with his wife’s suggestion to stay at Splash for their vacation. “I have friends back home who have stayed here. They said they loved it so much they came back every year when their kids were little,” David says. “They made a believer out of me.”
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