Key West’s loss is Panama City’s gain.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will move a winter diving training program from Key West to Panama City this winter to reduce the cost of the program, said Greg McFall, director of NOAA’s Diving Program.
McFall said the decision to move the three-week program was based on the area’s world-class dive training facilities, including the Navy Dive School at Naval Support Activity Panama City, the underwater crime scene investigation program at Florida State University Panama City, and the NOAA Panama City Laboratory, which studies, among other things, fish populations.
“Panama City is a beautiful city, so it seemed like the right choice to make, with the synergy of all the other attributes,” McFall said, referring to local diving programs. “You have the best federal, Department of Defense training facility right there.”
But the driving factor was cost, he said.
“Frankly, it all comes down to dollars and sense — sense spelled S-E-N-S-E,” McFall said.
Lodging in Panama City is considerably less expensive than lodging in Key West, McFall said. Rooms here will cost the program about $80 per night compared to $240 per night in Key West, he said.