Panama City Beach, Fla.'s Club La Vela Turns 25

Panama City Beach, Florida: On Saturday Night, September 19th, Club La Vela, the largest nightclub in the USA, will celebrate its 25th Anniversary and will commemorate a quarter century of memories in an extravagant party open to the public. Doors open at 8pm with complimentary cocktails including premium brands, champagnes and canned beers from 8pm until 10pm. Entry to the event is absolutely free with invitation, and over ten thousand invitations will be distributed to area businesses and residents and will also be available for pickup at Club La Vela.

La Vela, which means “the sail” in Italian, was built and designed by German architect Alois Pfeffer and began its existence on labor day weekend in 1984 as La Vela Beach Club and Concert Hall. The venue became an instant success as a beach bar where locals and tourists alike enjoyed La Vela’s live entertainment, beach activities, and oysters on the ½ shell. Over the years, La Vela grew from its humble beginnings as a beach club into a world class entertainment complex of international stature. Widely  known for its monumental size, striking architecture, and the most vibrant parties on the Gulf Coast, Club La Vela today stands as one of the most recocgnizable landmarks on Panama City Beach. – And what started out as the beach bar dream of a German immigrant over 25 years ago has evolved into an internationally renown superclub and an essential cornerstone of Panama City Beach Tourism.

A series of expansion projects which added multiple theme rooms, a huge tropical pool, bi-level sundecks, a massive concert stage, and dozens of bar stations, increased Club La Vela’s capacity from a few hundred people in 1984 to almost 6,000 people today.

La Vela Beach Club and Concert Hall changed its name to Club La Vela in the early 1990’s as a reaction to changes in popular culture and began shedding its beach bar image by morphing into a more metropolitan multiplex venue. The club was retrofitted with modern décor and furnishings, upscale nooks, and premium sound and lights. Additionally, to stay on the cutting edge, management implemented a move towards more non-traditional entertainment including alternative rock, hip-hop, and techno, to target a younger, more mobile clientele. Programming of the main venue was geared towards an 18-34 year old audience, and one of the club’s theme rooms, the Darkroom began hosting teen nights for young adults.

With these changes in place, Club La Vela greatly increased its clientele and began building a reputation for itself as one of the top nightclub venues in the country. Because Club La Vela’s parties became widely known as some of the biggest in the nation with a nightly attendance of several thousand people each night during the season, the phrase PARTY WITH THOUSANDS was born in 1995 and to this day remains the company’s slogan.

Soon, large outdoor concerts and huge daytime pool parties complete with bikini contests further solidified Club La Vela’s stature as one of Panama City Beach’s biggest tourist attraction and soon caught the attention of MTV which proceeded to do its live Spring Break broadcasts from Club La Vela in 1996, 1997, and 1998. As host of MTV’s THE GRIND, MTV ROCKS, and MTV’s THE REAL WORLD, images of Club La Vela were broadcast into households from coast to coast, and around the world, greatly increasing the world’s awareness of Panama City Beach in general, and Club La Vela in particular. As the official venue of all MTV Spring Break events in the mid and late 1990’s, Club La Vela proudly hosted artists such as Aerosmith, GooGoo Dolls, Bush, Spice Girls, LL Cool J and dozen of others.

Club La Vela’s national publicity on MTV gave rise to a tremendous amount of interest by other national and international media which wanted to host events of their own at the club or broadcast Club La Vela’s parties to their respective audiences. In 1996 TNT did a broadcast of the WCW live from Club La Vela. In what turned out to be the highest rated WCW ever broadcast on TNT, a floating ring was placed inside Club La Vela’s swimming pool and a star studded cast of wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan and Dusty Rose and Lex Luger took center stage in spectacle reported to be one of the craziest WCW events on record.

In later years, Club La Vela was the main feature on E! Television’s WILD ON E!, The Travel Channel’s Extreme Parties, VH1’s Hogan Knows Best and has teamed up with dozen’s of other media companies including SPIN Magazine, Rolling Stone and Playboy just to name a few. In the last couple of years there has been a huge spike of foreign TV interested in covering Spring Break at Club La Vela resulting in double digit growth of international visitors specifically seeking out Club La Vela as their choice party destination.

Over the years, Club La Vela has had its share of trials and tribulations, but has consistently managed to overcome its adversities and obstacles.

Club La Vela is actively involved with the community, strongly supporting local and national charities such as the Rescue Mission, BASIC, Anchorage Children’s Home, the Salvation Army, the Humane Society, and various toy and food drives. Additionally Club La Vela proudly supports area high school and middle school athletics and involves itself in local politics.

Club La Vela’s secret to success is that it never stands still. Constantly evolving and looking forward, Club La Vela no longer follows trends, but makes trends. With the recent additions of the Penthouse Lounge and the Posh Ultra Lounge, Club La Vela has renewed its commitment to take a leadership role as the areas premiere entertainment venue and as the largest, most respected nightclub in the country. As recently as last year, Club La Vela was voted the top nightclub in the USA by MAXIM Magazine and looks forward to its continued role as the country’s ultimate Spring Break venue and as the official partner of MTV Spring Break.

Saturday Night, September 19th will commemorate a quarter century of memories and parties and the public is invited to celebrate Club La Vela’s colorful 25 year existence.

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