Along Came Rita

Ford Parkin Beaumont, Texas, has seen a lot of activity in the last month or so – but none of it has been the usual concerts or family shows. Instead, the SMG-managed arena has served as both a Red Cross shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees and a “base camp” for organizations focusing on Hurricane Rita recovery efforts.

Immediately after Katrina hit, the venue housed displaced hurricane survivors. But less than a week after the last evacuees left the building in mid-September, along came Rita – this time forcing the venue’s own staff to evacuate.

Now, the building is buzzing with activity again as it hosts a National Incident Management Team, the Texas National Guard, FEMA, Salvation Army and other groups.

Entertainment events slated for October, including WWE wrestling and the South Texas State Fair, have been postponed while concerts with 3 Doors Down and Def Leppard were canceled, according to a statement. A spokesperson for Ford Park could not be reached at press time.

Jefferson County was still under disaster area designation at press time and Ford Park was supporting more than 2,000 emergency personnel from all over the country.

There were only pockets of electrical service in the county 11 days after the storm and residents were still discouraged from returning to their homes permanently.

A few Ford Park employees were brought back to work to assist the first responders quartered in the building, but the rest weren’t expected back until at least October 11th.

Ford Park was but one of nearly a dozen SMG-operated buildings that gained disaster relief experience after working with officials in their facilities in Beaumont, New Orleans, Houston and Pensacola, Fla.

Building managers in Beaumont have assessed the venues at Ford Park and there was only minor damage to the arena, exhibit hall, midway and fields. Ford Pavilion will require a little work on the facade but it is expected to be operational soon.