Alabama Arena Gets FEMA Funds

A coliseum and arena project in Alabama has received an unlikely shot of funding from FEMA for the structures, which, in the event of an emergency, will double as storm shelters.

The project, which broke ground in September at the Baldwin County Fairgrounds, was reportedly awarded a $7.5 million grant from FEMA, as well as $2.5 million in local funding.

The county has experienced rapid population growth and increased tourism, and the city, which is near the Alabama coast, is one of the state’s most hurricane-susceptible areas.

The two-story concrete walled coliseum will serve as a multipurpose venue for community events, while the arena will house rodeos and livestock shows. The structures could house nearly 1,900 evacuees during a hurricane and 3,800 during a tornado.

The project, originally planned to be ready for the 2007 storm season, is hoped to be completed by November. Officials are scrambling to devise other plans and evacuation strategies for the upcoming storm season.

"They’ve been working on trying to find us more shelter space," County Commissioner Skip Gruber told Alabama’s Press-Register. "We’ll meet at the end of the month to update the plan."