Baldwin County Coliseum and Arena Facilities
Alabama’s First Shelter Rated to Withstand Category 5 Hurricanes
The Baldwin County Coliseum and Arena facilities are the state’s first tornado shelter able to withstand wind gusts of up to 200 miles per hour. Centrally located in Baldwin County, Ala., the coliseum serves as a shelter that can accommodate 5,000 people short-term during a hurricane or
tornado and up to 1,900 people long-term. Being the first shelter of its type, designed as a public fairgrounds facility, and the largest project ever funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the project has become a model for other states.
The Coliseum, the first of its kind, also serves as an expo hall or large event venue the rest of the year. With the ability to serve as a communications headquarters in the event of a hurricane, the area is served by underground utilities and also has large back-up generators. A large area for RV parking is available to emergency vehicles coming to the area after a disaster. The coliseum has a 200x200 square foot expo hall, with a two-story high area open to the ceiling, with offices and a kitchen around the sides of the building. The large kitchen area has walk-in coolers for bulk storage, and is specifically designed to house and feed large numbers of people for an extended length of time.
The 3,500-seat, 79,000-square foot arena is located adjacent to the coliseum. The open-air structure, rated to withstand 140-mile-an-hour winds, includes a sprinkler system that will keep dust levels down on the dirt-floored arena, a water system to clean arena seats, and ceiling fans over the
bleacher-style seating that span 20-feet. Such features provide premier accommodations for an active cattle association and fairgrounds throughout the year.
This building fills a definite need since there are no shelters in the area capable of withstanding a Category 2 storm according to a 2001 Hurricane Evacuation Study for Baldwin County, by the State of Alabama, Baldwin County in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers. (http://chps.sam.usace.army.mil/)
The project was uniquely funded through a mix of funding sources and is now considered a model project—not only because its unique building structure, but because of the way funds were put together. A $7.5 million grant, administered through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant program, represents a majority of the total project cost and is the largest amount ever awarded through this program. The Baldwin County Commission and the Baldwin County Cattle and Fair Association will provide the remaining $2.6 million of the project’s cost and was able to receive a loan for this purpose from the United States Department of Agriculture.
White-Spunner Construction, Inc. was the general contracting and management company based in Mobile, Alabama with branch offices in Orange Beach, Alabama; Dallas, Texas and Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Incorporated in 1981, Committed to safety, quality and integrity White-Spunner Construction is one of the leading construction companies in the South.