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Ford Park Faces Tough Times

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Despite serving as an emergency shelter for evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, Ford Park in Beaumont, Texas, still found itself with more than $2 million in damage after Hurricane Rita rolled right through.

The SMG-managed Park, which has faced budget problems and public perception woes in the past few years, is now trying to recover from the physical and economic hardships of the natural disaster. About 25 percent of the Ford Amphitheater’s roof was torn off, and the venue remains closed. The roof on the Park’s arena leaks tremendously. A mid-construction $2.2 million visitor’s center has been destroyed.

Ford Park General Manager Allan Vella told the Beaumont Enterprise that he is holding tentative dates at the amphitheater in April and May, but has not booked events because of the significant damage. Attracting promoters to reconsider Ford Park for the future has been especially difficult since the storms.

“They’re just not sure if the community has rebounded significantly enough to bring their event to town. We’re asking people to put down their disposable income, and there’s not a lot of disposable income going around,” said Vella.

A few events have been willing to take a chance, however, and the arena will put on a World Wrestling Entertainment event on March 13, and a George Jones and Merle Haggard concert on March 24. In April, the park will see the return of the Beaumont Drillers football, and the Young Men’s Business League rodeo in May.

The biggest problem Ford Park currently faces is the unfinished and extremely damaged Ben J. Rogers Regional Visitors Center, which will now be handled by the county instead of SMG.

Tom Rugg, assistant DA for the county, said the bonding company that will be responsible for finishing the project has sent representatives to the site to evaluate the scope of remaining work.

“The storm has made this complicated like it has complicated everything,” Rugg said to the paper.

This year, about 10 percent of the county property tax revenue will go to support Ford Park debt, creating jobs and finishing construction. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers