Paynesville unveils plans for new ballpark, storm shelter - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Paynesville unveils plans for new ballpark, storm shelter

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PAYNESVILLE, Minn. (KMSP) -

Communities in Minnesota are taking action to make sure they can keep people safe when tornadoes touch down, and Paynesville is among them. On Thursday, plans for a new ballpark and storm shelter were unveiled.

In 2011, the city applied for a grant to help them create the shelter. Just this week, they learned $500,000 would help them turn a years-long dream into reality.

Just hours before their playoff game, the Paynesville varsity team found out they'll have a new place to play next season -- but it's not just what's on the surface that has people referring to the plan as a home-run.

Below the wings of the grand stand, a storm shelter able to house up to 700 people during severe weather will be built into the ground. During the winter months, that shelter will serve as pitching and batting cages.

"To have a facility that is built partly as a facility that will withstand a tornado and have survivors is a wonderful thing and a great thing for community and schools," said Superintendent Bob Huot.

Huot told FOX 9 News his thoughts have been focused on Moore, Okla., ever since several students lost their lives to a deadly EF-5 twister.

"I think about it every day," he said. "It's a tragedy we want to avoid at all costs."

That's also something the city of Wadena wanted after their school was destroyed in 2010 by a tornado. While no one was inside at the time, that got many people wondering, "What if?"

So, when they rebuilt the school, the first storm shelter of its kind in the six-state area was constructed along with it. The 7,100 square-foot gymnasium that is used daily by the school also has a generator and can withstand winds of up to 250 mph while sheltering 1,200.

Paynesville hopes to have their shelter complete by the end of the summer, and Lake Traverse will also build a safe room that can hold more than 100.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management helped secure the grants to fund the projects. Schools can apply for similar grants by visiting hsem.DPS.mn.gov.

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